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Bikini waxing, shaving can lead to sexually transmitted illness, study finds

Earlier this year, bikini waxes and other forms of pubic grooming received the thumbs-up when news reports said that they were the likely reason for a decline in the prevalence of pubic lice , the little crab-like beasties that make their home in people's private parts.

Those claims were later challenged due to a lack of data (or as this ABC News headline calls it, "lousy science").

Now, pubic grooming is getting the thumbs-down, as doctors warn that removing hair around the genitals makes people more vulnerable to contracting a nasty sexually transmitted illness called the "molluscum contagiosum" virus.

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As the Los Angeles Times reports, the new study, written by two French dermatologists and a health researcher at Emory University in Atlanta, examined 30 adults who had lesions around their genitalia and found that 93 per cent of them (six women and 24 men) had shaved, waxed or otherwise groomed their groins.

"Hair removal (laser excluded) could be a risk factor for 'minor' sexually transmitted infections," including molluscum contagiosum, the researchers wrote, according the Los Angeles Times.

"Hair removal, especially shaving, could favour its acquisition, propagation and transmission, by microtraumatisms," they added.

Removing one's pubic hair has become increasingly common over the years, as the trend is believed to be influenced by pornography. Some young people are reportedly even surprised that members of the opposite sex have pubic hair, as they have never seen it. As The Independent reports, a 2012 U.S. study of 2,451 women showed that during one month, two-thirds of them had either totally or partially removed their pubic hair. The widespread incidence of waxing, shaving and clipping prompted the newspaper to question whether pubic hair removal is a feminist issue.

"Marketing campaigns for hair removal products target women to say that being smoother will please your man – and as a result men come to expect that any stubble is simply offensive, lazy or masculine," it said.

On the other side of the debate, The Independent noted that styling one's pubic hair is just like any other fashion fad. "It's each woman's preference whether she chooses to shave or wax, and it would be an invasion of privacy to dictate what they should do to their private parts," it said.

Of course, as the latest study on pubic hair removal and STIs indicates, women are not the only ones choosing to go bare. Men are fully in on the trend too.

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Regardless of whatever sexual politics may be at play, if you do decide that the reported risks of molluscum contagiosum and other STIs won't deter you from grooming your genitals, at least be careful down there.

A 2012 study showed that a growing number of hospital emergency-room visits were for genitourinary injuries caused by grooming. Razor accidents were the most common, accounting for 83 per cent of injuries. Yikes!

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More


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