If you like to shave or wax your pubic hair, but you've stopped because of reports that shaving your pubic hair increases the risk of sexually transmitted infections, you might want to reconsider. A new study from The Ohio State University, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found no connection between lack of pubic hair and chlamydia and gonorrhea. The study of more than 200 college-aged women concluded that groomers are not at higher risk for contracting STIs than non-groomers.
Conducted by Jamie Luster, a former graduate student in public health at OSU, the study used laboratory-confirmed diagnoses of chlamydia and gonorrhea. Researchers then compared the test results with extreme grooming practices — removing all hair around the vulva, basically — and found no scientific connection between positive tests and grooming preferences.
"Though this study was small, it’s important for women to know that the research in this area is not conclusive, despite what they might see in an internet search on the topic or hear from friends," Luster, who is now a researcher at the University of Michigan, said in a press release.
It's no secret that people on both sides of the pubic-hair grooming fence have strong opinions about the practice of trimming or removing pubic hair. But IMO, other people's pubic hair is none of anyone's business. It all boils down to personal preference — you do you, and I'll do me. End of conversation.
What's more, there do not appear to be any benefits for those who prefer to go all natch when it comes to reducing risk factors for chlamydia and gonorrhea. So, what could account for previous reports linking pubic grooming and STIs? The study noted that sharing grooming tools with someone who has an STI could increase your risk of contracting an infection. However, the grooming itself reportedly does not leave you more vulnerable to certain STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea.
In addition, "Individuals who groom more frequently might have more sex, thereby resulting in greater exposure to STI. Furthermore, young age is associated with risk of STI as well as with pubic hair grooming."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website that although they only represent 25% of sexually active people, half of all STI outbreaks annually occur in people ages 15-24. In addition, Live Science reported that pubic hair grooming in women is most popular among those ages 18-24.
It's important to note that while the age of groomers and those most likely to get STIs are related, the grooming is not causing the infections because as Luster said, "There’s no clear biological reason to believe that shaving or waxing would lead to increased risk of these common [STIs]."
The study urged people to take precautions against known risk factors for STIs, like having unprotected sex. The CDC noted that when having sex with someone who has a penis, using a latex condom is a highly effective way to reduce transmission of STIs.
In addition, discuss STIs with new partners and insist that you both get tested before having unprotected sex. While this can be an uncomfortable conversation, it's much more pleasant than getting an STI. The CDC has a list of conversation starters for those who need tips for how to bring up STI testing with a new partner.
The good news is that STIs are preventable, most STIs can be cured when caught early, and others can be successfully managed with drug therapy under a doctor's care. This is why it's important to get tested annually (you can request it at your annual gynecologist check up), or any time you think you may have been exposed to an STI.
So if you want to rock a full bush, go right ahead. If you want to bare it all, don't let anyone stop you. The bottom line is that whether or not you have hair down there, practicing safe sex is the best way to protect yourself from STIs. #TheMoreYouKnow