11:32 pm - 01/07/2011

pubic hair and hygiene

lets talk about pubes.
there was recently a post in topicless discussing the OPs boyfriends demands on her pubic hair situation. i instantly started reading the comments and offering my own opinions, and came to find that people feel it is unhygienic to have hair on your vagina because it allows you to be more prone to STIs/diseases/etc.

how valid are these concerns VP? personally i have never even thought of that and feel hygiene has nothing to do with the amount of hair anywhere on your body, and moreso with your cleaning habits. what are your opinions, VP?

and just to make it more community friendly, how do you prefer to keep your pubes?
extraneousrooot 8th-Jan-2011 07:38 am (UTC)
Aesthetically, I prefer completely natural. Physically, I prefer completely shaved. That usually means I shave once every two months, enjoy it, and go back to looking how I prefer to look.

As far as the hygiene thing, I don't even understand how misconceptions like that get started except to heap more shame on female bodied people.
unheardcry 8th-Jan-2011 07:39 am (UTC)
totally agreed. i was pretty shocked to hear that.
sand_woman 8th-Jan-2011 09:52 am (UTC)
Heh, we are pube twins! I have this set of preferences too, and just randomly decide to shave everything every few months :) And with you on the hygiene thing too.
sky_blue_pink 8th-Jan-2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
Totally with you on the aesthetically/physically pleasing preferences! I thought I was the only one. :)

@OP: hair putting you at risk for STIs sounds like total bullshit to me. It's annoying enough when people insist that you must shave in order to be sexually attractive, but when they try to justify it with pseudo-science, it really drives me up the wall.
peppermintposey 8th-Jan-2011 07:52 am (UTC)
8| More prone to STIs and diseases? What the holy heck??

Me, I prefer to keep the labia and bikini line shaven (with a buzzy razor, not a disposable one), but with a little "tuff" on the pubic triangle, if that makes sense. I hate the way little (or long) hairs feel on my labia. Too sensitive! It certainly makes me feel like I have to work less to *feel* cleaner down there, but I only think that's because I'm not as itchy or stuffy feeling. As long as it's properly cared for, a vagina is a vagina is a vagina, shaven or natural.

But...seriously. I would think that hair there would most likely bar anything from entering the vagina to an extent. Isn't that what the hair is there for, aside from trapping in the scent and all that?
emptysthemepark 8th-Jan-2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
Hair twins! I also, being bi, know that it reduces drastically the 'hair in mouth' I seem to experience more with female lovers, so I also do it out of courtesy. I'm pretty minimalistic about it.

And um yeah, total shame myth over at that community. Hair is also there to reduce rawness from friction during sex. The one time I shaved it all off, I got such a bad heat rash from the sweat and rubbing during prolonged sex. Awful. The 'tuft' strategy seems to be a happy median.
somniumdraconae 8th-Jan-2011 07:59 pm (UTC)
I do this too. I have fuller/longer labia and long hairs tend to get pulled and caught during certain activities. Plus I hate when period blood gets clotted in my pubes (yuck!), and I sweat less down there with less hair around. I use a disposable though, never tried a buzzy razor.

For real though... who came up with that myth? How come there's no crazy myths about men's pubes and stupid reasons for them to shave?
lavished 10th-Jan-2011 03:03 am (UTC)
Me toooo :) I don't like looking totally bare but I also don't like the hair to be noticeable through any sort of underwear.
fee_parisienne 8th-Jan-2011 07:54 am (UTC)
I don't think that's a valid concern.
Hygiene has much more to do with washing (and wearing clean underwear) than having hair or not having hair.

The only sexually-transmitted problem that I can think of, where hair might be a factor at all, is having pubic lice/crabs.

Condom-wearing and regular testing are WAY more important than shaving of pubic hair if someone wants to reduce their likelihood of contracting STIs.
tigana33 8th-Jan-2011 10:42 am (UTC)
"Gross stuff" as you put it is not really the kind of wording that is acceptable in safe space.
jocelina Maintainer Note8th-Jan-2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
Hi, jeesh. In VP, it's important to avoid making comments in VP that that imply that STIs are dirty or gross, as this can reinforce the harmful stereotypes out there about STIs and people who have them and we want to avoid that. We realize you can't edit comments once they've been replied to, so we simply ask that you keep this note in mind for the future.

For more information on this policy, you can read our guidelines here.

For the VP Team
mightyelle 11th-Jan-2011 04:29 am (UTC)
If that was the case (pubic hair=evolution's way of keeping std's out), how would the lack of pubic hair (or it being very, very sparse) in certain populations be explained?
capra_maritimus 8th-Jan-2011 08:46 am (UTC)
I agree with the previous replies regarding pubic hair and STI's.

