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Bikini waxing ranks among women’s least favorite grooming rituals. Which might explain why a new study has found that the majority of women who remove all or some of their south-of-the-border strands do so with a razor—and that could pose a health threat, study author and women's health expert Andrea DeMaria told Yahoo Health.
“Women don’t understand the risks of [shaving their pubic hair], because they are safely removing hair on other parts of their bodies,” she said regarding the study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
It found that 87 percent of women admitted to removing at least some (if not all) of their pubic hair. And 90 percent used a razor for the job.
But genital skin is extremely delicate—much more so than, say, the skin on your legs—and shaving can create micro-traumas (tiny injuries that aren’t necessarily visible). That may explain why 60 percent of women said they’d experienced a negative side effect after pubic hair removal, the most common of which was abrasion, followed by ingrown hairs.
Minor injuries, yes. But harmless, no: Your skin below the belt is concentrated with sweat glands, which means the area is moist, not to mention dark. In other words, it’s a prime breeding ground for bacterial growth, especially if you have little tears in the skin that allow the bacteria (as well as viruses) to enter, said DeMaria. “You’re vulnerable to more infection.”
And that includes STI’s, such as herpes and HPV, said family physician Emily Gibson, M.D., author of an online editorial called, “The War on Pubic Hair Must End.” In a 2013 study in Sexually Transmitted Infections, for example, researchers found that shaving your nether regions may raise your risk of catching molluscum contagiosum, a viral infection known to be sexually transmitted. Not only have you potentially damaged the delicate skin, but you’ve also removed your pubic hair, which is your natural barrier to infection, said DeMaria.
So should you toss the razor in the trash for good? Dr. Gibson thinks so: “All hair removal techniques are disruptive to the hair follicles, and cause an inflammatory reaction and micro-abrasions to the skin.” But DeMaria takes a more conservative stance—she thinks women simply need to adopt a safety-first attitude when it comes to shaving. Her advice:
•Trim with an electric razor first: Taking it all off with a regular razor can be tough. Just make sure you’ve sterilized the blades.
•Always use a fresh razor: Moisten the area with warm water and gentle, unscented soap, and then shave with the grain of the hair growth.
•Pat, don’t rub, yourself dry with a clean towel: “Now you have no hair there to protect against friction,” says DeMaria. “So you need to be more careful.”
•Let some air circulate: Wear breathable cotton panties since you’re now missing your natural sweat-wicking system, and go commando while you sleep. Said DeMaria: “Underwear should be the first thing you take off when you get home, and the last thing that you put on before you leave the house.”