Does Shaving or Waxing Pubic Hair Increase Your STI Risk? (2023)

As it's become more common to shave your pubic hair, a small but growing body of research has cropped up that suggests shaving or otherwise removing that hair may not be the best choice for your sexual health. Different methods of hair removal pose different risks. "Going bare" could also raise your risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Does Shaving or Waxing Pubic Hair Increase Your STI Risk? (1)

Pubic Hair Removal Methods

There are several methods used to remove pubic hair, each with various risks for infection or other hazards. There are precautions you might take with each.


Shaving you pubic hair is easy and can be done at home, but is it safe? Maybe not, unless you're really careful. Shaving is associated with a number of possible negative outcomes, such as:

  • Cuts, which may be uncomfortable, can become infected and may leave you more susceptible to infection during sex.
  • Ingrown hairs can also turn into an infection risk
  • Cutting open existing sores and transmitting STIs is a risk (see more below).

If you do want to shave it off at home, you should follow a few rules in order to protect yourself.

Rules for Safe Pubic Hair Shaving

Follow these rules:

  • Go slowly and be careful.
  • Always use a new, clean razor.
  • Don't use the same razor anywhere else to avoid transmitting infected secretions around your body.


Waxing pubic hair can be done at home, but it is usually done in a salon. Waxing involves trapping hair in hot wax and then using a sheet of paper or cloth to rip out the hairs. It can be quite painful, but it does tend to last longer than shaving.

The skin can become inflamed after waxing. It's also possible for it to become infected.

This may be particularly a risk with salons who do not regularly change their wax or clean their equipment between clients. As a result, it is possible for a waxing salon to transmit an infection from one client to the next over the course of a day, or even longer, depending on their practices.

Ingrown hairs and torn skin are also risks associated with waxing.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says waxing shouldn't be done in genital areas due to the risks of irritation and infection. It also cautions that people with diabetes or circulatory problems shouldn't use some waxes, so if you have any of those, be sure to check the label of the product you or the salon is using.

If you choose to get your pubic area waxed, you should:

(Video) Urologist Explains How to Safely Remove your Pubic Hair | Shave vs. Wax vs. Trim

  • Make certain your skin is healthy and not sunburned or torn
  • Try and go with clean skin and hair
  • Make certain that the salon changes their wax between clients and uses clean/new equipment for application.

Dealing With the Side Effects of Waxing

Hair Removal Creams

Depilatory creams and gels use chemicals to help melt hair away. These creams can cause irritation, burns, or discomfort in sensitive regions of the body. Because of this, they are not generally recommended for the genital area.

If you must use these creams, look for one that says it's safe to be used genitally. Then do a patch test on a less sensitive area of skin. It's not a guarantee that you won't have a problem using the cream in your genital area. However, it is at least a good first check to make certain your skin isn't hypersensitive to the ingredients.

You can use these creams reasonably safely on the bikini line, presuming you follow the instructions.

Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal is a form of permanent hair removal. It destroys the hair follicle by targeting the pigments (colors) inside of it. Because of this, it works best for people with light skin and dark hair.

Laser hair removal is generally not recommended for the pubic area for a number of reasons:

  • It's permanent. People may not be certain they will never want hair again. Some individuals undergo painful procedures to try to regrow hair.
  • It can be quite painful.
  • The skin color on the genitals can be darker, making it less safe. Darker skin increases the risk of burns.

Pubic Hair Grooming and STI Risk

Research provides some evidence that pubic hair grooming may increase the risk of several sexually transmitted infections. It's possible that research on this topic is confounded by overlapping behaviors. In other words, people who groom or remove their pubic hair may simply be more sexually active than people who don't.

However, there are also several ways in which shaving or waxing pubic hair could directly increase infection risk:

  • Hair removal, especially shaving, can lead to small cuts or openings on the genital skin. Waxing can also inflame hair follicles. This could increase susceptibility to certain infections.
  • Disturbing bumps or sores caused by an STI could increase the transmission of the infection on your own skin and transmission to your partner. For example, scratching a Molluscum contagiosum infection can transmit it. Shaving is an even more efficient way of opening up the bumps and transmitting the virus.
  • Hair removal removes the cushioning distance between two bodies provided by pubic hair. This means that there is both more friction and more skin-to-skin contact. This could increase the risk of infections that are transmitted in that manner.
  • Unhygienic hair removal techniques could directly transmit infection.

The Evidence

To date, the evidence that pubic hair removal might affect STI risk has come primarily from small observational studies. Such studies cannot easily be used to prove that shaving or waxing pubic hair increases STI risk. They can only show that the two are associated.

