You probably don’t give a lot of thought to your pubic hair. Sure, you might give it a quick trim or wax, but then you go about your day. But now, new research shows there may be a link between how you treat your pubic hair and your risk of contracting an STD.
For the study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, researchers surveyed more than 14,000 18- to 65-year-old men and women about whether they did anything with their pubic hair, how often they trimmed or removed it, and which tools they used to groom it. The researchers also asked participants about their sexual history.
After the results rolled in, scientists placed people into four categories: “extreme” groomers, who removed all of their pubic hair more than 11 times a year, “high frequency” groomers, who went for a trim on a daily or weekly basis, “non-extreme groomers,” who only occasionally removed all or any of their pubic hair, and “low-frequency” groomers, who usually left their pubes alone.
Now for the interesting part: The researchers realised that doing any type of pubic hair grooming was associated with an 80 percent greater risk of having an STD compared to those who let their hair grow free. But how often and how much grooming also played a role—“high frequency” and “extreme” groomers had nearly four times a greater risk of developing STDs than those who groomed less often or not at all.
Researchers aren’t sure why this link exists, but one theory was that people who groom with razors may create “epidermal microtears,” which may make them more likely to contract an STD like HPV. There’s a catch, though: People who groomed were also usually younger and more sexually active than non-groomers, and they had more total lifetime sexual partners.
Obviously the more sexual partners you have, the higher your odds of contracting an STD. Plus, the CDC estimates that half of new STD infections occur among young people, reinforcing the notion that younger people are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour, thus upping the odds of STD contraction.
It’s also important to note that this was an observational study, so scientists can’t say that cleaning up your pubes actually increases your STD risk—they just noticed a link between the two.
In other words, do what you want with your pubic hair. So long as you practice safe sex and regularly check in with your OB/GYN, it’s likely you’ll be just fine.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health.
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