Removing pubic hair increases the risk of being infected with skin infections, suggests new research from France. Hair removal methods like Brazilian waxes could make a person especially vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The French study investigated the risk of catching a viral skin infection called Molluscum contagiosum, which causes raised bumps or growths. The CDC reports that anyone can catch the infection through any type of skin contact, though they are most common among young children and in warm, humid climates.
In recent years, Molluscum contagiosum has been spread more widely as a sexually transmitted infection. The infection is not considered serious, though it can cause irritating itching and soreness.
French researchers at a private clinic in Nice suspected that methods of removing pubic hair like Brazilian waxing may have something to do with the increase in Molluscum contagiosum infections.
Their results, to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections. suggest that such methods of removing pubic hair may increase the risk of catching skin infections through sexual activity.
The study looked at 30 patients, 24 men and six women, who came to their clinic with Molluscum contagiosum infections between 2011 and 2012. All of their infections were traced to sexual activity, and 93 percent of them had removed their pubic hair through methods like shaving and Brazilian waxing. A full third of the patients had at least one other skin condition, like warts or bacterial infection.
The study is inconclusive, since the sample did not include a control group that removed their pubic hair without contracting sexually transmitted diseases. It was also too small to establish a causation.
Still, it shows a strong association between removing pubic hair and contracting sexually transmitted diseases through skin contact that should be investigated futher.
In principle, experts agree that removing pubic hair could lead to a greater risk of contracting STDs diseases through skin-to-skin contact. Abnormalities in skin, like small nicks or cuts from shaving or methods of hair removal like Brazilian waxes, make it easier for viruses to invade.
Dr. Mary Gail Mercurio, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, told Livescience that she often finds Molluscum contagiosum in her clinic among patients who remove pubic hair.
"I instruct the patients to stop shaving until the condition is brought under control, because shaving just spreads it further," she said.
It is possible that some methods of removing pubic hair, like laser hair removal, may carry a lower risk of STD infection because they do not cause minor traumas to the skin.
According to the CDC, the best way to avoid getting infected with molluscum contagiosum is to practice good hygiene. If you do remove pubic hair with Brazilian waxing, or other hair removal methods that are traumatic to the skin, be sure to keep the area clean. Wash before and after any sexual contact, and avoid touching bumps or blisters on anyone else's skin.
The takeaway: some methods of removing pubic hair, like Brazilian waxing, may have a higher risk of making you vulnerable to STDs than others.