Actress Cameron Diaz is causing girls across the nation to gasp (and blush a bit) with her candid talk about pubic hair.  In her new book, The Body Book, Diaz commented on a new trend among women… permanant removal of hair from our lady parts. 

“The idea that vaginas are preferable in a hairless stae is a pretty recent phenomenon, and all fads change, people”, said Diaz.  She added, “Pubic hair also serves as a pretty draping that makes it a little mystrious to the one who might be courting your sexiness”. 

It got me to thinking about the clinical ramifications of our landscaping choices.  So I reached out to my good friend, Dr. Melody T. McCloud, Ob-Gyn and author of LIVING WELL:  The Black Woman’s Guide to Health, Sex and Happiness, for a little Q&A.

S&LF:  WHAT IS THE CLINICAL PURPOSE OF PUBIC HAIR?

Dr. McCloud:  As a champion of the way the Creator made our bodies, there seems to be a function for everything, even public hair. Pubic hair 1) helps keep the mid-parts warm. 2) The hair protects the more delicate vaginal area from superficial bacterial exposure. 3) It helps prevent friction during sex, though some guys may get ‘burn’ from the hair (but also, they can surely get ‘burn’ when there’s no hair, or there’s stubble after women have shaved it off).

S&LF:  WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF REMOVING ALL PUBIC HAIR? 

Dr. McCloud:  Removing pubic hair can cause a myriad of problems, mostly infections and scarring. When women shave their pubic hair, they greatly increase the risk of small nicks in the skin underneath (that soft-pad of fat underneath the pubic hair area is called the ‘mons pubis.’)

 Shaving pubic hair can cause inflammation of the hair follicles; women can get pustules–small abscess filled with pus [bacteria]. Sometimes these small abscesses can become big ones and we have to lance/incise/cut the area to let the areas drain. That is no fun for anyone and may leave a scar.

 With less pubic hair, there may and will be more friction of the man’s organs against the woman’s mons pubis. This, again, can irritate the delicate tissue and cause small breaks in the skin and/or bacteria and irritation at the hair root.

 Additionally, since the hair can provide some protection from infection, with it gone, women are likely at greater risk to more direct contact from STDs such as gonorrhea and Herpes.

S&LF:  DOES HAIR REMOVAL DECREASE CHANCES OF BODY ODOR? 

Dr. McCloud:  Removing pubic hair can actually INCREASE the risk of STDs and infection. 

Re: odor…I have always told women to literally ‘shampoo’ their pubic hair when they shower/bathe. Yes, intentionally use your soap/shower wash and gently shampoo the entire area of your pubic hair. BUT always make sure you dry the hair well afterwards after every bathing/showering experience because water droplets can capture bacteria. Since the vaginal area is trapped all day in underwear, sometimes pantyhose, or Spanx or other shapewear, the closed, dark area can get hot, moist and that’s a prime breeding ground for bacteria to grow.  Hair removal  may decrease body odor, but not if your hair follicles have gotten infected from the razor nicks and you develop micro-abscesses. 

S&LF:  SOME WOMEN DYE THEIR PUBIC HAIR.  IS THAT SAFE? 

Dr. McCloud:  I personally would not recommend that women use these things. The chemicals in these agents…? There’s a chance of skin irritation, allergy, outbreaks, maybe even burns for those with very sensitive skin. I know, however, that many women use these products and some other doctors might say they are okay. I think some things should just be left alone, left natural.

 S&LF:  MANY HOME KITS FOR WAXING AND LASER HAIR REMOVAL… WOULD YOU RECOMMEND WOMEN TRY THIS.

Dr. McCloud:  I personally would not recommend these methods, though some doctors might.

 S&LF:  WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING AS A GYN… BRAZILIAN, BIKINI, NO HAIR, MORE HAIR

Dr. McCloud:  Years ago, most women left things as the are–natural, with the natural ‘diamond’ distribution. In the past 20 years, however, women have all types of different “hair styles” on their private part:

 –There’s the natural hair distribution  (mostly trimmed, though sometimes looking like Cornel West’s hair).

–There’s the “landing strip” or “runway” design, where there’s a little bit of hair–closely shaved–that courses atop the vaginal opening, so the guy can ‘come in for a landing,’ (just in case he doesn’t know where he’s supposed to go! LOL). [NOTE: Hoda Kotb said on Today that she has a ‘landing strip.’]

–Then, there’s the bald-style, or as some say, the ‘pre-pubescent” look (like young girls before puberty).

–Some people do curly-Q’s or initials.

–Who does what might be ~age-related. The younger set are mostly a bit more adventurous and creative, but so are women just post-divorce or those who are cougars. Some just want to try it…but for many, when it grows back, it can itch like hell, and as women scratch, them may break the skin (excoriate themselves) and that may lead to infection.

 S&LF:  ARE THERE SPECIAL ISSUES AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN FACE WITH HAIR REMOVAL?

I’ve always found it interesting to see that, even if the scalp hair texture is “nappy” by origin, some Black women have “nappy/kinky” pubic hair, while others have silky pubic hair.

 With coarser hair, women might be more inclined to use depilatories. If not, and they still wish to remove the pubic hair, I’d say to only do it when wet and lathered well to try to prevent razor drag and nicks.

 MAN TALK–Dr. McCloud also  interviewed some male friends on this issue.  Here are some of their comments:

–“I don’t really care about the hair as long as the whole area is clean.”

–“I don’t like it shaved bare. It makes me feel like I’m with an 8 year old, and I don’t do children. I like some hair there. Is she a grown woman? Then she should have hair there.”

–“I don’t like it wild and gnarly. Some folks hair is wild and you can’t play with it, it’s so tight.”

–“I’m okay if it’s in the natural way and shape, but I like the runway. Anything that cuts down on odor and on scratching my face, I’m good. :-)

–“Leave it alone! I don’t want fancy designs. I’m a real man; I like women to look and smell like they should.” Oh, as long as it’s clean. And don’t hit me with all the perfumy stuff. If I want peach mango, I’ll go to the grocery store.”