With puberty comes pubic hair — possibly the most shocking part about puberty besides getting your period. “Where the heck did all this hair come from?” you wonder. “Do I need to shave it off? Why is it that color?” The topic of pubic hair can be an embarrassing thing to bring up to your mom, friends, or doctor. We’ve done the hard bit for you and talked to real doctors about pubic hair.
Your first question is probably: Why do we even have pubic hair in the first place? It seems kind of pointless — especially considering the fact that so many women remove it. According to Columbia University’s Go Ask Alice! team of healthcare professionals and researchers, pubic hair is kind of an enigma, though most experts agree that it serves as a carrier of pheromones, or scents that can subliminally attract others.
Some doctors even say that pubic hair acts like our vagina’s eyelashes or eyebrows in the way that it keeps unwanted dirt of bacteria from entering the body. It also acts as a barrier between the sensitive skin down there and friction-causing activities — use your imagination with that one, kids.
Below are a few other facts compiled from doctors that we think you should know as you’re getting acquainted with your bush. Become friends, learn to live with one another, and you should have no issues with your pubes.
Is there a normal amount of pubic hair? Yes and no.
According to board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Felice Gersh, MD, there is a “basic normal amount” of female pubic hair. She explains,
Although, if you’re just beginning to notice pubic hair, don’t panic if it’s not a full bush yet. Dr. Gersh explained to us that the development of pubic hair can be tracked from 1 to 5 on the Tanner Scale, with 5 being “the full maturation stage.” It takes time for girls to reach stage 5, where pubic hair spans from inner thighs up to the pubic bone.
But having too much or too little pubic hair can point to health issues. If pubic hair begins to grow further down and onto the fronts of the thighs and/or upward on the stomach, towards the navel, you should head to your pediatrician or your primary care doctor to get checked out.
Clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, told us, “the most common cause of excessive pubic hair in young women is PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is associated with higher testosterone levels (yes, women make testosterone — and men do make estrogen, too). Fortunately, we do have lots of remedies to help — the most common therapy for PCOS actually is a low dose birth control pill.”
When the opposite occurs and too little pubic hair is present, this can mean a woman has an adrenal issue where not enough Androgen is produced. Too little pubic hair “could be associated with general aging, as our production declines with age, particularly over age 40,” Dr. Gersh said.
Either way, getting checked out by your doctor is the best way to determine if everything is copasetic or if your pubic hair is pointing out an issue happening in your body.
The curtains don’t always match the drapes, and can we stop using this expression?
As you’ll come to find out, your pubic hair and head hair could be completely different from one another, depending on your ethnicity.
Don’t be shocked if something different is happening down there than what’s going on on your head. That’s totally normal.
Remove it, or don’t. It’s up to you.
Although “there is no biological reason to remove pubic hair,” as Dr. Minkin told us, shaving pubic hair has become more popular and stylish in recent decades. If you want to try grooming down there, always use a sharp razor on wet skin to lessen the chances of nicking yourself or getting razor burn. Also, never use Nair or chemical hair removal creams around your genitals unless they’re formulated for that area.
For younger women who wish to groom down there, Dr. Gersh recommends trimming the majority of the hair rather than shaving it completely off. Begin with shaving only the areas that might peek out from a bathing suit.
The con of shaving is “folliculitis, the irritation of the hair follicles,” Dr. Gersh explains. Folliculitis can lead to “unsightly red spots, discomfort, and potential skin infections.” If that doesn’t sound like something you want to put up with, leaving your pubic hair alone is also perfectly acceptable. Let it grow, let it grow!
Yes, talking about pubic hair can be a bit embarrassing. But, as Dr. Minkin explained, if you have any questions or concerns, “check in with the health care provider, because most everything is a variation of normal; but for example, with excessive hair growth with PCOS, we can evaluate and treat.”
Welcome to the whacky world of pubes, ladies. Remember, we’re all in this together, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.