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Can Pubic Grooming Increase Your Risk of Acquiring a STD?

DEC 15, 2016 | KRISTI ROSA
There are a number of practices that individuals partake in as a way of meeting societal expectations of cleanliness and attractiveness; as the times change, so do these practices. However, there is one practice that is becoming increasingly more commonplace in modern-day society among both men and women around the world; a practice that may actually increase the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): pubic hair removal.
A recent study conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco has found a link between grooming practices and STDs. The national probability survey, given to residents within the United States between the ages of 18 and 65, found that pubic groomers are two times more likely than non-groomers to report having had an STD over the course of their life.
Furthermore, the researchers found that among the groomers, “extreme groomers,” or those individuals who remove all of their pubic hair more than 11 times each year, were at an even higher risk of infection.
In a press release about the study, Benjamin Breyer, MD, associate professor in the UCSF department of Urology and of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and senior author on the study, said, “We were surprised at how big the effect was. Right now, we have no way of knowing if grooming causes the increase in risk for infections. All we can say is that they appear to be associated. But I probably would avoid aggressive shaving right before having sex, and I would avoid having sex with an open cut or wound.” (Razor use can result in “epidermal microtears” and bacterial and viral STDs—such as herpes, syphilis, HPV—can then enter the body through these tears.)
According to researchers, it is well-known that hair removal contributes to injury and cutaneous infections, resulting in increased morbidity, but previous to this, the association between hair removal and STD risk has not been thoroughly explored on a large-scale.
For the study, 7,580 individuals answered a survey comprised of questions about the following: “grooming frequency; the amount of hair typically removed (trimming vs complete removal); grooming tools (razor, wax, scissors, electrolysis, laser hair removal, depilatories, tweezers); and history of STIs, including herpes, HPV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV.” Fifty-six percent of those surveyed were men and 44% were women; 74% of the respondents (84% of the women and 66% of the men) reported grooming their pubic hair. Seventeen percent of the groomers were dubbed extreme groomers and 22% were classified as “high-frequency groomers,” or “those who performed daily or weekly trimming.”

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