I prefer to not shave my pubic area at all. Back when I was in my twenties I shaved my pubic hair once because I was curious about all the fuss. I discovered that I have a terrible tendency to develop ingrown hairs and I itched horribly for three days. (Yes, I know there are creams and such for this, but it seems silly to me to spend money I don't always have on another product that may or may not work for a problem that doesn't need to exist in the first place.)

And stubble rubbing against my clit - OW! :(

unheardcry 8th-Jan-2011 10:23 am (UTC)
dude stubble rubbing up against clit is the worst in my whole life. i dont even know what to compare to that feeling
goldfoil 8th-Jan-2011 11:51 am (UTC)
man, i am really glad i got creepy frank rather than access to that post, because i don't really need to read about a potential BF demanding certain maintenance of GF's hair nor reading some ignorant opinions fulled by social values that shame female bodied people and imply their bodies are disgusting. ick.

Concerns such as you mentioned are not valid. Hair grows to act as a barrier to protect sensitive areas from the elements. Like eye lashes and brows. Why would our bodies develop to do the opposite?

I prefer my pubes personally however they are. I like getting a full wax but am very lazy about booking appointments so my hair grows until i take it off. The only thing i don't like (and thus shaving is a big no way) is the short time span where the regrowth is like shaving stuble. That hurts.
goldfoil 8th-Jan-2011 11:52 am (UTC)
fueled even*
knox_y 8th-Jan-2011 01:27 pm (UTC)
I thought being hairless actually caused an increase in your chances of getting sti/infections because you have more potential to have knicks or open sores after shaving or waxing?

Personally, I prefer hairless both physically and aesthetically but would never for any partner to do be hairless if they didn't want to be.
atalanta0jess 8th-Jan-2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
This is what I have heard from medical sources. Shaving is "less hygenic" because it can cause open skin or irritation where infections can more easily enter.
lightningxsnow 8th-Jan-2011 02:05 pm (UTC)
Echoing what others said, I think it's just a myth to shame female-bodied people.

However, and I speak from my experience only, when I was younger and didn't shave or trim my pubic hair at all, I tended to get a lot of very uncomfortable ingrown hairs/pimples on my genital area. This problem went away when I started trimming my pubes. I don't know if most people have that issue, though.
capra_maritimus 8th-Jan-2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
I have the opposite issue - I only get the ingrown hairs when I do shave. It just depends on the person. :D
rojarabbits 8th-Jan-2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
On the show "The Doctors" (is that even on anymore?) the gyno said it's more hygienic to shave. I'm unsure of the veracity of the statement.
I've been a shaver for a while, even before I was "sexually active". I shave about once a week.
archangelbeth 8th-Jan-2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
I suspect that it's something of a trade-off. Shaving is more likely to cause nicks and abrasions that make it possible for stuff to get past the skin's defenses, and there's no hair to ward off bacteria. For some people (*beth wave a hand vaguely*), shaving promotes ingrown hairs and infections, which can become scars or other nastiness.

On the flip side, hair can trap odors from sweat, urine, and vaginal discharge (none of which are necessarily strongly scented, but which will tend to become a breeding ground for odiferous bacteria, pretty quickly) and need the occasional swipe with a wet paper towel (depending on the positioning of the urethra, the natural density of the hair, and the specific location of sweat glands). Plus, for menstruating folk who use pads, longer nether-fur may get blood caught in it in ways which the blood's owner may find... Um. Drat, I'm trying for a neutral term here, since my personal one is "yucky" and I know not everyone may share my opinions about that. ... Ah! May find less than optimal. There. >_>

Trimming to a length that doesn't give one's partner stubble-burn may be a trade-off for some.

Anyway, I'm doing some googling, and while it's hard to find a really good site, the only "Hi, I have 'M.D.' after my name" citation I've seen said that there wasn't any real hygiene reason to shave. ( http://kidshealth.org/teen/expert/hygiene/shaving_query.html )

rojarabbits 8th-Jan-2011 09:44 pm (UTC)
I can't see any medical reason to shave or not to, I think it just comes down to personal preference. I have a feeling that whatever doctors say is slightly swayed by their own personal opinions too...

The pad reason was actually why I started to shave to begin with. I use tampons now but I still keep doing it.
pinkdagger 8th-Jan-2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
Well, the point of the hair being there is to catch stuff on its way to the genitalia as a means of protection. The same reason we have eyebrows and eyelashes - to keep foreign things out of our eyes that may hinder our vision, and from an evolutionary standpoint, things like that have kept us alive.

