Sex, lice and pu­bic shav­ing: New study high­lights risks

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Peo­ple who shave, wax, or trim their pu­bic hair are at higher risk of sex­u­al­ly­trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions (STIs), but less likely to get lice, a study sug­gested yes­ter­day. A sur­vey of more than 7,500 Amer­i­cans aged 18 to 65, found that pu­bic groomers had an 80 per­cent higher STI risk than peo­ple who leave their nether re­gions hairy.

For cer­tain in­fec­tions, in­clud­ing her­pes and chlamy­dia, the risk was high­est among those who groomed most fre­quently and “in­tensely”, the re­searchers found. The study merely ob­served a cor­re­la­tion between groom­ing and STIs, and can­not con­clude that one causes the other. But the au­thors spec­u­lated that shav­ing or wax­ing may cause “mi­crotears” in the skin, cre­at­ing easy ac­cess for viruses.

Shar­ing tools such as ra­zors may also be a risk, they said, cit­ing a case of HIV trans­mis­sion between broth­ers us­ing the same blade. “As a third pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for our find­ings, in­di­vid­u­als who groom may be more likely to en­gage in risky sex­ual be­hav­iors than those who do not groom,” said the study pub­lished in the jour­nal Sex­u­ally Trans­mit­ted In­fec­tions. Pu­bic hair groom­ing, it ex­plained, “is cor­re­lated with an in­creased num­ber of life­time sex­ual part­ners and is viewed as a prepara­tory act to sex­ual en­gage­ment”.

For the re­search, 7,580 peo­ple com­pleted a ques­tion­naire on their in­ti­mate hair­con­trol, sex lives and STI his­tory. Seven­ty­four per­cent of re­spon­dents were pu­bic hair groomers — 66 per­cent of men and 84 per­cent of women. The trial par­tic­i­pants were di­vided into “ex­treme groomers” who re­moved all pu­bic hair more than 11 times a year, high-fre­quency groomers who trimmed daily or weekly, low-fre­quency groomers, and non-groomers.

The main meth­ods used were ra­zors, scis­sors and wax. Men mostly used an elec­tric ra­zor and women a man­ual one. One in five of both gen­ders used scis­sors. Groomers, the study found, were younger over­all and re­ported a larger num­ber of an­nual and to­tal life­time sex­ual part­ner­se­ven more so for ex­treme groomers. They also had more fre­quent weekly and daily sex than peo­ple who pre­fer to go “au na­turel” down there.

A greater pro­por­tion of groomers, 14 per­cent, re­ported hav­ing had an STI dur­ing their life­time, than non-groomers at eight per­cent, the study found. For ex­treme groomers, the per­cent­age was 18 per­cent. STIs in­cluded her­pes, syphilis, hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus (HPV), chlamy­dia, HIV, gon­or­rhoea and a skin virus called Mol­lus­cum con­ta­gio­sum, or MCV. Such in­fec­tions can have se­ri­ous long-term con­se­quences such as in­fer­til­ity, cer­tain can­cers and higher rates of HIV trans­mis­sion. On the other end of the spec­trum, the team found, low­in­ten­sity groomers had a higher risk of pu­bic lice in­fes­ta­tion.

This sug­gested “groom­ing might make it harder for lice to breed suc­cess­fully,” the team said in a state­ment. Bet­ter un­der­stand­ing the re­la­tion­ship between pu­bic hair groom­ing and STIs may help sin­gle out “high-risk in­di­vid­u­als” for safe-sex ed­u­ca­tion, the team said.

They may also be ad­vised to de­hair less fre­quently or se­verely, or to de­lay sex af­ter groom­ing to al­low time for the skin to heal. Pu­bic hair groom­ing has be­come a com­mon phe­nom­e­non world­wide, with pop­u­lar me­dia chang­ing peo­ple’s def­i­ni­tion of at­trac­tive­ness, clean­li­ness and “gen­i­tal nor­malcy”, said the study. — AFP

In this pho­to­graph taken on Septem­ber 9, 2016, boathouse dwellers wash their char­poys and clothes on the banks of the Man­char lake, a 223 square kilo­me­tre nat­u­ral wa­ter re­serv­ior in south­ern Pak­istan. — AFP

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