So what's the deal with pubic hair removal????

These days most women are routinely removing some amount of their pubic hair and so it's time to ask ourselves, "Does pubic hair have a purpose?"

Well like most things in biology, it did, or maybe it still does, just like hair on our legs and under our arms. 
And so I guess the question is really more one of whether pubic hair is obsolete and just downright inconvenient in the modern world? 

It's no secret that pubic hair looks and feels totally different from our more publicly displayed hair. 
Why is that?


Well, pubic hair is basically like eyebrows and eyelashes for your vagina. 
Like the eye, the vaginal canal is a sensitive part of the body open to the outside world!
It is susceptible to invasion and infection by bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoans. 
As a moist environment with mucosa-lined membranes, it can provide the exact niche preferred by some of these foreign invaders. 

The coarseness and shape of the hair makes it easier to trap foreign particles like dust, pollen, pathogenic bacteria....

So if you're like me, you might be thinking, "Ok, but is that still necessary in the modern era? How likely is it that foreign particles are going to get into my Lululemon leggings that I can barely get into myself?"




Let's start with the science!

A recent study out of University of California San Francisco found that,"Frequent removal of pubic hair is associated with an increased risk for herpes, syphilis and human papillomavirus." (Citation)

The direct of the health centre at Western University in Washington State, Dr. Emily Watson states,
"Pubic hair removal naturally irritates and inflames the hair folliclesleaving microscopic open wounds. Frequent hair removal is necessary to stay smooth, causing regular irritation of the shaved or waxed area. When that is combined with the warm, moist environment of the genitals, it becomes a happy culture media for some of the nastiest bacterial pathogens..."

At her clinic she says that it's not unusual to treat patients with boils and abscesses and cellulitis for shaving or waxing. She is also very concerned about the correlation between Herpes virus infections and hair removal practices. 

As a rule, women report more genital side effects of pubic hair removal.(Citation)

And most bodies will withstand some degree of trauma. In one recent study, sixty percent of women experienced at least 1 health complication from hair removal, including abrasions and infected hair follicles. (Citation)



  • Scientists specializing sexual attraction and intimacy claim that pubic hair is an important source of pheromones. (Citation)
  • Pubic hair plays a role in temperature regulation! There is a sebaceous gland on each hair follecule which releases oils onto the hair, that in turn allows the oils go up to the skin’s surface. When this oil evaporates, it cools the skin because of its latent heat.
    • This is especially important for my fellow athletes and active women! Without the pubic hair, we are less likely to be able to effectively cool that part of our body. Excess heat leads to more sweat (as another cooling mechanism) and open pores that are more susceptible to clogging and infection!
  • We talked last week about the consequences of soap disrupting the vulva and vaginal climate with respect to acidity and colonization by good bacteria. If you're not using soap to clean consider the added benefit of having hair that protects your vagina from foreign particles AND overheating!
  • Pubic hair ALSO protects us against friction that occurs when either two individual's skin rubs together OR the discomfort to bare skin rubbing against coarse pubic hair. 

So do these findings and claims mean that by removing your pubic hair, you are putting yourself in danger of contracting an infectious disease or major health complication?

Not necessarily, but they do begin to paint a picture of the utility of pubic hair AND serve as a reminder of the fact that just because we can't "see" the wounds incurred by waxing or shaving, doesn't mean that they aren't there. 

If you're someone that is FREQUENTLYbattling rashes, skin irritation, breakouts, dryness or other discomfort in your nether regions or frequently deal with bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections, you might consider to revisiting your hair removal practices and experimenting a bit to see whether there could be a benefit to removing less hair or foregoing altogether? 

After all, there are LOTS of options when it comes to hair removal! 
Many women limit their pubic hair removal to just their legs and the areas not concealed by bathing suits (which I realize varies for different individuals!).


The fact of the matter is, we are only NOW beginning to see more scientific research in the area of pubic hair and hair removal!!! 

For example, just in 2017, the Journal of Infectious Disease in Obstetrics and Gynecology published findings that support a correlation between razor removal of pubic hair and genital inflammation, vulvar dysplasia (changing of the skin on the vulvar, think sun sun damage for your genitals ) and malignancies.
The correlation was strongest among women that removed all hair and did so frequently.(Citation)


    Beauty Standards

    I think it's important to acknowledge the role that Hollywood and fashion has played in shaping our pubic hair expectations over the past few decades. 

    Let's be honest, women in fashion and the movies are often portrayed as rather doll-like. 
    Perfect, tan, hairless, wrinkle and fat-free dolls. 


    They aren't real. They don't have razor burn or rashes, pubic hair sticking out of the sides or tops of their bathing suits. 

    No! They are the best, most refined and picture-perfect versions of themselves PLUS makeup, filters, lighting and editing. 


    And in the same way that women are rebelling against the unrealistic beauty standards foisted upon us by popular culture, I think that it's important to extend this rebellion to pubic hair grooming, if and when we want to!

    Just because the Real House Wives of Bravo are routinely dropping $$$$ on boutique caliber-hair removal treatments that literally take EVERYTHING, that doesn't mean that we have to. 

    Having pubic hair doesn't make women dirty or unkempt, in fact, the science is showing that it could be the opposite!
    Pubic hair has a purpose!
    So if you want to leave it be, there ain't nothing wrong with that!


    Additionally, the majority of models and Hollywood actresses are of white caucasian descent and therefore have COMPLETELY different hair growth tendencies than women of color. 

    So again, this unrealistic hairless beauty standard might be a much easier and less expensive standard for your average white woman to meet than her brown sister. 

    And while I personally have nothing against with any version of hair removal  AND I'm not writing this email to tell you to stop shaving or waxing, I do think that there are a few major points to be made about beauty standards when it comes to hair. 

    1. Pubic hair has a purpose. 
    2. Every woman has it and shouldn't be ashamed of it.
    3. Some women's skin and bodies are not going to respond well to full removal and may results in women feeling more uncomfortable, less say and less open to intimacy.

    4. We need to think about the full spectrum of our health and wellness and NOT simply be ruled by what popular culture tells us is sexy. 
    After all, who says not having any pubic hair is the sexier thing anyways, the Porn Industry? Cosmopolitan? Weinstein-produced movies? 

    5. There hasn't been enough research conducted on pubic hair removal for us to fully understand the risk and health conditions associated with shaving or waxing off our Vagina's eyebrows.
    6. There might be intimatacy-related and comfort benefits to removing less of our hair.

    At the end of the day, if you're struggling with inflammation, irritation, infections or discomfort of the vagina and vulva AND are a frequent shaver or waxxer, consider laying off a bit and see if your symptoms improve. 

    If you're tired of the pressure to have perfectly smooth, hairless skin in your nether regions, REBEL! Nature (and maybe science)  are on your side!

    If you have a hair removal routine that is working for you without complications and it makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin, I don't think you should change a thing, BUT definitely keep your eye on the research and do a "Google Scholar" search on pubic hair every once in a while!



    Sarah Smith is a trainer, lifestyle coach and postnatal fitness specialist that specializes in helping women feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!
    Her specialties include kettlebellsgut health and optimization for fitness goals, pelvic floor health and function and making fitness fun! Check her out on social media here or email her!