Perhaps those who feel not shaving is unhygienic are being misinformed about keeping the area clean to begin with. I suppose if one is lazy or even ignorant about keeping their vulva (+ hair) clean, then of course it's going to harbor unsanitary conditions. Just as the hair catches stuff on its way in, it catches discharge and sweat too, so if people just plain aren't being diligent about hygiene, that's just generally unhygienic. :P

I've been shaving since I was 14, but when I was 19 or so, I started epilating bikini zone and mons, then shaving the rest. Since I've yet to become sexually active, it's always been for me so I've been lazy about it in recent years. I wouldn't take any crap from a partner who didn't respect my decisions about that anyway, though I personally do prefer the feeling (and the look) of being bare.
mightyelle 11th-Jan-2011 04:34 am (UTC)
hum, again, I have reasons to question the evolutionary standpoint of pubic hair keeping infections out (if so, why certain populations that do not have this protection, i.e. that have very little to no pubic hair, weren't wiped out by STDs). I do have heard, though, that it might have to do with trapping pheromones (sames as underarm hair, which, actually, doesn't have any "protection" possible function).
pinkdagger 12th-Jan-2011 04:41 pm (UTC)
Ooh yes, I forgot about trapping pheromones. Maybe the minimal hair in some people (I'm Asian and while I have more than enough body hair thanks to my dad's genes, my mom, grandma, and one of my aunts have none on their arms, legs, underarms, etc.) could be equated to some people no longer developing wisdom teeth. They used to be very useful at one point, but nowadays they're just a hassle to clean around so they end up being removed anyway. I know several people who just never got them. I dunno, just a theory!
queensugar 8th-Jan-2011 06:14 pm (UTC)
The massive myth that hair is "unhygienic" has come about, essentially, as a direct response to cultural pressures that demand hairless women. Generally speaking, once culture has created a demand on the human body for cultural or economic reasons, it then creates health-related "arguments" to support that arbitrary demand, or creates those arguments when the old culturalized arguments fall out of vogue.

It's always worth noting that this issue is never once raised when it comes to male pubic hair, or armpit hair, or leg hair. But with women, all three of those hair-points are referred to as potentially "unhygienic" unless you shave them off. Female bodies are not magically "less clean" than male bodies.

Overall, there's no single compelling hygiene reason to shave, or not to shave. Most physicians I know who are experts in female genital health advocate not shaving, due to the risk of infection or irritation and the lack of hair to wick moisture away from the skin. But these are not make-or-break issues across the spectrum.

I don't shave. Right now, I don't even trim. Occasionally (like, once every three or four months) when I have a partner in my life I shave it all off for funsies, but my husband moved to the U.S. awhile ago and I don't plan to do anything at all to "keep" my pubes for the foreseeable future.
queensugar 8th-Jan-2011 06:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, as another note: I always find it interesting -- and I myself have done this countless times -- that when women don't shave their pubes, they often express the reason for that as being "lazy." This is usually said tongue-in-cheek, but I find it really interesting at this word has become so common to use in conjunction with not shaving the pubes.
io2012 8th-Jan-2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
There was a very interesting passage I read in a book by Kristina LaCelle Peterson (http://books.google.com/books?id=cD2I7ph_X0gC&printsec=frontcover&dq=lacelle&hl=en&ei=hfAoTbaeLoL-8Aa7z-mdAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false) that took your observation a step further:

She focuses on toilet training, and how little girls are taught to sanitize the seat, carefully wipe front to back several times, flush and wash their hands thoroughly....while on the other hand little boys are taught to "sink" cheerios and just shake clean at the end. For little boys, toilet training is a fun game, nothing to be ashamed of - consider urinals vs. bathroom stalls! While men have nothing to be ashamed of and can relieve themselves in full view, women have to lock themselves in a stall.

I think this extends even to the stigma surrounding a woman's menstrual cycle...what is a normal, natural, adaptive thing is a subject of constant derision and used as a criteria for avoiding sexual intercourse.

Wow - I've got to stop - this is such a soapbox topic for me!
pinkdagger 8th-Jan-2011 11:24 pm (UTC)
Whoa, that's really interesting and something easily swept under the rug. I'd personally love to see a soapbox post. :P
queensugar 8th-Jan-2011 11:37 pm (UTC)
That is a brilliant observation and, now that I think about it, I find it interesting that the issue of "sitting on dirty toilet seats" and the baseless fears over that are, in my experience, pressed far more on women than men.
sonarafaey 8th-Jan-2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
I don't shave, and I don't feel that it has made me more prone to diseases or infections. I'm STI-free, I've never had BV, and I only get the occasional yeast infection. While the hair down there does trap moisture (which can dry up), I have quick and available access to warm water if I feel the need to clean things up a bit down there.

