The subject of how much pubic hair is ‘normal’ for women is something that is spoken about either in hushed tones or never comes up. An article published in The Atlantic shows that up to 60% of sexually active women aged between 18-24 have some form of hair removal routine be it waxing, shaving or using a depilatory cream every four weeks to six weeks. It may, therefore, be safe to say that most women prefer to go completely bare or trim their ‘hedges’ every occasionally.
A particular form of hair removal called the Brazilian wax, however, has gained popularity over the years and even got an endorsement from Victoria Beckham, who recommended having frequent sessions of it once you turned fifteen.
A Brazilian wax is a wax treatment that removes the pubic hair from your bikini line, all the way to your labia and the crevice of your buttocks. There are many styles of waxing available, each made to suit your preferences but the question is, what health risks do waxing and other pubic hair removal methods pose?
Before we get into the risks involved, let’s understand why we have pubic hair. The skin around your vagina is made up of mucous membranes which are a layer that is more delicate than the skin covering the rest of your body. Pubic hair helps to protect this layer from abrasions during skin to skin contact as well as preventing it from getting infected by bacteria. The hair also traps other bacteria that can cause infections such as vaginosis.
So, what are the risks involved when you decide to get your lady parts waxed?
A small study carried out in Nice, France showed an association between waxing and contracting a sexually transmitted infection called Molluscum contagiosum, which is a benign and mild skin disease that causes growths in your pubic region. The bumps are can either be smooth or firm or white, pink or flesh-coloured with a pit or dimple at the centre. They are spread by skin to skin contact with a person who has infected follicles. When the wax strip is pulled from your skin, it can lift not only the hair but also the delicate mucous membrane beneath it. This type of exposure creates the perfect environment for bacteria to easily enter and multiply on your vagina. Waxing also comes with the increased risk of contracting other infections such as staph and cellulitis and a myriad of other infections including HPV.
For the wax to be effective, it must be heated before it is applied. While a professional will know the right temperature of wax that should go your skin, there is always the risk of running into someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. It could also sometimes simply be a case of human error and the wax ends up burning your delicate skin when it’s too hot.
Waxing is painful and irritates the skin around your genitals. Often, after a wax session, your vagina is red and raw. This is because when the hair is pulled out from the root, it leaves a small opening that becomes a wound. This leads back to an increased risk of infection or if you don’t end up infected, it might lead to scarring.
Once the hair has been pulled out from the root, a new, silky and weaker hair grows in its place. It’s more like baby hair. This hair has less strength from root to tip and can sometimes get caught and stuck under the surface leading to an irritated bump(s) that is hard to treat.
Keeping those risks in mind, should you decide to still go on and get waxed, here are some of the things to look out for when choosing a waxing salon/ spa.
Find a professional esthetician ( the person who does the waxing). Make sure that the facility you go to has licensed individuals. Check out recommendations from your peers and if possible visit the place before you book an appointment to judge for yourself on how they conduct their activities.
Observe your esthetician’s hygiene. They should wash their hands with antibacterial soap before the session and wear single-use latex gloves the entire time. Ensure that they do not double-dip (dipping the same spatula twice into the wax pot) and that they don’t use the same strip twice.
Know your options. Ask about the styles of waxing available, how they’re done and how much hair will be removed.
Ask for hard wax which is more gentle for you as it adheres to the hair and not the skin. An alternative to using wax is sugaring, which is the method of hair removal that uses a gel made out of sugar, lemon juice and water instead of wax.
After your waxing procedure, the aftercare is just as important to ensure you go on with your daily life without any hitches.
Avoid public pools or sharing towels for a few days after waxing as your genitals area is still very sensitive and can easily get infected.
Buy a topical antibiotic cream and an inflammatory cream and apply for a few days.
Avoid hot showers for obvious reasons. Your vagina is red, puffy and irritated. Don’t aggravate the situation.