Pubic hair is the one type of personal grooming that remains essentially private. What you do or do not do with your hair down there is your own business. But, sometimes, researchers have to ask awkward questions in the name of science. To better understand the changing pubic hygiene habits of American women, a group of OBGYNs and urologists asked more than 3300 U.S. women between 18 and 65 about how they groomed. The results, published in JAMA Dermatology and spotted by LiveScience, give us a broad look at how women view their pubes.
Here's what they found: Almost 84 percent of women said they had done some kind of landscaping on their bush all their lives, and more than 62 percent of respondents reported removing all of their pubes at least once.
They also discovered that only 16 percent said they had never groomed down there, a major reversal from trends in 1968, when 40 percent of women didn't groom at all and only 10 percent reported removing all their hair. Almost 93 percent of women in the study who groomed their pubic hair in some way said they did it themselves, rather than going to a salon. (For context, the modern “Brazilian wax” wasn’t invented until 1987—more than a decade before Sex and the City made it a hot topic.)
White women were the most likely to trim. And in general, grooming was more associated with younger, more educated, and wealthier groups. Neither sexual orientation nor how frequently the participants had sex was related to grooming habits. While most women (56 percent) said that sex was their motivation for trimming, shaving, or waxing (and 21 percent said it was because their partner preferred it), a surprising number were concerned about their doctor: 40 percent said they groomed before health care visits. And a full 59 percent groomed for what they said were hygienic reasons, which rather suggests that women think their pubes are gross—even though hair removal irritates the skin and actually makes it a better habitat for some gross bacteria.
"There's nothing cleaner about" groomed pubic hair, study lead author Tami Rowen told LiveScience.
While no one should be told that what they do with their hair down there is somehow wrong or gross, it’s also good to get a fuller picture of what the average bush looks like, lest people think that being smooth as a Photoshopped baby’s bottom is the default.
Pubic hair is rarely seen in the public realm. Consider that the director of Fifty Shades of Grey felt it notable to mention in pre-release interviews that the movie would show the main character’s pubes. “She actually has a bush, which is fantastic!" director Sam Taylor-Johnson told the Huffington Post. This lack of hair visibility can give people the impression that everyone is waxing it all off. There are almost never hairs peeking out of swimsuit models’ bikinis, and when an Australian magazine posted an image of swimsuit models with a little extra hair on Instagram in 2015, the app censored the account.
Having no pubes isn’t cleaner than having a healthy tangle of hair down there, and grooming, like most of life, is not without its dangers. One study estimated that between 2002 and 2010, more than 11,700 people went to the ER with pubic grooming injuries, mostly related to shaving, with incidents increasing rapidly over the course of that decade. On the other hand, pubic lice are much rarer now that people go a little barer. Still, it’s important to know that no matter what you do with your pubes, you’re probably not the only one.
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