However, in these studies, hair removal has been associated with the presence of viral STIs. Pubic hair removal has also been shown to increase the number of lesions and sores that are visible on the body. It is therefore entirely plausible that shaving or waxing could increase STI risk in all the ways mentioned above.

Reducing Your Risk

If pubic hair grooming is important to youor improves your self-image, don't stress. The evidence out there isn't strong enough to suggest you should stop.

If you want to try reducing any potential risks of hair removal, though, you can do several things that might make it safer:

  • Avoid shaving or waxing right before you have sex. That should give any damage you cause to your skin time to heal.
  • Avoid shaving or waxing when you have any STI symptoms. This reduces the likelihood of self-inoculation.
  • Always use a clean razor to shave.
  • Choose a waxing salon that is good about proper hygiene.

Another choice that might reduce the risk of hair removal is to trim your pubic hair instead of removing it. Carefully trimming with scissors, avoiding damaging or disturbing the skin, and leaving enough hair intact to reduce skin-to-skin contact with your partner may be a safer way to indulge in pubic hair grooming.

Research on post-surgical infections suggests that clipping is less likely than shaving to lead to skin infections. No good research has been done on relative risk related specifically to STIs, but it seems likely that the same would be true during home pubic-hair removal.

(Video) Most PAINLESS Pubic Hair Removal - Waxing, Shaving, or Trimming?

A Word From Verywell

Removing or not removing pubic hair is a personal decision. The key is being aware of potential risks and taking steps to protect your health, no matter what you choose. If you have questions or concerns, bring them up with your healthcare provider.

The Best At-Home STI Tests

8 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. International Society for Sexual Medicine. What are the health risks of removing women's pubic hair?

  2. Carniciu AL, Chou J, Leskov I, Freitag SK. Clinical presentation and bacteriology of eyebrow infections: the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary experience (2008-2015).Ophthalmic Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017;33(5):372-375. doi:10.1097/IOP.0000000000000797

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Removing hair safely.


  4. Desruelles F, Cunningham SA, Dubois D. Pubic hair removal: a risk factor for 'minor' STI such as molluscum contagiosum? Sex Transm Infect. 2013;89(3):216. doi:10.1136/sextrans-2012-050982

  5. Herbenick D, Hensel D, Smith NK, et al. Pubic hair removal and sexual behavior: Findings from a prospective daily diary study of sexually active women in the United States. J Sex Med. 2013;10(3):678-685. doi:10.1111/jsm.12031

  6. Center for Young Women's Health. Removing pubic hair.

  7. Truesdale MD, Osterberg EC, Gaither TW, et al. Prevalence of pubic hair grooming-related injuries and identification of high-risk individuals in the United States. JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(11):1114–1121. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.2815

  8. Tanner J, Norrie P, Melen K. Preoperative hair removal to reduce surgical site infection. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(11):CD004122. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004122.pub4

Additional Reading

  • Castronovo C, Lebas E, Nikkels-Tassoudji N, Nikkels AF. Viral infections of the pubis. Int J STD AIDS. 2012;23(1):48-50. doi:10.1258/ijsa.2011.010548.

Does Shaving or Waxing Pubic Hair Increase Your STI Risk? (2)

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.

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Does shaving pubic hair increase risk of infection? ›

Removing pubic hair may therefore make a person more susceptible to common infections, such as UTIs, vaginitis, and yeast infections. Hair removal can also irritate your skin, leading to skin infections such as cellulitis and folliculitis. In other cases, grooming-related injuries, such as cuts, could become infected.

Is it better to shave or wax your pubes? ›

Although the results are fairly similar, there's one key difference: how long they last. On average, waxing lasts around 3 or 4 weeks because the hair is removed at the root. Hair grows back much faster with shaving, though — within 3 days to a week. This is because shaving only removes the top layer of the hair.

Can shaving pubic hair cause bacterial infection? ›

From the gynecologist's perspective, shaving regularly to eliminate pubic hair has drawbacks. Razors harbor bacteria and cause some abrasion of the skin; especially in a moist environment. This creates a setup for a bacterial skin infection.

Is it safe to wax pubic hair? ›

When it comes to pubic hair, people groom it using a variety of methods including shaving, waxing, trimming, and laser removal. These methods can lead to ingrown hairs and infections though, so most gynecologists warn against them and recommend trimming or letting it be instead. Dr.

Can a Brazilian wax cause HPV? ›

Furthermore, HPV has been shown to reside on pubic and perianal hairs. It follows that traumatic hair removal in these areas might result in an infection and subsequent clinical manifestation of HPV. In the case of our patient, HPV-associated epidermodysplasia verruciformis developed, secondary to pubic hair removal.

