Is it true that shaving/waxing pubic hair leads to a higher chance of getting a sexually transmitted infection?
Great question! Around 60% of people who remove any of their pubic hair experience at least one health complication from it. The most common health issues aren’t sexually transmitted infections (STIs) though, but razor burn, rashes, cuts and ingrown hairs. If you’ve experienced any of those, you know how painful and irritating they can be, even though they don’t have long-term consequences.
Getting rid of some or all of your pubic hair won’t give you an STI, but it can increase the chances of getting one. This is because even if you don’t see any cuts, shaving and waxing can cause “microtears,” which are tiny cuts in the skin. These are entry points for bacteria and viruses to get into your body—which include STIs. Human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes and syphilis can be transmitted through sexual skin to skin contact, and having open cuts or sores increases the chances that you may catch them.
Plus, your pubic hair acts as a sort of cushion, protecting the sensitive skin around your genitals from too much friction during sex. When you shave it off, it’s more likely that friction during sex will create those same microtears that shaving does. It also traps bacteria.
However, hair removal does decrease the risk of getting pubic lice (or crabs), so that’s one positive effect of removing pubic hair!
If you shave all or some of your pubic hair (and there’s no reason you have to!), there are a few things you can do to minimize the irritation. You can help prevent ingrown hairs and razor burn by doing a few things:
- Trim longer hairs with scissors before shaving.
- Use shaving cream to soften the hair.
- Soak a towel in warm water and hold it on the area you’re going to shave to soften the hair and soothe the skin.
- ALWAYS use a clean blade, and make sure to change your razor often!
- Shave in the direction of hair growth and don’t go over the same area more than twice.
- Gently exfoliate after shaving to prevent ingrown hairs.
- Wash with soap and water and use moisturizer after shaving.
What you do with your pubic hair is totally up to you! You can still be sexually healthy if you remove your pubic hair. The best way to prevent the spread of STIs is to use a barrier method like condoms the right way, every time you have sex, and to get regularly tested. If you are 10-22 years old in NYC, you can come to the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for free, confidential STI testing and treatment, birth control, and answers to any other questions you have.