When it comes to personal hygiene, one major aspect that has been trailed by diverse reactions is the issue of keeping or doing away with pubic hair, the hair that grows in the frontal genital area of humans, located on and around the sex organs of both male and female.
To some, nothing else nauseates like seeing hair in their partner’s private part, while some people are delighted by it as the sight of it is even a major turn-on for them, and to some others, it really does not matter whether the hair is kept intact or not.
To Mr. Johnson Agbede, a lecturer in his mid 50s, there are a few other things that are as disgusting as seeing a hairy private part. “You know how it feels when you see thick (sometimes coloured) hair in someone’s armpit? That is the way I feel when I imagine anyone keeping his or her pubic hair. My wife knows and she dares not keep it. I don’t keep mine too and I make sure I shave every Saturday,” he added.
Agbede, who is a father of three, said he believes the hair should never be allowed to grow because, according to him, it tends to harbour dirt and cause body odour over time. “Keeping it just does not make sense. For what purpose?” he queried.
But just as much as Agbede despises pubic hair, Mrs. Taiwo Peters, a business woman and mother of two, says she sees nothing wrong with keeping the hair in that region “as long as it is kept clean.” Perhaps, her stance is also informed by her husband’s preference for keeping it intact.
“My husband tells me that seeing it turns him on and that the moment I shave it, I would be on my own. I could trim it mildly but not absolute removal. For him too, he doesn’t shave but he could trim it when it is becoming too bushy.”
Interestingly, those who support it say getting rid of the hair makes them feel clean and fresh while those against it say it does not allow for friction during sex and that leaving it is not harmful in any way. Thus, the argument keeps going back and forth. Findings however revealed that most people shave their pubic hair and their reasons differ.
Notably, the methods people use to get rid of the pubic hair include shaving (with the use of razor, clipper or scissors), creaming and waxing, which is a form of semi-permanent hair removal which removes the hair from the root before new hair starts to grow back in the area between four and six weeks.
But according to some experts, pubic hair should not be shaved; rather, it should be left as it grows because of the roles it plays as a cover that shields the organs from avoidable infections and friction. They noted that shaving could open up the skin for pathogens bacteria and viruses, thereby increasing the spread of sexually transmitted infections, skin irritation and other skin infections, like Molluscum contagiosum.
In addition, they said the removal of the hair could increase the risk of genital skin infections because small cuts or scratches occasioned by the removal of the hair could open the door for viruses to cause infections.
Even though the situation applies to both men and women, a study published on the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that about 60 per cent of women who shave their pubic hair were found to have at least one health complication, and the most common health challenges found were epidermal abrasion (a wound caused by superficial damage to the skin) and ingrown hairs.
The study revealed further that women who are obese are almost twice as likely to report a complication and almost three times as likely if they have total hair removal.
A consultant gynaecologist, Hugh Byrne, told United Kingdom Telegraph that the removal of pubic hair could lead to abscess, a swollen area within body tissue containing an accumulation of pus. He explained that an increase in abscesses as reported had been caused by bacteria that enter the body through the hair follicle that was left open. He however said the solution to such infection could be through the use of antibiotics or an operation.
According to a review of some studies on Journal of American Medical Association, published on Mail Online, the act of removing pubic hair could cause a deficit in the mucous membrane of the skin, which could allow viruses or bacteria to enter the body.
“Waxing causes deficit in the mucocutaneous barrier that may be sufficient for viral entry and transmission, potentially increasing the risk of acquiring STIs,” the report said.
The report added that waxing as a form of removing pubic hair does not only increase the risk of contracting STI, it also causes small injuries to the skin, the underlying structures, micro tearing of muscle fibres, the sheath around the muscle and the connective tissue. This in turn could lead to spread of infection, burns, bumps that form under the surface of the skin and folliculitis, which is an inflammation of the hair follicles.
It noted, “Pubic hair waxing can also cause burns, with most being superficial or partial-thickness burns, while bacteria including staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus pyogenes and pseudomonas aeruginosa were found to be among the infections people are at risk of contracting. They can be transmitted via contaminated waxing tools or from the person performing the procedure.
“Individuals who wax their pubic hair should be informed of this possible risk and perhaps be advised to abstain from sexual activity for a certain period of time after waxing.”
A gynaecologist, Dr. Olanrewaju Ekujumi, told Saturday PUNCH that when one shaves newly, the risk of transmitting skin infections to each other is high during sexual intercourse.
He said, “When you shave, there tends to be opening where the hair has been removed, it could be an avenue for organisms to penetrate and cause infections. So, when you shave, maybe you should avoid sex, even though it has also not been medically proven, theoretically, it is a possibility.”
Ekujumi explained further that even though some people feel very happy and comfortable when everything is nicely shaved, leaving the pubic hair unshaved has no negative effect on the body. He noted that the hair itself is a protective covering, such that before anything gets into the body through those areas, it would have overcome the hair first.
“In gynaecology, shaving has no medical implication, apart from the bumps and other things that could come with shaving or waxing. However, when someone shaves and the partner does not, if the person who shaves has coarse hair, it could irritate the person who does not shave,” he said.
When asked whether it is advisable to shave or not, he said it depends on what individuals want, but that instead of shaving, people could use scissors to trim the hair so as not to open up the skin.
According to a dermatologist, Dr. Funmilayo Ajose, there is no problem shaving or not shaving, but she suggested that those who wish to shave should do it correctly to avoid infections. However, she said people who have rashes when they shave their beards or legs should not venture into shaving pubic hair. Reason? She said rashes also tend to come up there and that it could be multiplied in the pubic area because the place is warm and germs and bacteria could rapidly multiply there.
She continued, “Some people’s pubic hair can be so strong that it can cause friction for their partner. So, it should be done in a way that it would not be prone to infection or irritation and ensure it does not have a sharp end that could make it a problem instead of being a solution. If in the process of shaving, the hair curls back and pricks the skin, it could introduce the germs that are outside the skin into the skin.
“However, there are non-irritant shaving chemicals that can remove the hair smoothly, but there is no harm leaving it and there is no harm shaving it.”
She explained that leaving the pubic hair does not lead to odour and shaving it does not reduce it, saying it depends on people’s personal hygiene.