Is it more hygienic to shave pubic hair? ›

It is not more hygienic to shave pubic hair. Some girls decide to remove it (as a personal preference) but there are no health benefits. In fact, there are risks associated with shaving your pubic hair including: razor burn (rash), redness, itching (from hair growing back), and infection in the hair root.

What are the disadvantages of waxing pubic hair? ›

Waxing cons

Because the hair is removed at the root, some people say waxing is more painful than shaving. The hot wax can also burn your skin if you're not careful. Waxing can cause inflamed hair follicles, pain, redness, ingrown hairs and skin irritation.

What are the benefits of not shaving pubic hair? ›

It provides protection against friction that can cause skin irritation in this sensitive area. It helps reduce the amount of sweat produced around the vagina. It helps block your vagina from the following bacteria and infections: Sexually transmitted infections.

What are the cons of shaving pubic hair? ›

Irritation: Removing pubic hair by waxing or shaving can cause skin irritation, razor burns, or ingrown hairs, which can be uncomfortable or painful. Infection: Shaving or waxing can create small cuts or openings in the skin that can increase the risk of infection, especially if the area is not kept clean.

Can pubic hair spread STDS? ›

The act of grooming with razors or shavers can cause tiny tears in the skin, through which viruses and bacteria could pass, such as herpes, syphilis and HPV.

Can Brazilian wax cause BV? ›

So what happens when you remove this armour? You let bacteria pass through and allow it go down your urinary tract. In short, removing pubic hair puts you at risk of infections like bacterial vaginosis and UTI.

What infections can you get from shaving? ›

Folliculitis starts when hair follicles are damaged or when the follicle is blocked. For example, this may occur from rubbing against clothing or shaving. Most of the time, the damaged follicles become infected with staphylococci (staph) bacteria.

Which method is best to remove pubic hair? ›

Shaving is the best way to get rid of pubic hair at home without pain, while trimming the hair at home is a painless method for a tidy-up. With the right tools and advice, shaving should be pain-free. And treating yourself to a bikini trimmer will make trimming a breeze.

Can Brazilian wax cause yeast infection? ›

It is possible that pubic hair removal could, through microtrauma, allow yeast that is normally on the skin to cause a vulvar yeast infection, although this hypothesis has not been studied.

How often should you wax pubic hair? ›

Bikini area

"For a bikini wax, those who frequent the beach benefit from waxing their bikini line every two weeks. But for a full bikini or Brazilian bikini service, you're recommended to come in every three to four weeks. This allows the proper amount of time for regrowth," Coba says.

Can Brazilian wax cause chlamydia? ›

The verdict: Almost any hair removal technique can result in skin damage that makes you more susceptible to STIs—but as long as your skin is in good shape, infection is still pretty unlikely.

Can shaving trigger HPV? ›

It also seems that removing some or all of your pubic hair may increase your risk of getting genital warts. That's because hair removal through waxing or shaving can cause tiny tears in the skin that may allow the virus to enter the skin more easily.

Does shaving make HPV worse? ›

Avoid shaving over a wart.

Through these microtears, you can spread the virus that causes warts from the wart to any skin that you shave.

What percent of females shave their pubic hair? ›

Pubic Hair Trends

According to the researchers, when asked if they removed their pubic hair, 80% of women and 39% of men removed their pubic hair near the time of the survey. Also, 3% of women and 21% of men had never removed their pubic hair.

At what age does pubic hair stop growing? ›

Pubic hair may extend out to their thighs, and some girls may have a line of hair up to their belly button. Most girls attain their peak height by age 16, but some may continue growing through age 20.

How often should a woman shave her pubic hair? ›

To keep the pubic area smooth and hairless, you'll need to shave regularly, even daily. Consider if this is worth the trouble; it may become tedious after four or five weeks.

Why you shouldn't shave and wax? ›

Hair also grows back much thinner, thus making it easier to remove and less painful when waxed. Shaving just one time in between will negate all that is gained from waxing and can further irritate follicles which can cause ingrown hair. So, no, we don't advise shaving in between.

Which is safer waxing or shaving? ›

While waxing is considered to be better, you must keep in mind your skin type, hair texture and hair growth before making a decision. If you have sensitive skin, use a razor, as waxing may aggravate the rashes. If you have normal skin, go in for a wax.”

What are two downsides of waxing? ›

Are there any Disadvantages of Waxing?
  • Waxing can cause pain and discomfort depending on the target area. This is applicable for both hot and cold wax.
  • This form of hair removal might not be suitable for all skin types. Sensitive skin, for example, might face redness, burning sensation and itching post procedure.

