Every week, the Scoop examines alarming new claims to help you make sense of the latest health research.
As if you need another reason to dread your bikini wax: Grooming your nether-regions could make you more susceptible to certain STIs, according to a new French case study published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Case study author FranÃƒÂ§ois Desruelles, MD, a dermatologist at Archet Hospital in Nice, France, asked 30 of his patients infected with molluscum contagiosum (a pox virus marked by painless, wart-like sores) about their pubic hair-removal habits. Turns out, 93 percent of them participated in some kind of private-part maintenance. Seventy percent shaved, 13 percent clipped, and 10 percent waxed away unwanted hair.
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the thing: Since your pubic hair acts as a layer of defense against all types of infections, including any STIs you may come into contact with, removing it makes you more vulnerable. Healthy skin is another barrier against infection. But since most hair-removal methods, when done improperly, could cause microscopic wounds, irritations, and (if you wax) burns and inflammation, you risk making yourself more vulnerable to infection when you get rid of down-there hair, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t cancel your bikini wax just yet, though. Keep in mind that the study only looked at patients already infected with molluscum contagiosum. Tons of people tend to their pubic hair but donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t contract an STI, says Tracy Zivin-Tutela, MD, an infectious disease expert at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City and a member of the American Academy of HIV Medicine.
In reality, getting professionally waxed is safer than shaving and riskier than laser hair removalÃ¢â‚¬”but any hair-removal method is pretty benign when done properly. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a waxer, make sure to pick a salon thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t violated any health codes, says Desruelles. The clinician should use new or sterile equipment, and they shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t double dip applicators into the wax during the treatment (since that can spread infection, says Zivin-Tutela).
If you do end up with any kind of cuts, redness, inflammation, or irritation post-hair removal, use an OTC cortisone cream or bacitracin to get rid of the problem ASAP, says Zeichner. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also a good idea to steer clear of sexual contact until your skin heals fully, he says. Holding off for a few days may be hard, but protecting your sexual health is so worth it.
The verdict: Almost any hair removal technique can result in skin damage that makes you more susceptible to STIsÃ¢â‚¬”but as long as your skin is in good shape, infection is still pretty unlikely. When it comes to waxing, stick to a sanitary salon to further reduce your risk.