As for maintenance, I just leave everything as is. Due to genetics I have a fairly low amount of body hair, which includes my pubic/vulva area. It looks like I trim and maintain that area, but I actually pay very little attention to it at all.
io2012 8th-Jan-2011 11:16 pm (UTC)
Wow - that's like saying that a woman with long hair on her head can't possibly keep it cleaner than one with a short cut! Obviously with good grooming any length hair can be hygenic.

However, if we follow that comparison, I suppose that having short hair might allow you an advantage in controlling hair based problems (like lice)...

That being said, I think choice in partners and adequate use of protection are much bigger factors in STI transmission than pubic hair grooming.

Personally, I'd let my hair grow out, however, I looovvee oral from my partner, and it is more comfortable for him if I keep my vulva shaved (I say it's a fair trade and I'm still getting the better end of the deal!). The hair on my mons I allow to grow out - then trim it with beard scissors to about 1/2 inch long. That way it doesn't create any "puff" underneath swimsuits! Speaking of summer, before I had a regular partner, I did keep things more trimmed in the summer just because it decreased sweatiness...

While I don't condemn those who choose to wax - I just don't have that much $ in my budget!
moniusia 8th-Jan-2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
I think the only real concern std wise would be crabs/lice. Sure, hair makes you sweat more, but so long as regular bathing habits exist, it shouldn't be an issue.

On a personal note, I tend to wax the outer regions and trim the inner bits. Then it grows out and stays fuzzy until I do it again. I figure it's the best of both worlds since sometimes it's nice to be more bare, but fuzzy sex is pretty great!
queensugar 8th-Jan-2011 11:44 pm (UTC)
Do you have any reliable sources on the idea that hair increases sweat? I've never heard this, and I can't seem to find any decent source for that idea.
moniusia 9th-Jan-2011 12:26 am (UTC)
I'm not going off searching for many sources, but in the basic thought process that hair traps in sweat as well as that it keeps an area warmer = more sweat. I remember watching the Discovery Channel and they said something along that hair holds or creates 30% more sweat than a non-hairy area.

Also, a quick search on the Mayo Clinic website states,
"Your skin has two types of sweat glands: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands occur over most of your body and open directly onto the surface of the skin. Apocrine glands develop in areas abundant in hair follicles, such as on your scalp, armpits and groin and open into the hair follicle just before it opens onto the skin surface."
queensugar 9th-Jan-2011 12:33 am (UTC)
Shaving won't impact the amount of sweat produced by the apocrine glands, though. Anyway, if anyone out there has any reliable resources, I'd be curious to see them -- I'd be more inclined to think that hair may give some people the sensation of more sweat but not actually an increase in sweat production itself. (Though one thing I find weird -- when I do shave my armpits now I feel so sweaty when I do sweat, because the sweat runs down my side right away instead of staying in my armpits!)
moniusia 9th-Jan-2011 12:46 am (UTC)
I think it would affect it... My thought would be, if an area is hairier it'll be warmer, and produce more sweat. As well as trap it in more.

Maybe you're just more aware of it since it's directly touching you as opposed to mixed in with the hair?
atalanta0jess 9th-Jan-2011 05:03 pm (UTC)
It's not all that much warmer though. I mean, most people are wearing underwear and pants, and our crotches are pretty warm anyway. And I would speculate, although I don't know for sure, that sweating or not has more to do with overall body temperature than temperature of a specific region of the body. I wish I knew for sure.
moniusia 9th-Jan-2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
hair creates a good chunk of warmth... ask a bald guy in the winter :P

i'm sure it's mostly genetics that affects how much you sweat, but i wouldn't discount that being hairy makes you warmer and sweat more. we're kind of going in circles here...
atalanta0jess 9th-Jan-2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
I definitely feel sweatier in the crotch when I do shave. So there you go. :) I think it definitely is a sensation thing, and has to do somewhat with what you're used to.
alsettimo_cielo 9th-Jan-2011 01:43 am (UTC)
i don't think that pubic hair increases sweat and definitely don't think it increases risk of STI's. If anything, I think that it can just trap scents.

I prefer natural. Sometimes I trim if the mood strikes me. I used to wax but that had to do w/ being self conscious about natural body hair. Now I don't care, but my partner would prefer me to shave because he finds it sexy. Shaving makes me itchy.
unheardcry 11th-Jan-2011 05:03 am (UTC)
UGH. i'm so sorry for that! thats terrible. MRSA is so scary.
raccoonwounds 9th-Jan-2011 04:58 am (UTC)
I keep it trimmed really short mostly because I prefer the look and feel. Usually I use scissors to cut the hairs or just run a razor across them if I'm feeling lazy. I don't like to shave everything off because I'll get a rash if I have sex too soon afterwards.

I always assumed the hair was there to help with the friction that occurs during sex. :)
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