If you’re an adult, odds are you’ve trimmed your pubic bush at some point. And if you’re a frequent groomer — particularly if you remove all your pubic hair — there’s a 25 percent chance you’ve lacerated yourself in the process.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dermatology on Wednesday, doctors warn that the standard method of taking a razor to your genitals for trimming, shaving, and waxing downstairs is — surprise! — dangerous. The researchers found that how often you groom and how much hair you remove both play significant roles in your chance of being injured.
Thomas Gaither, an M.D./M.A.S. student at University of California, San Francisco, and one of the authors of this study, says he was surprised by the high incidence of grooming-related injuries.
“What took us aback are how common injuries are,” Gaither tells Inverse. Out of the respondents, 25.6 percent of them reported injuries from grooming. “About one percent of groomers have sought medical attention because of an injury,” adds Gaither.
Gaither and his colleagues surveyed 7,456 adults between the ages of 18 and 65. Respondents were asked detailed questions about their grooming habits and related injuries, including how many times they had groomed, how much hair they removed, what methods they used, and even who did the grooming.
They found that 66.5 percent of men and 85.3 percent of women reported a history of grooming. Among the 25.6 percent reporting grooming-related injuries, nearly two-thirds had cut themselves. Men overwhelmingly injured their scrotum, while women were pretty evenly divided between injuring their inner thigh and the pubis, or pubic mound; the vagina ranked a close third.
The researchers found a high correlation between how often a person groomed and injury frequency. Men who removed all hair more than 11 times in their lives were nearly twice as likely to injure themselves over their lifetimes compared to men who didn’t remove all their pubic hair. Women who opted to go Brazilian more than 11 times in their lifetime are about twice as likely to be injured as opposed to women who don’t.
Notably, waxing seems to be the safest method of hair removal — probably because it doesn’t involve a blade (though there is still the risk of a burn).
“This is kind of a hot topic for some,” says Gaither. “Waxing was associated with a prevention of high-frequency injuries. In comparison to non-electric razors, electric razors, and scissors, it looked like those who use wax as their main form of grooming had fewer injuries. That’s a pretty insightful thing for us.”
Gaither says the next step for his team is to follow up on their previous study that correlated grooming with sexually transmitted infections. To do this, they will gather data at clinics to better understand how the timelines of grooming and infection interact.
Beyond that, though, Gaither says he hopes this research will help raise awareness regarding just how common grooming is and the fact that educators are not addressing it in sexual education courses.
“We still need to figure out what’s the best way to groom,” he says.
Abstract: IMPORTANCE Pubic hair grooming is a common practice that can lead to injury and morbidity. OBJECTIVE To identify demographic and behavioral risk factors associated with pubic hair grooming–related injuries to characterize individuals with high risk of injury and develop recommendations for safe grooming practices. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This cross-sectional study conducted a national survey of noninstitutionalized US adults (aged 18-65 years). The web-based survey was conducted through a probability-based web panel designed to be representative of the US population. Data were collected in January 2014 and analyzed from August 1, 2016, through February 1, 2017. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Grooming-related injury history (yes or no),high-frequency injuries (>5 lifetime injuries), and injury requiring medical attention. RESULTS Among the 7570 participants who completed the survey (4198 men [55.5%] and 3372 women [44.5%]; mean (SD) age, 41.9 [18.9] years), 5674 of 7456 (76.1%) reported a history of grooming (66.5% of men and 85.3% of women [weighted percentages]). Grooming-related injury was reported by 1430 groomers (weighted prevalence, 25.6%), with more women sustaining an injury than men (868 [27.1%] vs 562 [23.7%]; P = .01). Laceration was the most common injury sustained (818 [61.2%]), followed by burn (307 [23.0%]) and rashes (163 [12.2%]). Common areas for grooming-related injury for men were the scrotum (378 [67.2%]), penis (196 [34.8%]), and pubis (162 [28.9%]); for women, the pubis (445 [51.3%]), inner thigh (340 [44.9%]), vagina (369 [42.5%]), and perineum (115 [13.2%]). After adjustment for age, duration of grooming, hairiness, instrument used, and grooming frequency, men who removed all their pubic hair 11 times or more during their lifespan had an increased risk for grooming injury (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.97; 95% CI, 1.28-3.01; P = .002) and were prone to repeated high-frequency injuries (AOR, 3.89; 95% CI, 2.01-7.52; P < .001) compared with groomers who did not remove all their pubic hair. Women who removed all their pubic hair 11 times or more had increased odds of injury (AOR, 2.21; 95% CI, 1.53-3.19; P < .001) and high-frequency injuries (AOR, 2.98; 95% CI, 1.78-5.01; P < .001) compared with groomers who do not remove all their pubic hair. In women, waxing decreased the odds of high-frequency injuries (AOR, 0.11; 95% CI, 0.03-0.43; P = .001) compared with nonelectric blades. In total, 79 injuries among 5674 groomers (1.4%) required medical attention. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Grooming frequency and degree of grooming (ie, removing all pubic hair) are independent risk factors for injury. The present data may help identify injury-prone groomers and lead to safer grooming practices.