America goes Brazilian

Majority of U.S. women now groom their pubic hair, puzzling doctors

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Rachel Dratch, left, as customer and Nia Vardalos as spa technician in a 2002 “Bikini Wax” skit on “Saturday Night Live.” (Dana Edelson/NBC, via Getty Images)

Grooming pubic hair has become the norm for American women, according to a new study published Wednesday in journal JAMA Dermatology. The study found that 84 percent of a nationally representative sample of 3,316 women groom their pubic hair, with 62 percent of all respondents opting for complete removal of pubic hair. Interestingly, 59 percent of these women said they did so for hygienic reasons — a perception that runs counter to the medical reality. Pubic hair serves to trap bacteria and prevent it from entering the vaginal opening, in addition to acting as a protective cushion for sensitive skin.

While women of all ages and races were found to be grooming their pubic hair, the women most likely to groom tended to be younger, between 18 and 34 years of age, and white, with at least some college education. “Grooming has become so common that people think that’s the norm,” said Jennifer Gunter, a specialist in pelvic pain and vulvovaginal disorders at Kaiser Permanente Northern California. And although one study did find a correlation between Brazilian waxing and a decline in pubic hair lice, doctors warn that grooming can lead to cases of folliculitis, abscesses, lacerations, allergic reactions, and vulvar and vaginal infections. “If it is something you do for you and makes you feel better, awesome,” said Dr. Gunter. “But don’t tell yourself it’s healthy or better from a medical standpoint.”

Read the full story at The New York Times’ Well Blog.

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