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Health & Wellbeing / Ali Horsfall

The Body Experts: What’s The Deal With Pubic Hair?

Au naturel, Brazilian, or short and tidy – however you like to style yourself, from a practical perspective pubic hair is super-useful. It protects your vagina from unwanted debris and bacteria, provides a cushion for your delicate skin and helps spread pheromones that attract potential mates. Who said pubes weren’t sexy?

Today, we share five ways you can show your pubes some love, with advice from those in the know.

Know their worth

Yes, we’re serious. Whether you think your pubes are precious, or a pain, they do have a purpose. Pubic hair provides a barrier against friction and skin abrasion, absorbs moisture and protects against yucky bacteria. A study also revealed that having pubic hair, as opposed to whipping it all off, can actually reduce the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

Accordinging to the research, those who shaved, waxed, trimmed or plucked their pubic hair were found to be twice as likely to have cutaneous STIs such as herpes which can spread via the skin, and 70% more likely to have secretory STIs like chlamydia which can spread via bodily fluids. Yikes.

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Keep them clean

According to research by Andrex, 37% of people aren’t wiping their bums correctly, leading to bacteria where it shouldn’t be (meaning straying into pubes, and then potentially the vulva, ewww). Apparently, one third of us will fold loo roll and re-wipe, which introduces risk of bad bacteria and contamination. Combine this with wiping incorrectly from back to front – and the risk of an E Coli urine infection can rise. “Poor bottom wiping won’t produce germs in the first place, but it can put them where they don’t belong,” says GP Dr Carol Cooper. “It can only be good for people to think more about their habits, about the potential for being cleaner, and how it should be done. There is a direct connection between poor intimate cleaning habits and the risk of infection so having greater awareness will lead to better routines.”

And incase you don’t know this already, you don’t need to use shampoo on your pubes – washing the whole area with a mild soap and water, will keep them clean and fresh.

62% of Brits remove their pubic hair and it’s actually hygiene that’s cited as the main reason of doing so, according to Andrex. But evidence suggests that removing hair actually has the opposite effect – increasing the risk of infections. Removing hair irritates the skin and leaves it extra sensitive, along with microscopic open wounds, which can be prone to bacterial infection. The main message here? If we do go hair-free, we need to take even more care keeping everything clean down there.

Beware of crawlies

Ppubic lice, otherwise known as crabs, are something every owner of pubes should be aware of. These tiny parasitic insects live on coarse human body hair, such as pubic hair, and are not due to poor hygiene but instead are spread by close bodily contact, such as sexual activity. It can take several weeks for the symptoms of pubic lice to appear after sex, and these tell-tale signs can include “itchiness, black powder in your knickers and blood spots on your skin caused by the lice bite. The itching is usually worse at night, when the lice are most active,” says Dr Helen Webberley. If you think you have contracted public lice, see your GP who can diagnose it properly. “Pubic lice can be treated at home with insecticide cream, lotion or shampoo and any sexual partners during the last 3 months should be informed too, so they can get checked.” says Dr Webberley.

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Tailor the bush

Or not, if you choose; hair removal is a completely personal decision after all. There’s something quite liberating, not to mention cozy, about having a retro rug in your pants – even if it’s just for the winter season. If you’d rather lose the lady garden, find the option that suits both your skin and your lifestyle best – there are plenty and you might need to experiment to find your hair-free fit. A whip around with a razor can work perfectly well for one woman, and cause a red, angry breakout in the next.

Look after the skin

Which brings us on to skin self-care. If you remove your pubes, you’ll have no doubt experienced stubble rash, that tender, slightly bruised feeling you can get after a wax, or the absolute blight of body hair removal – ingrown hairs.

“Ingrown hairs are caused by hair not being able to penetrate through the top of the follicles so the answer to that is exfoliation, hydration and a decent ingrown hair removal product. These products contain salicylic acid which helps clear out any sebum from the follicles enabling the hair to get out properly,” says beautician and hair removal expert Sam Marshall, aka The Beauty Guru.

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“Skin bumps and pimples, known as folliculitis, is caused by bacteria getting into open follicles – such as after a wax. In the 24 hours after removing hair this way, I’d advise avoiding sport, or anything that would make you hot and sweaty. Keeping the area clean and dry and using an anti-bacterial wash can prevent those spots from coming,” Sam suggests.

The skin on the pubic bone and around the vulva is oh-so sensitive so should be given a little TLC when shaving. Use a sharp razor and shave into the grain to avoid pulling and tugging on the hair follicle and finish off with liberal application of unscented, moisturizer to keep the area soft and hydrated.

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