For many women, pubic hair removal, whether through trimming, waxing, or shaving, is a regular part of life: One study found that some 62 percent of U.S. women remove all their pubic hair, while 84 percent do "some" grooming, and that the overwhelming majority of groomers thought less hair was more hygienic (a belief that ob-gyns refute).
Now, a new study of 7,580 U.S. adults published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections suggests a potential dark side of down-there grooming. When researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, set out to investigate possible connections between grooming practices, sexual activity, and STI history, they found that both women and men who removed their pubic hair were at higher risk for STIs than those who didn't, with 14 percent of groomers reporting a lifetime history of STIs to non-groomers' eight percent.
"Extreme groomers," or people who removed all of their pubic hair more than 11 times per year, were more likely to report having had an STI than groomers who weren't extreme (18 percent versus 14 percent). The researchers hypothesize that this is because small skin tears from shaving or trimming could lead to infection, and they also discovered that regular groomers tend to be more sexually active than their more pubically relaxed counterparts in the first place.
Among study participants, 84 percent of women and 66 percent of men reported ever having waxed, shaved, or trimmed their pubic hair, while 17 percent of all self-reported groomers said they removed all of their pubic hair at least once a month, and 22 percent said they groomed daily or weekly. Sounds exhausting, but you do you, while making sure that any cuts or tears you might have are well-protected during sex. (Along with the rest of your genitalia, obvs.) The researchers did add one caveat: Pubic hair removal, it seems, protects against lice, remarking that "individuals at risk for pubic lice could be counseled to remove their pubic hair"—so maybe don't cancel that Brazilian after all.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.