Good news for anyone who gets anxious at the sight of a Popsicle stick—the full bush is finding its way back into fashion. (That is, if Amber Rose‘s and Ashley Graham’s intimate grooming habits are any indication.)
And while feminist-fueled trends may be reason enough for you to cancel your next Brazilian wax appointment, it turns out there are also some legit health benefits to keeping it a little more natural down below.
For one thing, says sexological bodyworker Kimberly Johnson, pubic hair can help prevent infection. “There’s a biological reason for it—it acts as a protective layer,” she explained at the recent Cycles + Sex conference in Los Angeles. “We have hair in places where the skin is thin and there are a lot of glands and mucosal membranes.” In fact, a 2016 study showed a relationship between pubic hair removal and STIs transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, such as herpes and HPV.
A 2016 study showed a relationship between pubic hair removal and STIs transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.
Lakeisha Richardson, MD, adds this isn’t the only risk that comes with stripping your undercarriage. “Removing pubic hair increases the risk of boils and abscess,” notes the OB-GYN. “When shaving with a razor, small nicks occur in the skin that allow bacteria such as staph to enter. Boils can lead to large abscesses that require surgical drainage and can leave scarring in the vaginal area.” (Okay, so this is a pretty rare side effect of shaving, but still enough to make me step away from the razor.)
Scary as all this may sound, it doesn’t mean you need to swear off hair removal altogether. “I recommend using clippers with an adjustable blade to trim pubic hair without the risk,” says Dr. Richardson. “If you want a smoother feel, waxing and laser are better than shaving.” She also recommends taking probiotics to maintain your vaginal pH, treating any cuts with antibacterial ointment, and waiting 24 hours after hair removal to have sex.
And remember, says Johnson, pubes aren’t the be-all, end-all of a well-functioning vag. “I think this is something to be aware of,” she proclaims, “but ultimately there are so many deeper layers to health.”
To care for the inside of your vagina, follow these steps to boost the good bacteria down there. And here’s what your vaginal secretions could mean for your health.