The Great Brazilian Debate: Should you have hair or no hair down there?

Summer season is swimsuit season. For those of us who prefer to look smooth, removing unwanted body hair becomes non-negotiable. That used to mean shaving our underarms and legs but over the recent years, bikini and Brazilian waxing have become a grooming staple for many women.

To be clear, we don’t think it’s something that all women should do; we believe that you should feel free to go either way! If you choose to have your pubic hair removed though, have you ever wondered if it’s safe to do or if it actually is a better option to keeping your bush? Time to find out for sure! We asked Dr. Maria Rosario G. Castillo-Cheng, an obstretrician-gynecologist and perinatologist (high risk pregnancy specialist) at The Medical City in Pasig to weigh in on keeping things hair-free.

What is pubic hair?

Pubic hair is the body hair found around the mons pubis, a fatty pad that is over the pubic bone. As a general rule, genetics play a major part on how much body hair we will have and pubic hair is no different. Some people will have very little or fine hair surrounding their genital area, while others may experience a proliferate growth. Just like any other body hair, pubic hair serves to keep the area clean and to protect it against foreign bodies.

One may wonder, we are not born with pubic hair so why does it have to grow in after? Reaching puberty brings about many changes in our bodies, and the increase in hormones cause the growth of pubic hair as well as axillary or underarm hair.

Is it necessary to remove pubic hair?

Some people think that removing hair makes the area cleaner but while that is true in terms of keeping stray strands from peeking out bikini bottoms, there are no actual hygienic benefits. The only time pubic hair removal becomes necessary is to assist in childbirth (more on this later). If you feel cleaner when bare, go for it! Dr. Castillo-Cheng says that it’s all about personal preference but you should take heed of one important rule.

Scrutinize your salon before availing of their services.

Since they’ll be handling a very delicate area, it’s absolutely crucial that the salon you’re considering is uncompromisingly meticulous about good hygiene. Do your research and ask for feedback from past clients who can provide honest and unbiased feedback. A hygienic salon will never reuse their tools to help ensure each customer’s safety. 

For example, Dr. Castillo-Cheng says that a reputable salon should include a clipper in their package so that the tool will be dedicated solely for your use. It may cost a bit more but you can take it home and then just bring it with you for use at your next appointment. Waxes and disposable applicators should be new and opened only in front of you. Even applicators that were used to apply the wax need to be replaced with each application; no double-dipping even when it’s also for you!

What are the risks involved?

As with most cosmetics, whatever product that will be applied to your skin should be tested before spreading to a larger area. Dr. Castillo-Cheng recommends doing a patch test on the skin first to see if any allergic reaction develops. For hot waxes, it is of course important to check that the temperature is correct and won’t cause any burns to the skin.

Dr. Castillo-Cheng says that the most common infection associated with hair removal is folliculitis, which is basically ingrown hair.  The hair follicle becomes infected and forms a painful, pimple-like lesion. Left untreated and combined with poor hygiene, the infection can progress into a boil. (Ouch!)

Hair removal can also cause an abrasion on the skin, resulting in redness, irritation, and sensitivity. It’s important to have this checked in case the reaction is an allergy or a symptom of contact dermatitis.

Can you get STDs?

No, you can’t. Sexually-transmitted diseases can only be contracted through actual sexual penetration, with the exception of the human papillomavirus (HPV). There’s no risk of contracting HPV from a salon unless there’s an open wound or sore in the treated area, which most salons will not allow to be waxed. It is not possible to contract a urinary tract infection (UTI) through pubic hair removal, either. Nevertheless, Dr. Castillo-Cheng advises not to have any hair removal services if you have an open wound, and any salon that would agree to do so is best avoided.

What about DIY pubic hair removal?

This is a big no-no from Dr. Castillo-Cheng, who reports that she’s had patients who developed folliculitis as result of shaving their nether region themselves. After all, it is quite difficult to actually see what you’re doing even with the help of a mirror and you may end up nicking yourself in the process. Leave that work to the professionals instead! If you really must do it yourself, limit it to easily visible areas and make sure to use items (razors, clippers, etc.) exclusively for that area only and not to share it with anyone else.

What if I’m pregnant?

A woman’s pubic hair is usually shaved just before childbirth in case an episiotomy (incision between the vagina and anus) or a Caesarean section becomes necessary. The area will need to be sterile and wiped down, plus the hair can obstruct the doctors’ view. Dr. Castillo-Cheng stresses that for medical purposes, hair is only removed where it is necessary. 

If you prefer to use wax or a particular service, Dr. Castillo-Cheng has no objections as long as you’ve already had it done before and at a salon that you trust so that you’re already familiar with the process and the pain involved. Some salons will not agree to perform a bikini or Brazilian wax on pregnant clients for fear that the pain may induce labor. Check that the salon attendants are properly trained to perform the service on pregnant women, and be prepared to present a note from your doctor giving you clearance to have the service done.

Can I get rid of the hair permanently?

Committing to permanent pubic hair removal such as with the use of laser is safe as long as it’s done properly. Make sure that the procedure is performed by a licensed dermatologist with formal training, not just by any cosmetologist. It may take several sessions for the hair to stop growing for the most part.

Practicing Good Feminine Hygiene

So why has pubic hair grooming become so popular now? A lot of people say that it makes them feel cleaner but it doesn’t actually guarantee proper hygiene. Instead, follow Dr. Castillo-Cheng’s tips for good feminine hygiene:

  1. Wash the vaginal area thoroughly with a mild soap. Always wash or wipe (after urinating or a bowel movement) from front to back to avoid contamination of the vagina with bacteria from the anus.
  2. Wipe the vaginal area thoroughly after showering, washing, or swimming. It should be completely dry before putting on your underwear because a moist environment encourages the growth of yeast.
  3. If you are using panty liners and sanitary napkins, change it every four hours. 
  4. Always urinate and wash after sexual intercourse.
  5. Avoid wearing tight clothing and synthetic materials like polyester, nylon, or spandex that can trap moisture.
  6. Wear cotton underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch.

At the end of the day, the decision to have no hair down there should be your own personal preference and you should not be pressured into removing it by anyone else. As Dr. Castillo-Cheng likes to say,Hair or no hair, nobody dies!”

Header image via Instagram user @triangl