Does shaving your pubic hair make you at greater risk for STIs? One study says it might

What you do with your pubic hair is totally your own business. But a new study linking STIs and shaving your pubic hair might be something to take into consideration. Researchers at the University of California—San Francisco found that participants in a study were 75 percent more likely to get an STI in their lifetime if they shaved or waxed their pubes. There is no direct link to transmitting or getting an STI, but it might increase the possibility of STI transmission overall.

The research was done through a survey of people aged 18-65 years old, asking about their pubic hair grooming habits, sex life, and STI history. Researchers defined “grooming” as removing all or most of your pubic hair at least 11 times a year. People who groomed on a daily or weekly basis were labeled “extreme groomers” (which should be a show on the Discovery Channel, if you ask me), and they were 28 percent more likely than other regular groomers to get an STI.

Because of “microtears” that can happen when you shave or wax, there is a possible higher chance of passing “cutaneous” STIs like herpes, HPV, syphilis, and molluscum. Groomers were also more likely to report “secretory STIs” like chlamydia and HIV, but the results for gonorrhea were not “statistically significant.” So again, more research has to be done.

Groomers also tend to be younger and more sexually active, which makes total sense. When you’re not having regular sex, it’s easy to forget about pubic hair maintenance (hello, winter love drought). So, a 65-year-old married woman who waxes once in a while is just generally less likely to get an STI than a young “extreme groomer” who sleeps with multiple partners and happens to shave on the daily. A young, sexually active person who doesn’t groom at all would also be at a higher risk for STIs.

The authors of the study wrote, “A better understanding of the relation between pubic hair grooming and STI risk could lead to improved STI-reduction strategies.”

At this point, though, there’s no need to throw away your razor or cancel your waxing appointment before the big date. The researchers did advise that you might want to shave a little in advance of having sex so that your skin and any irritation have a chance to heal before getting close to someone else.

In any case, keep doing what you’re doing. Get tested for STIs, disclose to your partners, and practice safe sex. And if you like to wax and shave your pubic hair, go for it.