I remember it distinctly; the moment my pubic hair down there came to be. Of all the many parts of becoming a woman, this was the one I had heard nary a whisper about from friends, family, and all the women’s magazines I was inappropriately reading at an early age. Why was no one talking about this very hairy pink elephant in the room?
Like many mysteries of the vulva and vagina, it was secretive and not something ever discussed publicly. In my youth, we did not have Google to answer (sometimes incorrectly) all the questions we couldn’t ask. It wasn’t until my early 20’s when the first man who ever formally visited the area asked oh-so-sensitively, “What’s going on with the hair situation down there?” I was immediately embarrassed and thought I was some sort of social aberration. The next morning, I shaved the area entirely for the first time. Thus, began a life-long battle with my pubic hair and its nether-region.
Who grooms and why?
In a study featured in JAMA Dermatology, 3316 women were surveyed between the ages of 18-65 about their grooming habits in the pubic region. OF those surveyed, a whopping 83.8% reported they engaged in pubic hair grooming, while 16.2% reported never grooming. Women with some college or a bachelor’s degree were more likely to groom, while women over 55 were less likely to groom. Why did women attend to their nether hair? Interestingly, 59% of women groomed for hygiene, 31.5% groomed because they believe it makes their genitals more attractive, and for 21% it was to cater to partner preference.
Conversely, the idea that pubic hair is unhygienic is medically untrue. Pubic hair prevents infections and irritations by trapping dirt and debris and provides a soft barrier around the vaginal opening and exceptionally delicate skin in and around the vulva. Like all things on our bodies, it has a biological function. Grooming pubic hair is personal and cosmetic, not medical.
So where did this “Make your vulva look like Barbie bits” trend originate? Blame Hugh Hefner (at least partially) for the “bare down there tradition.” A study by George Washington University showed Playboy centerfolds had pubic hair up until the 1980’s, and then as if magically, poof! It was gone.
How to care for the hair down there
Here’s the guide I wish I had as a young woman confused about my burgeoning womanhood. Remember, your choice to groom or not to groom is personal, while cleaning is genuinely a hygiene issue.
Clean the outer area with a gentle soap or body wash. You do not need a special cleanser for your pubic region unless you have a medical issue requiring one. Do not use cleanser on your labia or inside your vagina as it can lead to irritation. Rinse thoroughly and dry meticulously to prevent bacteria growth.
If you choose not to go au naturel, here are some options (with a few tips) on how to clean up the area. If you want to go mostly natural but want it to be a bit neater, then opt for trimming. Using clippers or sharp hair scissors (be careful!), start slow and take a bit at a time until you are happy. If you opt for a depilatory, be sure to take the 24-hour skin test in advance. I know you want to skip it, but trust me, it’s worth it. If you don’t get irritated, follow the directions on the tube and set a timer. Prolonged exposure to the crème can cause chemical burns on the vulva’s very delicate skin. Results generally last up to four days.
One of the most popular methods of removal is shaving. As the niece of a locally-famous barber, some of the best advice I can give is to soak the area for at least five minutes to soften the hairs, use an emollient shave cream or oil, and carefully shave to your desired style. Try to avoid going over any area more than once, or you’ll increase your chances of irritation or cuts. Rinse well. Shaving lasts anywhere from one to three days depending on your hair growth.
Waxing can be done at home (if you are Wonder Woman) or in a salon or spa. Be sure to find a licensed aesthetician with good customer reviews before you let her wax you. Take an Advil prior and do not have it done during your period or while you are ovulating. Waxing results last anywhere from three to six weeks until your hair growth starts on the same cycle, then you can go eight weeks or more until your next touch-up.
While there are many reasons to remove it, grooming for your hair down there is a personal choice.