Waxing pubic hair increases STI risk

08:30 AEST Wed Aug 8 2012
Kimberly Gillan
Brazillian wax health risks
Brazillian wax health risks

A US doctor has launched a campaign to put a stop to pubic hair removal, claiming it increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and infection.

Emily Gibson, a family physician and director of the health centre at Western University in Washington, believes the explosion of beauty salons offering waxing, laser hair removal and genital decoration is concerning.

"The amount of time, energy, money and emotion both genders spend on abolishing hair from their genitals is astronomical," she said.

Dr Gibson argues the trend is inspired by "certain hairless actors and actresses, a misguided attempt at hygiene or being more attractive to a partner".

And it can actually be dangerous to the skin — Dr Gibson reports seeing patients with boils and abscesses on their genitals as a result of shaving.

"Pubic hair removal naturally irritates and inflames the hair follicles, leaving microscopic open wounds," Dr Gibson wrote on the US medical website KevinMD.com.

"Frequent hair removal is necessary to stay smooth, causing regular irritation of the shaved or waxed area. When that is combined with the warm, moist environment of the genitals, it becomes a happy culture media for some of the nastiest bacterial pathogens."

Small cuts can also increase people's risk of herpes "due to the microscopic wounds being exposed to virus carried by mouth or genitals".

Dr Gibson pointed out that pubic hair has an important biological function.

"Pubic hair does have a purpose, providing a cushion against friction that can cause skin abrasion and injury, and protection from bacteria," she said.

"It is the visible result of adolescent hormones and certainly nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It is time to declare a truce in the war on pubic hair and allow it to stay right where it belongs."

Dr Elizabeth Farrell, a gynaecologist and founding director at Jean Hailes, told MSN NZ that the medical risks are only one part of the Brazilian waxing problem.

"It has led to many misconceptions about what is the range of normal for women's vulvas," she said.

"When women have pubic hair, you don't see the labia and don't necessarily focus on how big your labia are. There is now an increase in cosmetic vaginal and vulva surgery to make women's labia smaller."

Dr Farrell said she's seen a huge increase in women with Brazilian waxing in recent years.

"The big issue is in relation to body image … young people today, particularly males, think that if women don't shave or wax their pubic hair, they are unclean," she said.

"We do see people developing rashes in response to the waxing. Women get ingrown hairs, which then cause skin infection. If anyone has cuts on the skin and they have sex with somebody who is infected, there is an increased risk of STIs."


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