Whether you do a little neatening up—or mow the whole lawn.
Some women sport a wild bush. Others remove their pubic hair religiously to stay completely bare down there. Most of us fall somewhere in between: In a recent study, over 75 percent of people surveyed reported grooming their pubic area. Unfortunately more than a quarter of that majority also said they’d injured themselves, giving themselves cuts, burns, or rashes in the process. Ouch.
How risky is it to groom your pubic hair? “In general, the more thorough the technique, the higher the risk for injury,” Katharine White, MD, ob-gyn at Boston University Medical School, tells Health. “Clipping is going to be less risky than shaving and shaving is less risky than waxing,” she explains.
With bikini season around the corner, we asked Dr. White to rank each hair removal method from a health and safety perspective. Before you grab the hot wax or your razor, remember this: Fuzz exists for a reason. “Our whole bodies were covered with hair at one point and now this is one of the only places where hair is left,” says Dr. White. “It stands to reason that evolution had a plan for that hair.”
Experts are divided as to what that plan is. Some believe it’s simply extra cushioning for intercourse, while others say pubic hair traps aromas that make us more attractive to our partners, says Dr. White. Whatever the reason for it, if you're committed to grooming yours, here are the safest ways—and the most dangerous.
When it comes to pubic hair removal, trimming with a pair of scissors is your safest option. This method won’t get rid of every last strand, but it can help restore order below the belt if you feel like things have gotten a bit wild.
“The only risk I would see is if you are using scissors to trim a batch of hair, especially in the middle, and you’re angling the tips towards your body without using a mirror,” says Dr. White. “You would never ever want to snag your labia or clitoris, so be sure you can always see the tips of the scissors at all times.” Noted.
It’s a little time-consuming and can be painful, but tweezing your pubes is a low-risk way to get rid of stray curlies along the bikini line. According to Dr. White, this method plucks hair out at the root without irritating the skin (the way waxing or a depilatory can). If you’re someone who wants to remove hairs along your bikini line before swimsuit season, pluck just a few follicles each day to spread out the work...and the pain.
If you’re into keeping your skincare routine all natural, a chemical hair removal cream a la Nair probably isn’t for you. That said, Dr. White puts depilatories—which work by dissolving hair at the surface of the skin—on the safer end of the hair removal spectrum.
“Like any other cream that you buy for acne or something else, you want to spot test to make sure your skin doesn’t have an adverse reaction to it,” she says. “Given that, as long as you’re careful, and you stick to applying it to the bikini line, it’s a good option.”
It's easy to grab your razor in the shower and do a little neatening up—or even mow the entire lawn. But shaving does have its downsides. “Any time the skin is abraded, or cut, there’s a risk of infection,” Dr. White says. “There’s bacteria all over our skin and our genitals are no different, so you want to do as much as you can to reduce the risk of breaking your skin while shaving and potentially getting an infection.” Not to mention ingrown hairs and razor burn.
One best practice: Never do it dry. “Always use shave gel, cream, or even just liquid soap,” advises Dr. White. “Anything that keeps the blade moving smoothly across your skin is going to be safer.”
It’s also important to replace your razor early and often. Most people think that a new razor is more likely to cut them because the blade is sharper, but the opposite is true, says Dr. White. “Old blades have nicks and rough surfaces that are much more likely to snag your skin when you’re shaving, so a new blade is actually safer.”
Oh, and don’t shave anywhere you can’t see. “I don’t think there is any way to shave your bum safely,” adds White. “Just don’t try.” Not a problem.
Getting a bikini wax or a bare-it-all Brazilian wax means the hair won't grow back for weeks, which is super convenient. But waxers be warned: This method comes with multiple risks—particularly if you do it at a salon or spa.
“The first has to do with the cleanliness of the wax that’s being used,” says Dr. White. “You want to make sure that they are using wax that is being opened just for you and hasn’t been used for anyone else.” Contrary to popular belief, the wax is not hot enough to kill off harmful bugs. Yikes.
Also, even the cleanest wax can cause skin damage, including burns (especially if you DIY it and accidentally overheat the wax) and folliculitis—an infection of the hair follicles that causes angry red bumps. The wax rips out hair at the root, which opens follicles and potentially triggers this infection. If you know you have sensitive skin, consider opting for another form of hair removal.