It’s No Shave November! So what do two midwives think of when we look at this occasion on the social media calendar for the month? Well, pubic hair, of course – what else?
Pubic hair is an interesting evolutionary phenomenon, whose placement in humans is unique among mammals. Why do we even have it at all? Is it just an evolutionary relic? Indeed, many modern humans have decided to dispense with pubic hair in all or in part, but the truth is: pubic hair has some important jobs.
Like all hair on the human body, pubic hair is first protecting the body by trapping pathogens and irritants. A genital area that is unprotected by hair is more vulnerable to letting bacteria and viruses into the body – the hair follicles themselves even produce an oil called sebum, which helps keep bacteria from reproducing. Pubic hair does this job so well that its presence can provide some protection against UTI’s, STI’s, yeast infections and vaginitis.
Pubic hair also offers a natural cushion to the genital region. Pubic hair can provide protection during exercise activities that might injure the genitals, such as bike riding. During sex, pubic hair reduces friction and protects the tender pubic bone from bruising. Other theoretical sexual benefits to pubic hair include keeping the genitals warm, which may help maintain arousal, and pheromone transmission.
So if pubic hair is so great, why do so many people not want it? The answer to this is personal and varied, but one reason may be that it is perceived as “cleaner” to be without hair. It is true that pubic hair, being that its job is to trap dirt and bacteria, could become a hygiene issue if left all on its own – but that is true, of course, for any of your hair. Like hair on your head or your armpits, pubic hair should be washed frequently and allowed to dry to keep it in optimal condition.
There are a variety of studies available upon search that discuss the motivations of grooming or removal of pubic hair beyond that of hygiene. In one, linked in the references below, some women reported that grooming of pubic hair was intended to achieve an ideal aesthetic, to make their genitals more attractive. As proposed in another study below, many times the motivation of hair removal is to achieve a hairless ideal that is the norm in contemporary pornography. This ideal, of course, is contrived, in any natural sense of human sexuality.
In our capacity as midwives, it is not uncommon for us to hear women apologize for the state or even the presence of their pubic hair. For what it’s worth, we want you to know that we celebrate and support whichever way your body is at any given time – pubic hair is normal, natural and not even a thing. At. All. So don’t even give your pubic hair another thought – you are perfect in our book.
In the end, though, to remove or not to remove pubic hair may simply be a matter of personal preference, or to “keep things tidy”. Whatever the reason, if grooming is your preference, it is important to know that there are some real risks to the methods of hair removal. Injury to the skin, which is our body’s largest protective organ, can provide an entry opportunity for infection beyond that of losing the hair itself. To help reduce the risk of injury, here are a few ideas for safe pubic hair grooming or removal:
- Thoroughly clean the skin before you groom to cleanse away bacteria
- Use a fresh razor or tools (scissors, clippers) that have been cleaned
- Make sure your skin is wet and that you use a lathering agent, such as soap or shaving cream.
- Use a mirror so that you can see what you are doing
- Shave with the hair grain to avoid unnecessary irritation
- Wash and moisturize after shaving, and thoroughly dry the genital area
- Allow good air circulation by wearing breathable materials and avoiding too-tight clothing.
So, there you have it – a few things you didn’t even know you wanted to know about the under-appreciated pubic hair. Have a great No Shave November!