From the moment we enter puberty, women are taught to keep our bodies smooth and hairless. Legs, lips, armpits and genitals are all expected to be as hair-free as our Barbie dolls. But despite this widespread and increasing Western push to remove all female body hair not on our heads, there are no health benefits to doing so; in fact, shaving pubic hair can actually be unhealthy.
Here are four reasons why you may want to reconsider going bare down there.
It’s a natural barrier to STDs.
One of pubic hair’s purposes is to act as a barrier to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). According to the NPR, people who have removed their pubic hair at least once in their life, were almost twice as likely to say they have had at least one STD than people who have not. “Extreme groomers,” or those who remove all pubic hair more than 11 times a year, were more than four times as likely to have had an STD.
STDs that affect the skin, like HPV, genital warts, and syphilis, were most likely to occur with frequent shaving.
No shaving means no itching, bumps, or ingrown hairs.
In a study published by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers studied complications related to female pubic hair removal in hispanic, black, and white women ages 16 to 40. Out of these women, almost 60 percent said they experienced at least one type of complication due to hair removal, including skin abrasions, ingrown hairs, severe itching, cuts, rashes, burns and infections.
For the women who previously removed their hair, but were not doing so currently, almost 41 percent said they stopped shaving because they disliked the side effects.
It can prevent irritation during sex.
Removing the hair can not only make sex uncomfortable or even painful, but it can even cause small injury. During sex, pubic hair acts as a cushion that can prevent any friction-related injuries, like chafing or skin irritation. Having the skin torn open like that can also increase your risk for infection.
It can help you feel more body positive.
There’s nothing more body positive than embracing yourself as you are, with no concern for how society expects you to look. Despite what we are told from a young age, pubic hair is not unhygienic and the push to remove it only serves to make money for various companies and organizations that create razors and other hair-removal products.
While, in the end, keeping or removing your body hair is ultimately a personal and cosmetic choice, making this choice for yourself can help you feel more confident and less beholden to the standards of others. Going full-bush, hairless, or somewhere in between is a decision that you need to make for you.