What it's for, the best way to groom it, and other health-focused info about your pubic fuzz.
Pubic hair: We all have it, and most of us wish we didn’t. In fact, 95% of the men and women polled by researchers in one study had removed their pubic hair at least once in the past four weeks.
But considering how little there is of it (relatively) and how few people see it, many of us have strong feelings about what’s going on down there—and lots of questions about what to do with it. Like most things on our bodies, it exists for a reason. So before you shave, wax, trim it into a heart shape, or do whatever else you want with it, there are some fascinating things you should know about your hair.
Pubic hair actually serves a purpose
Think of your bush as protective pillow. "Pubic hair provides a protective barrier for our body,” says Jessica Shepherd, MD, an ob-gyn and minimally invasive gynecologic surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. “It helps to fend off bacteria and unwanted pathogens from entering the vaginal area. This can help prevent you from getting yeast infections, vaginitis, and UTIs."
Beyond that, doctors and scientists aren't totally sure why pubic hair exists. “The suspected theories, some medical and some not, include the idea that pubic hair keeps our genitals warm, and that it provides a cushion during sex and other activities that put pressure on the vagina,” says Sherry Ross, MD, an ob-gyn and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. One benefit to not getting rid of it: Pubic hair is also thought to trap pheromones, which are sexual smells created by body chemicals that are sexually enticing to a partner, says Dr. Ross.
Your pubic hair has always been there
You’ve had pubic hair since you were a kid. It just went by a different name. “Vellus hair is very short, light, fine hair that covers the skin on the body,” says Dr. Ross. All children have it—you just can’t really see it. “This type of hair is meant to protect the skin and keep the body warm,” she explains. “During puberty, terminal hair—the thicker and darker hair that grows in the pubic area, on the head, under the arms, and on the face—starts to grow.”
It doesn’t grow back thicker after you shave
As prickly as your pubic hair feels when it grows in after shaving, it’s not coming in any thicker than it was before. But “because the hair is cut at midshaft, where the circumference is the largest, when you shave, it may appear thicker,” says Dr. Shepherd.
Pubic hair thins out as you get older
Pubic hair "usually grows at a steady pace on average of .5 millimeter per day,” says Dr. Shepherd. But as the clock ticks, this growth rate changes. “Just like other hair on our body, pubic hair will start to thin out during different hormonal stages in our lives, like with age and menopause,” she says. “Certain medical conditions and medications can also make pubic hair thin out.”
The carpet doesn’t always match the drapes
Yep, it’s totally normal to have hair on your head that doesn’t match the color down below. “Usually the hair on your head, under your arms, and on your vagina are similar in color,” says Dr. Ross. “But it’s not always the case, since there can be slight variations in the amount of melanin that gives the hair its color.”
There’s no hygienic difference if you shave or not
More than 83% of women tidy up down there, according to survey results published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, and 60% of those women say they do it for hygienic reasons. But having pubic hair or not has no effect on how clean things are below the belt. “There is no difference in hygiene when one shaves or doesn't,” says Dr. Shepherd. With more hair, it may be harder to keep the area dry and free of sweat, which can lead to odors, she adds. But when you remove the hair, you’re removing that barrier against bacteria, which can put you in contact with some unhealthy bugs.
Waxing and shaving both come with a few risks
Pubic groomers will argue this to death, but there’s no one best way to remove pubic hair. Waxing "definitely has fewer incidences of ingrown hairs compared to shaving,” says Dr. Ross. “Although skin irritation and ingrown hair can result after waxing, as can an increased chance of Staph infection around the hair follicle, the common and annoying condition called folliculitis. This usually results in red bumps, but it can develop into abscesses if not treated properly, she adds.
One thing is clear: The skin under your pubic hair is especially sensitive and vulnerable to skin irritation. So if you prefer to shave, make sure to use new blades; old ones can carry unwanted bacteria that can cause razor burns, bumps, acne, and other irritations to the skin and hair follicles.
FYI, waxing hurts more during your period
Chalk this up to another thing your period makes worse. When you menstruate, fluctuating hormones cause your pain perception to skyrocket, according to research published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skill. Using hot wax to rip hair out of its follicles in an already sensitive area? Yeah, that’s gonna hurt like a b.
Sex is the reason most of us groom our pubes
So what’s the point of regularly removing this very natural part of your body? More than 55% of women who shave, wax, or trim said sex is the most common reason they do it, according to that JAMA Dermatology survey. (Three-quarters of men ages 25 to 34 say the same, a survey in the American Journal of Men's Health reports.)
Of those women, 21% say they groom because their partner likes it (FYI: 60% of men confess they prefer a partner who’s bare down there, research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found). Oh, and there’s one other reason: the gyno. Before an appointment, 40% of women said they clean things up.
But pubic grooming can boost your self-esteem
What you do with your body is totally up to you. But women did report that they groom their pubes because they believe it makes their lady parts more attractive, according to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
“Whether one chooses to shave or not should be a personal decision. However, there are many women with groomed hair and those who without who have great self-esteem and do not feel less than for the choice of hair or no hair,” says Dr. Shepherd. “Ultimately, the decision should be based on how one feels about themselves and what feels comfortable.” Translation: Your bush is your own business.