According to a new study published this week by the journal JAMA Dermatology, 62 percent of American women regularly remove all of their pubic hair. 84 percent say they choose to get some kind of grooming done down there, even if they don’t get rid of all of their pubes. These statistics were taken from a nationally representative sample of 3,316 women across the country.
And doctors are coming forward to talk about why this might be a problem.
It’s not that pubic hair grooming is inherently bad for you (although it can be, which we’ll get into more below). It’s the fact that many women now believe that waxing or shaving off all your pubes is actually the hygienic thing to do. Dr. Tami S. Rowen, an OB/GYN and a lead author of this study, told the New York Times, “Many women think they are dirty and unclean if they haven’t groomed.” And this simply is not true.
The survey reflected this notion. Previous research showed that women kissed their pubic hair goodbye for sexual reasons, but today 59 percent of women say they do so for hygiene. What we used to think was just for our own pleasure is now believed to be a standard practice.
Our bush actually serve an important purpose.
Before you make your own decision about your pubes — and it’s a choice entirely up to you and no one else — it’s important to understand that your pubic hair serves a purpose. It’s not merely ornamental. Pubes protect you by trapping nasty bacteria and stopping it from entering your vagina. It acts as a cushion for your sensitive skin on your pubic bone as well. If you crudely get rid of it without enough care, you might be facing abscesses, lacerations, allergic reactions, or folliculitis. Also, get this: three percent of reported emergency room visits for genitourinary trauma were related to grooming slip-ups. Ouch.
There are some speculations, too, that the small cuts and abrasions that may happen from grooming could potentially aid in the spreading of STIs, although this isn’t scientifically proven on a large enough scale yet.
Does heavily grooming our pubes negatively affect our self-confidence? Maybe.
Dr. Rowen says she’s also concerned about what this is doing to women’s self-image and self-confidence. We live in a society where women are still (astonishingly, still) oversexualized in the media, both in Hollywood and mainstream pornography alike. The women we see, the ones we’re told are the most beautiful and attractive, are nearly pre-pubescent down there, completely hairless. We’ve been taught that this is the right way to look, and doctors are worried this is messing with our heads. It’s a scary thought, but some medical providers say they’ve seen girls as young as 13 years old coming into the doctor’s office after being obviously groomed.
“I’ve had women say, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to clean up down there,’” Dr. Cheryl B. Iglesia, an OB/GYN professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, told the NYT. We’re starting to feel self-conscious in a medical environment, a place where we should feel completely comfortable with our own bodies. Dr. Iglesia is disappointed with how obsessed our society has become with “the Barbie doll look,” especially when women think it belongs in a medical health setting.
Dr. Jennifer Gunter, a specialist in pelvic pain and vulvovaginal disorders, says, “Grooming has become so common that people think that’s the norm.” If it’s done because you enjoy and you don’t get any health complications from it, she says that’s fine. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that this is what all women must do to maintain a healthy body.
At the end of the day, it’s your decision. Of course, if you have any specific questions about it, talk to your doctor. Although they can’t make the choice for you, they may be able to help you find your own way.