Is it healthier to have no pubic hair? ›

In separate studies, 59% of women and 61% of men stated that they groomed their pubic region for hygienic purposes. However, there is currently no scientific evidence to suggest any health benefits associated with removing pubic hair — other than the removal of pubic lice.

Is it healthier to remove pubic hair? ›

Removing pubic hair is not necessary to keep the vulva or vaginal area clean. Pubic hair can help protect the skin and prevent chafing. Hair removal is a personal preference. Some people do not remove any of their pubic hair, and others may remove only the hair that grows outside of the bikini line.

What happens if you never shave pubes? ›

You're Less Likely To Get Rashes

If you don't shave, those things aren't really a possibility anymore, leaving you and your lady parts in peace. Indeed, Dweck listed infected hair follicles (folliculitis), rashes, and irritation (razor burn) as some of the most common issues she sees from patients who shave.

Does not shaving pubic hair cause smell? ›

Long pubic hair

Hair increases the surface area for bacteria and bodily fluids to linger and lead to odor. Think of it as a dance floor. The smaller the dance floor, the smaller the area the bacteria and bodily fluids have to hang out and interact with each other.

Do most girls shave down there? ›

Pubic hair removal is common — approximately 80 percent of women ages 18 to 65 report they remove some or all of their pubic hair.

What happens if you don't shave your pubic area male? ›

Heat, sweat and bacteria form around the crotch and remain there for a long time if it gets entangled in the pubic hair. Trimming or shaving it off will help keep that area clean and free from any unwanted infections. Ungroomed pubic hair tends to hide your penis, which makes it appear smaller.

Can you get chlamydia from waxing? ›

Chlamydia is passed through sexual contact.

However, the risk of getting an STI from waxing is still unclear (though highly unlikely).

Can I get chlamydia from razor? ›

You can catch chlamydia, HIV, and Hepatitis B & C through contact with infected blood. This can happen when sharing razors or needles. Read on to find out the unusual ways you can catch an STI, and what steps you can take to ensure you don't contract one.

Can STD spread in the shower? ›

Can STDs be transmitted through bath water? Generally, no. According to the CDC, you're only at risk of getting an STD in the bathtub if you're engaging in sexual activity in the bathtub.

When should you not get a Brazilian wax? ›

Timing matters. Avoid scheduling a wax five days before your menstrual cycle, during it, or immediately after. “Your body is especially sensitive during this time,” says Exhale Spa aesthetician Angela Marinescu.

Why do I smell after Brazilian wax? ›

Brazilian: Pubic hair has its benefits too. It prevents harmful bacteria from entering your vajayjay and protects it. But if you are opting for a Brazilian wax often, then the bacteria can cause irritation and odour.

Why can't you take a bath after a Brazilian wax? ›

There's nothing like a bath when you need to relax (goodbye muscle tension), but it's best to steer clear for 24 hours after your wax appointment. The heat will aggravate any post-wax irritation and redness, it will dry out your skin and open up your pores (a shortcut to ingrown hairs).

Can a dirty razor cause infection? ›

Fungal infection: When your razor remains wet or if you don t wash it properly post using it, there are high chances that it might harbour microbes that cause fungal or yeast infection. Also, sharing of dirty razors can cause folliculitis or ringworm infection.

How do you prevent infection after shaving? ›

Avoid shaving or touching the area

By leaving the skin alone, it gives the area time to heal and can reduce the risk of further inflammation, irritation, or infection.

What are the red spots on pubic hair follicles? ›

Folliculitis. Folliculitis is a common infection of the hair follicle, which is the opening that holds a hair's root. It can affect one or many follicles and cause tiny, itchy red bumps, sometimes with a white tip.

How do models remove pubic hair? ›

Temporary options include shaving (by far the most popular method), waxing, depilatory creams, tweezing, and trimming. If going this route, it's best to use a light hand and keep antibiotic ointment close by to treat any nicks or bumps.

What is the easiest and safest way to remove pubic hair? ›

Shaving is the safest choice when it comes to removing pubic hair. With the new generation of razors, pubic hair can be removed quickly and easily. The razor and some shaving gel are all you need. Don't worry, you won't get coarse hair regrowth.

How can I permanently remove my pubic hair naturally? ›

Papaya & Turmeric - Papaya contains a very important, papain enzyme. This enzyme can help to slow down hair growth in both women and men over a period of time. The addition of turmeric will not only help to remove unwanted hair but will also cleanse your private parts gently.

Is it better to shave or wax? ›

Waxing lasts longer over time because hair is being removed from the follicle whereas shaving just cuts it at the surface,” says Shays. “Waxing will leave you smoother longer as unwanted hairs become thinner and in some cases don't grow back at all.

