Pubic Hair Removal: Shaving
With puberty come many changes, including increased body hair and the development of underarm hair for teens.
For many people, this is the time that they begin to depilate, or remove body hair. The most common body areas depilated are the underarms, legs, pubic area, eyebrows and face for females; and the face, abdomen, back, chest, groin and legs for males. Shaving is the most common method used for the underarms, legs and pubic area.
Pubic shaving actually originated in ancient Egypt and Greece when prostitutes had to shave for both hygienic reasons and as a clear sign of their profession. Although female body shaving was established as the norm between 1915 and 1945, pubic hair removal did not gain a strong foothold until the 1980s.
In part, this was due to a trend in the porn industry where it was common for women to shave the pubic area. As pornography has become more accepted in the general public, more women have mimicked what they have seen. In this way, pubic hair shaving has become mainstream.
Also, bikini bathing suits began to reveal more of the pubic area in the 1970 and 80s. With this trend came increased pressure to avoid revealing pubic hair by removing it.
Shaving the pubic area has become much more common, even desirable, among teenagers.
Although shaving may be becoming the social norm, that does not mean you should do it.
Shaving is a personal choice.
There can be health consequences associated with any type of depilation: shaving, waxing, clipping, tweezing, threading or laser treatment. Your pubic area is especially sensitive to these hair-removal techniques. If you do decide to shave your pubic area, here are some things you should know:
The pubic area consists of:
- Lower abdomen
- Mons pubis: the soft mound of flesh raised above the genitals by a pad of fat under the skin that protects the pubic bone, which is usually much more pronounced in females than males
- Perineum: the strip of skin between the genitals and anus
- Bikini area: the area of skin along the lower abdomen and between the legs that is exposed by bikini style undergarments
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- Razor burn
- Genital infections
- Ingrown hairs
- Folliculitis: an infection in the hair follicle usually caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus (staph) or a fungus. A common cause of folliculitis is recently shaved hairs re-growing out of the follicle and curling back around to irritate the skin.
If you're planning on keeping your pubic area smooth and hairless, you will need to shave regularly, even daily. You should consider if this is worth the trouble; what is appealing now may not be after four or five weeks of daily shaving. In addition to being time-consuming, the maintenance can be costly since you need to invest in special shaving equipment and care like a new razor, female shaving cream, baby oil and/or aloe vera cream.
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If you have already tried shaving and are experiencing any of the above problems, there are general treatment procedures to help. However, these are not comprehensive, and if you are having any serious problems, you should consult your medical provider.
- Itching/irritation: Apply 1 percent hydrocortisone two or three times per day. Avoid shaving for two months.
- Razor burn: Use aloe vera to soothe sensitive skin and help alleviate the pain.
- Bumps: Take a warm bath, and see your doctor if the bumps don't clear up after one week.
- Blisters/pimples: As long as they're not painful and don't bother you, there's no problem.
- Keep them clean and dry, and do not pick them.
- Genital infections: Consult your doctor, or visit Planned Parenthood.
- Ingrown hairs: Do not pick at them as this could cause infection. To prevent ingrown hairs, shave downward with the angle of the hair, or clip hairs instead of shaving. Also, some creams can help exfoliate the skin and relieve ingrown hairs. Check with your medical provider about these topical treatments.
- Folliculitis: If folliculitis is mild, a topical over-the-counter antibiotic will work, such as polysporin, Neosporin or bacitracin used two or three times per day.
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Aside from knowing about health consequences and treatments, there are some "myths" in which to be aware.
- Hair will grow back faster.
False. After shaving, hair will not grow back any faster or slower than it did before you started shaving; you will probably just notice the changes more.
- Hair will become thicker.
False. Your body has a set number of hair follicles, and no new ones are created after you shave. This means that there won't be more hairs, and the hairs also will not be any thicker than they were before you started shaving.
- Shaving always creates ingrown hairs.
False. Every body is different, and every person is susceptible to ingrown hairs to a different extent. Some people get more ingrown hairs than others. This still does not mean that you will get ingrown hairs every time you shave. Furthermore, there are practices and products that can help reduce the occurrences of ingrown hairs, like scrubbing the area with a loofah or shaving in the direction of hair growth.
- Shaving your pubic area will get rid of crabs and other STIs.
False. Pedicularis pubis, commonly known as 'crabs' or public lice, is highly infective and is transmitted through sexual contact. If you have not been treated for an infection, shaving will not eradicate the lice. Furthermore, shaving will not protect you from getting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
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How To (for both males and females)
If you decide you do want to shave your pubic area, here is a comprehensive how-to guide in 10 easy steps.
1. Go shopping for the appropriate supplies. You will need:
- A pair of sharp scissors
- A new razor (not disposable or dull)
- Female shaving cream* for your skin type, soft baby oil, and aloe vera cream (preferably with vitamin E added to it).
2. Use the scissors to clip as much of the pubic hair as possible. This way the actual shaving will be less painful and more effective.
3. After cropping as much hair as possible, make sure the pubic area is soft and smooth by soaking in a hot bath or shower for at least three minutes. This will allow you to achieve a closer shave, as well as avoid pimples and irritated skin later.
4. After the soak, dry off and wait a few minutes. This allows the skin to recuperate a little.
5. Apply generous amounts of female shaving cream specific to your skin type, or the mildest, non-perfumed male cream. Do not use soap! Let the shaving cream sit for a few minutes.
6. Use a safety razor to begin shaving—no switch-blades or disposable razors. If possible, use a razor with moisturizing strips and "micro-fins" or cushions, etc. These help with extra protection from nicks and cuts.
7. When shaving, pull the skin tight with your free hand and shave without applying pressure. If you have to apply pressure, your razor is too dull.
8. Move slowly over the skin in the counter-direction of the hair. In the pubic area, this means shaving upward. For people who are prone to ingrown hairs or razor burn, it is recommended you shave in the direction of the hair growth. As you shave, feel free to keep applying shaving cream.
9. When you're done shaving, wash the area generously with lots of warm water.
10. Apply aftercare: Use soft baby oil*** to keep skin smooth and free of pimples, use aloe vera to soothe sensitive skin. Do not use male aftershave; it will sting terribly!
NOTE: If you are planning to have sex and use a condom as protection, you need to protect the condom because the baby oil will deteriorate the latex condom. To protect the condom, wash your pubic area prior to sex.
*Female shaving cream is recommended for both male and female pubic shaving as all products are more mild and gentle than almost any type of male shaving cream. Also, male shaving creams are often perfumed, which will cause stinging and irritation when applied to the pubic area.
**Also, it is recommended you don't shave when you first wake up from sleeping. During sleep, your body fluids accumulate under the skin and make the skin puffier. Wait 20 to 30 minutes until the fluids regress so the skin is tauter and the hair shaft more exposed.
*** Baby oil is usually fine for most people but some people find the perfume irritating.
Ideally, you want a moisturizer that is free from perfume, a cream or a lotion, without anti-aging ingredients or sunscreens or other additives. You want a really inert moisturizer and one's labeled for sensitive skin might be best. Suggestions include:
Keri Lotion; Aveeno Moisturizing products - contain colloidal oatmeal which is soothing; Eucerin cream and lotion - not fancy but very inert; Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream.
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