Study Finds Association Between Bikini Waxing and STI Risk

Happy first day of spring! That’s right; even though we are still experiencing sub-zero temperatures in many parts of the country (Chicago weather today is brutal!), it is technically now spring. With spring, comes spring vacation and thoughts of warm weather and spending time at the beach. This month, women and men across the country will shed their parkas and start getting bathing suit ready. For many, this involves a certain amount of grooming, with respect to body hair. Before you get out your razor, clippers or wax, though, we wanted to give you a head’s up on an article, published in the upcoming issue of the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, suggesting that Brazilian waxing and other methods of pubic hair removal may increase the risk of catching certain skin infections through sex.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection “that results in round, firm, painless bumps ranging in size from a pinhead to a pencil eraser. If the bumps are scratched or injured, the infection can spread to surrounding skin.” Although this infection is most commonly found in children, Molluscum contagiosum involving genitals is considered to be a sexually transmitted infection that can affect adults (particularly those with weakened immune systems). In recent years, the spread of Molluscum contagiosum through sex has increased in some parts of the world, and researchers at a private health clinic in Nice, France wanted to know if the increasing popularity of pubic hair removal had anything to do with this.

A recent article in the Huffington Post states that French researchers focused their investigation on 30 patients (6 women and 24 men), with sexually transmitted Molluscum contagiosum, who visited their clinic in 2011 and 2012. 93 percent of these patients had removed their pubic hair through shaving (70 percent), clipping (13 percent) or waxing (10 percent) and 10 of the 30 had at least one other skin condition. The researchers found an association between pubic hair removal and an increased risk of contracting Molluscum contagiosum. It is important to note, however, that this association is not proof, and there were limitations to the study, such as small number of patients and the exclusion of a comparison group of people who are skin-infection free. Consequently, more research needs to be done.

Nonetheless, experts not involved with the study weighed in to say that pubic hair removal could theoretically increase the risk of genital skin infections and point to the fact that the small scratches or cuts to the skin that sometimes occur with hair removal can make it easier for viruses to establish infections. According to Dr. Robert Brodell, chief of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Division of Dermatology, “The body has a number of defense mechanisms to prevent infections. One of those is healthy skin.” He goes on to state that aberrations in the skin “open the door for catching the infections.”

Thus, although the jury is still out on the exact conclusiveness of this study and more investigation is necessary, it would be wise to keep this research in mind when you ready yourself for summer grooming. After all, a skin infection such as Molluscum contagiosum is one thing that might definitely make you think before putting on a bikini.