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Why you should never shave your bikini line, according to a gynaecologist

The Independent logo The Independent 30-08-2018 Olivia Petter

a hand holding a piece of paper © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Bikini season is well and truly upon us: cue the perennial debate surrounding pubic hair removal.

While some women choose to abstain altogether from the practice, research shows that the majority (87 per cent) engage in pubic hair maintenance, which naturally becomes more prevalent in summer thanks to swimwear-induced fears of “peeking out” of your bikini.

However, with 60 per cent of women experiencing at least one health complication as a direct result of pubic hair removal, experts warn that there can be adverse consequences to the practice, with shaving singled out as the worst offender.

Speaking to The Independent, Dr Vanessa Mackay, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, explained that pubic hair in the vaginal area can be fundamental to maintaining good feminine hygiene.

“Pubic hair offers a natural barrier to keep things clean, to decrease contact with viruses and bacteria, and to protect the tender skin of vulva,” she says.

Related: Nine reasons your skin is so itchy (Provided by Health.com)

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“While protecting against diseases and skin problems, pubic hair also prevents foreign particles like dust and pathogenic bacteria from entering the body and helps to control the moisture of the area which lowers the chances of yeast infections.”

Removing pubic hair - via shaving or waxing - can irritate and inflame the hair follicles left behind, she adds, which can leave microscopic open wounds.

“When that irritation is combined with the warm, moist environment of the genitals, it becomes a happy culture medium for bacterial pathogens which can cause diseases.”

Having pubic hair on the genital region also helps to minimise skin-on-skin contact with someone who may already have an STI and therefore will help to prevent contraction.

Shaving can be particularly detrimental because it puts women at a higher risk of contracting venereal disease, like genital warts, Mackay continues. 

© Provided by Shutterstock It can also lead to a series of uncomfortable minor injuries, such as razor burns, redness, blisters and itching.

Some women may choose to wax their pubic hair, as this can reduce overall hair growth overtime, whereas it's often disputed that shaving may promote the speed and thickness of growth.

However, even this technique is not immune from issues, as both methods can lead to ingrown hairs: when hairs grow out of the skin only to curl back and re-enter, manifesting in a small bump.

While most ingrown hairs are harmless and will disappear on their own, the NHS advises avoiding squeezing them out on your own as this may cause skin damage and/or infection, some can be extremely painful and become infected or inflamed.

This is known as folliculitis and in most cases, it will clear up on its own.

In severe cases, your GP may provide antibiotics to treat the condition.

Related: 8 Super-Common STD Symptoms In Women (Provided by Women's Health)

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