Talking about hair 'down there'

22:27, Sep 13 2012
Bikini lines
DEMURE: Swimsuit cuts have gone much higher over the decades.

It may once have been taboo, but pubic hair, and what to do with it, is now fair game - and it is as subject to changing fashions as much as other hair.

Some prefer things trim and tidy and some opt for totally bare while others go au naturel.

The removal of pubic hair has become a multimillion dollar industry, with beauty salons offer waxing, laser hair removal, threading and electrolysis.

Most women over 50 grew up in times when nobody would even think of shaving - some may have neatly trimmed, but that was all - and they were proud to have a nice "bush".

For most young girls, the arrival of pubic hair was seen as a rite of passage to becoming an adult.

With the arrival of the 1980s came high-cut bikinis that left less to the imagination - and with them came the pressure to remove the pubic hair.

The idea of a hairless "down there"' was then incorporated into, and pushed to the limit, by the adult film industry.

It's no surprise, then, that bikini line waxing has now become mainstream, for both men and women. And numbers are on the rise.

Brooke Magnanti, the author of The Sex Myth, took great offence when Dr Emily Gibson, a family physician and medical director of a student health centre in Washington, called for an end to the War on Pubic Hair.

Gibson claims that shaving increases the risk of infection and of sexually transmitted diseases among young people.

Originally published by the respected US medical website Kevin, the article soon went viral - a meme that, according to Magnanti, was "generally bigged-up by haters of shaving everywhere".

She said: "It is no surprise this opinion is popular as it confirms a lot of popular prejudices. One, that removing pubic hair is somehow wrong or unnatural. Second, that the beauty industry is controlling women and making them do things they don't want to do. While either point is worthy of discussion abusing medical science to further your aesthetic or ideological preference is a poor way to make an argument."

In Australia, Dr Spring Cooper Robbins, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney and Dr Anthony Santella, Lecturer in HIV, STIs and Sexual Health at the University of Sydney penned an article, Bare necessity? Public health implications of removing pubic hair.

They believe that it is not the lack of pubic hair that affects health, but the method of hair removal.

The infectious risk of waxing and shaving, particularly among those with a weakened immune system, is often under-appreciated.

The grim reality is that beauty salon conditions and the tools employed by their staff can transmit bacterial infections.


Shaving can cause small skin tears (sometimes not visible) which can provide additional sites for sexually transmitted infections (STI). It's wise to be careful when you are going to have a wax and look for reputable salons.

Robins and Santella have shared five facts that all shaving devotees should heed:

It grows back: no matter what method you use to remove your hair (including more "permanent" methods such as laser), it will grow back. The texture of pubic hair may change when it grows back.

Shaving needs prep: trim your pubic hair with a trimmer or scissors before you begin to shave it, use shaving cream, and always test an area first! Shaving pubic hair needs preparation.

Use chemicals with care: buy a depilatory designed specifically for pubic hair removal. Only apply it to the genital area after testing it on a smaller area first. This may not be a good option for you if you have sensitive skin. If your skin develops severe irritation afterwards, see a doctor!

Waxing warrants caution: home waxing kits come in both cold and hot wax varieties - cold kits may not work as well but are certainly safer to use in the genital region. If you're going to a salon, choose a professional location that makes safety a priority.

Laser or electrolysis lasts longer, but not forever: If you want it gone and gone for a long time, explore laser hair removal treatments or electrolysis - be aware that the treatment takes several months and may cause some pain and skin irritation.

The authors believe that from a public health standpoint, pubic hair doesn't come with any advantages - it's the negative health effects associated with its removal that are a concern.

And, as long as you're careful with the removal process, you can be just as healthy (or even more healthy!) with little or no pubic hair.

In 2011, the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia (CPSA) surveyed 516 women who had undergone permanent pubic hair removal. The survey found that 63 per cent of the participants reported "feeling sexier" and 60 per cent experienced "enhanced sexual pleasure".

It also reported that there is an increase in the number of men seeking permanent hair removal. Most popular areas are the back, the chest and, yes, the pubic area.

The main motivation is to look and feel good, but a desire to please their partners is high on the list, too.

So what do you prefer, to be bare or bear a bush? And would you like your man to be more hairless?

- Daily Life