Pubic Hair Grooming Increases Risk of Contracting STIs

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Micrograph showing the changes of herpes simplex virus. <i>Photo Credit: By Nephron via Wikimedia Commons</i>
Micrograph showing the changes of herpes simplex virus. Photo Credit: By Nephron via Wikimedia Commons

HealthDay News — Frequent groomers of pubic hair are 3 to 4 times more likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection, such as herpes, human papillomavirus, or syphilis, according to a study published in Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Charles Osterberg, MD, assistant professor of urology and surgery at the University of Texas Dell Medical School in Austin, and colleagues surveyed 7580 US residents, aged 18 to 65, about their grooming practices, sexual behavior, and history of sexually transmitted diseases. More women (84%) than men (66%) reported trying it at least once. Among the groomers, 17% were classified as "extreme" since they remove all of their pubic hair more than 11 times a year. Twenty-two percent were labeled "high-frequency" groomers because they trim their pubic hair daily or weekly. One in 10 groomers fell into both categories.

Extreme groomers had a quadrupled risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. In addition, high-frequency groomers had a 3.5-fold increased risk of sexually transmitted infections. Overall, groomers tended to be younger, more sexually active, and to have had more sexual partners than those who don't groom their pubic hair. Extreme groomers had a higher number of sexual partners than any other category of groomer. But, the researchers still found an 80% increased risk of sexually transmitted infections in anyone who reported having ever groomed at all, even after adjusting for the person's age and their lifetime number of sexual partners.

"Several possible mechanisms may explain our findings," the authors write. "Grooming may cause epidermal microtears, which may increase the risk of STIs, particularly cutaneous, viral STIs."

Reference

Osterberg EC, Gaither TW, Awad MA, et al. Correlation between pubic hair grooming and STIs: results from a nationally representative probability sample. Sex Transm Infect. 2016 Dec 5. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2016-052687

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