Does pubic hair hold bacteria? ›

"Yes, pubic hair can get dirty or matted or collect bacteria," she says. "But if you're someone who regularly showers or bathes, it's not unhygienic to have it." Bottom line: If you're clean, your pubes will be, too.

Does waxing increase risk of infection? ›

Wax used in the hair removal procedure is contaminated and if the wax is reused or cross contamination occurs, it can lead to bacterial infections such as staphylococcal, streptococcal and folliculitis.

Is it better to shave or wax pubic hair? ›

Although the results are fairly similar, there's one key difference: how long they last. On average, waxing lasts around 3 or 4 weeks because the hair is removed at the root. Hair grows back much faster with shaving, though — within 3 days to a week. This is because shaving only removes the top layer of the hair.

Is it hygienic to wax pubic hair? ›

When it comes to pubic hair, people groom it using a variety of methods including shaving, waxing, trimming, and laser removal. These methods can lead to ingrown hairs and infections though, so most gynecologists warn against them and recommend trimming or letting it be instead.

Can your pubes be too long for a wax? ›

Can My Hair Be Too Long for Waxing? Yes. If your hair is more than a half-inch long, you should consider shaving it and “starting over.” Then schedule an appointment so that it lands about one full growth cycle out. That is, give the hair 1 to 4 weeks to regrow to about ¼ inch.

Does pubic hair prevent infections? ›

Your Pubic Hair Serves a Purpose

It helps reduce the amount of sweat produced around the vagina. It helps block your vagina from the following bacteria and infections: Sexually transmitted infections.

What are the problems after shaving pubic hair? ›

There's also a chance some hairs will become ingrown. This means that the hair that's trying to grow back gets trapped under the skin. This can lead to redness, pain, and tiny bumps in the area. Sometimes people can get skin infections from shaving.

Does pubic hair increase bacteria? ›

Pubic hair can naturally reduce friction associated with the movements during sexual intercourse and other activities wherein chafing may occur. Pubic hair can also help stop bacteria and other microorganisms from entering the body.

What happens if you never shave your pubic hair female? ›

You're Less Likely To Get Rashes

If you don't shave, those things aren't really a possibility anymore, leaving you and your lady parts in peace. Indeed, Dweck listed infected hair follicles (folliculitis), rashes, and irritation (razor burn) as some of the most common issues she sees from patients who shave.

Can a Brazilian wax cause a yeast infection? ›

It is possible that pubic hair removal could, through microtrauma, allow yeast that is normally on the skin to cause a vulvar yeast infection, although this hypothesis has not been studied.

Should men shave pubic hair? ›

It's all up to you. There's no right or wrong way to handle your pubic hair. Stats show that men are split right down the middle when it comes to pube grooming, so it's really all about personal preference. Some men go completely pube-less, while others just keep it trimmed.

Should you never shave your pubic hair? ›

It is more hygienic not to shave it (although depilation does make pubic lice homeless). In removing their pubic hair, most women will get cuts or ingrown hairs, and some will develop inflammation of the hair follicles or hyperpigmentation.

Why you shouldn't pluck pubic hair? ›

Plucking can cause redness, swelling, itching, irritation, and damage to the skin. It can also result in ingrown hairs (where the hair curls backward or sideways under the skin) and infection.

Should I go commando after shaving? ›

Going commando can also give the surrounding area a break from tight elastic that can irritate your skin, especially if you're prone to getting razor burn. If you've just shaved or waxed, Dr. Dweck suggests "cotton or nothing"—in other words, rock a breathable fabric or just go without until your skin calms down.

What is the white stuff around my pubic hair? ›

Lice eggs (nits) are often easier to see than live lice. They look like tiny yellow or white dots attached to the pubic hair, close to the skin. Nits can look like dandruff. But you can't pick them off with your fingernail or brush them away.

What are the benefits of shaving pubic hair? ›

Here are our top seven reasons why you should shave your pubes and how to ensure that you're using the right tools for the best results.
  • Grooming Optimizes Hygiene. ...
  • It Enhances Down-There Aesthetics. ...
  • Grooming Can Increase Sex Appeal. ...
  • It Can Enhance Sexual Sensitivity. ...
  • It Boosts Your Self-Care Practice.

Is it OK to trim pubic hair with scissors? ›

Yes. It's perfectly fine to carefully trim your pubic hair with small scissors along your swimsuit or underwear line. Many girls trim their pubic hair, or go to a salon to have a “bikini wax”; others prefer to shave just about every day, and many just leave it alone. Removing pubic hair is a personal preference.


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