On Friday, Amber Rose posted a picture of herself on Instagram, resplendent in a black bikini top, shades, and a diamond choker as she lounged on a staircase, a dark fur coat spread beneath her. Wearing nothing else but body oil and red nail polish, her full pubes took center stage.
The photo was taken down from Instagram soon after, and Rose responded by reposting it on Twitter and posting a follow-up photo on Instagram with the hashtag #BringBackTheBush. And while Rose’s feminist statement is meant to draw attention to the SlutWalk she’s hosting in Los Angeles on October 1, she’s also inadvertently delighted scientists studying pubic hair, who are delighted that pubes are being talked about. It’s a prickly topic, but researchers like Tami Rowen, an assistant professor and obstetrician at the University of California San Francisco, have found many biological reasons to bring back the bush.
“Pubic hair plays an important role in protecting the vulva and vagina from bacteria and other organisms,” Rowen tells Inverse. “Removing hair can carry risk.”
Researchers have found that people who groom their pubes are more likely to have a history of sexually transmitted infections. Furthermore, added Andrea DeMaria, a professor of public health at Purdue University, who studies pubic hair removal, in an interview with Inverse, the process of removing pubic hair often creates tiny cuts in the skin that can become infected, opens hair follicles to infection, and tears at the sensitive tissue of the vulva, which can be very painful. “Pubic hair removal can be healthy, and it can be unhealthy, depending on where, how, and when the hair is removed,” she says.
While Rose is bringing back the bush, DeMaria points out that it looks like her hedges have been trimmed and tailored. “I am making an assumption that Amber Rose did tailor her pubic hair, and if so, likely had a professional do so,” says DeMaria. Professional grooming, she notes, decreases the health risks associated with hair removal, presumably because there are fewer accidental nicks and cuts. In general, safety is paramount when it comes to grooming your pubes, and removing the hair permanently is not recommended, because what you prefer often changes, and the hair has purpose.
Since most American women groom their pubes, this is important information to know. But even more important, adds DeMaria, is the fact that people are talking about pubes at all.
“I appreciate Amber Rose’s attempt to showcase her pride for her body and genitals, and I am hoping this will empower women to think about their bodies and hair removal decisions, and spark conversations about the topic,” says DeMaria. “The more we feel comfortable having conversations about this, the more we will know, and the healthier we could potentially be.”