Your personal grooming preferences could mean you’re at higher risk for a sexually transmitted disease.
A new study done at the University of California, San Francisco shows there is a positive correlation between people who regularly groom their pubic hair and those who have been infected with STDs. Among those who were classified as non-groomers, about 8 percent reported ever being infected with an STD, and among groomers 14 percent reported being infected by an STD.
Among extreme groomers, who removed all pubic hair more than 11 times per year, about 18 percent reported STDs, compared to 15 percent of high-frequency groomers who trim daily or weekly, and 14 percent of low-frequency groomers, who trimmed less often. The increased risk of infection was true for every STD studied, which included herpes, human papillomavirus, syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, HIV and lice.
The study’s authors give four possibilities for why that relationship occurs, though they say more study is needed to say for sure. One possibility is that grooming will frequently result in microtears to the skin, which increases the risk of infection during sexual contact.
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Other possibilities include those who groom being more prone to risky sexual behaviors, shared use of grooming tools leading to the transference of STDs (there is a documented case of one brother passing HIV to another when they shared a razor blade) and reverse causality, meaning people who are infected with STDs are more likely to take up grooming.
“Grooming is known to be a surrogate for sexual activity and could prompt physicians to inquire about safer sex practices if evidence of grooming is seen on physical examination,” the study states. “Alternatively, if grooming-induced epidermal microtears are found to increase STI risk, then groomers could be counseled to reduce their amount or frequency of grooming, or to delay sexual activity after grooming, to allow the skin to re-epithelise.”
There were a total of 7,580 respondents to the study between the ages of 18 and 65. About three-fourths reported some kind of grooming of their pubic hair, 66 percent of men and 84 percent of women. Groomers on average reported a higher amount of sexual partners, both annually and over their lifetimes, and tended to be younger than non-groomers.
Most groomers of both sexes reported using some sort of razor as their tool. Scissor usage was also common. Only 5 percent of women and 0 percent of men reported waxing habits.
STD reports have been on the rise, with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announcing in October that “total combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reported in 2015 reached the highest number ever.”
“We have reached a decisive moment for the nation,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “STD rates are rising, and many of the country’s systems for preventing STDs have eroded. We must mobilize, rebuild and expand services – or the human and economic burden will continue to grow.”