If you’ve ever heard the urban legend that shaving or waxing your pubic hair could increase your risk of contracting certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), a new study by Ohio State University is here to debunk that myth. The recently released research found that there’s no link between removing your pubic hair and testing positive for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
The study, led by Jamie Luster, a former graduate student in public health at Ohio State (yas, queen), looked at the self-reported grooming habits of 214 female college students as well as their laboratory-confirmed STI tests. And survey says? There was no connection—not even among those who self-identified as “extreme groomers” who remove all their pubic hair.
“There are multiple theories about why pubic hair grooming could potentially increase the risk of chlamydia and gonorrhea,” explained Luster in an email to Cosmo. “Biologically, grooming may cause micro-trauma in the skin’s barrier, allowing pathogens to more easily enter the body. However, this has not been confirmed or documented for chlamydia and gonorrhea specifically.”
That said, Luster highlighted in a press release about her findings that this does not mean the research in this area is conclusive. Instead, her study should be viewed as something that helps color in a better picture of STI contraction and prevention techniques.
Plus, Luster’s work only looked at chlamydia and gonorrhea. But when it comes to contracting herpes or pubic lice, personal grooming may still be a factor. Notably, your risk for contracting herpes increases if you shave or wax your pubic hair, and your risk for contracting pubic lice decreases if you shave or wax, explains Viselav Tonkovic-Capin, MD, who is board-certified in dermatology and dermatopathology.
Why is herpes still a risk if you shave or wax or otherwise remove your pubic hair?
Herpes is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. To make matters more complicated, sometimes people don’t even know they have herpes and have no active lesions or blisters, but can still pass it on.
If you still prefer to shave or wax your pubic hair, you can reduce the chances of getting herpes by avoiding sexual contact for 24 hours after removing any hair, says Dr. Tonkovic-Capin. Or, you know, rock a full bush, as “there’s a reason we have evolved (or were designed) to have hair there, because it reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infections,” adds Dr. Tonkovic-Capin.
What about pubic lice or crabs?
On the opposite side of the spectrum, removing all your pubic hair can actually reduce the risk of catching pubic lice tremendously, according to Dr. Tonkovic-Capin. The advent of the totally-bare-down-there look has even reduced the incidence of pubic lice to the point where it’s become more and more rare, he adds.
Of course, if you do contract pubic lice, shaving/waxing/removing all your pubic hair isn’t necessarily the best plan of attack. Yes, you can technically remove them that way, but sometimes, the lice can migrate, and even get into your EYELASHES, says Dr. Tonkovic-Capin. So...keep that in mind.
What you do with your pubic hair is up to you. If you want to feel smooth and dolphin-like, do you, babes. If you wanna rock a full bush for aesthetics, I support you. But it *is* good to know the 24-hour rule for sexual contact post-wax, and of course, that anyone who tells you that shaving your pubes makes you more likely to have chlamydia or gonorrhea likely has not yet brushed up on the latest research out there.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.