Is getting ready for the day at the beach or poolside mean that you’ll be visiting your aesthetician for a waxing? Or do you feel you need to clean things up “down there” before your upcoming OB/GYN appointment?
If so, you’re in good company. According to a recent study published in JAMA’s journal Dermatology, 84 percent of the 3,300 women surveyed reported some grooming of their pubic hair.
Two thirds of respondents completely removed their pubic hair, a practice that is increasingly being seen by gynecologists. This coincides with another trend – more women getting genital cosmetic surgery or labiaplasty.
“Although women associate pubic grooming with health and hygiene, from a medical standpoint, the practice is not healthier or better.”
While grooming is practiced by women of all ages and races, younger women (18 to 34 years) are more likely to groom. Grooming is associated with white women and some education, but is not associated with marital status or income. Women over age 45 are far less likely to groom.
A common misconception among women is they think they are dirty or unclean if they don’t groom. So it’s not exactly surprising an overwhelming majority of women stated that they groom for personal hygiene.
The reality is that pubic hair is important. The hair cushions the area and helps to prevent harmful bacteria from reaching the vaginal opening.
Whether you groom because it makes you feel better about yourself or because your partner prefers it that way, always exercise great caution. The various methods used to remove pubic hair, including shaving, waxing and trimming, can cause cuts and minor tears in the skin leading to irritation and infection to the sensitive area.
The best approach to vaginal health is maintaining the balance of naturally-occurring beneficial bacteria, which can be disrupted by douching, taking antibiotics and eating sugary foods. Follow these guidelines for healthy fare “down there”.
Stay Clean Naturally
Douching products combine water with vinegar, iodine or baking soda and are marketed for when “you don’t feel so clean”. Studies show that there are no health benefits to douching and in fact the practice can lead to health problems. Gynecologists do not recommend douching because the practice changes the pH balance of the vagina and upsets the natural balance of beneficial bacteria.
Upsetting the balance of vaginal flora promotes bacterial vaginosis. The chemicals in douches can also irritate the lining of the vagina. Simply washing with warm water and a mild, unscented soap is sufficient to keep things clean. Opt for brands like Sweet Spot Labs which offer vaginal washes and wipettes that use natural ingredients (grapefruit, neroli or vanilla) and are pH balanced.
Limit Use of Antibiotics
Some women seem to be more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) than others. Like bacterial vaginosis, a UTI develops when the bad bacteria that normally reside in the urethra overpopulate and cause symptoms of irritation, burning and itching.
If you’ve been on a course of antibiotics to treat a UTI or another bacterial infection, the upside is symptomatic relief from killing off the excess of bad bacteria; the downside is that the beneficial flora that line your digestive and reproductive tract are wiped out too. This bacterial imbalance can lead to the overgrowth of Candida, a fungus that normally resides in the vagina. The best cure is to prevent an UTI from occurring. You can do this by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day, avoiding irritating products like deodorant sprays, and emptying your bladder soon after intercourse.
Feed the Beneficial Bacteria
Steer clear of added sugars found in beverages and many processed foods. These foods encourage the development of “bad” bacteria. Instead, load up your diet with fruits, vegetables, nut & seeds which are a good source of fiber. Add probiotic-containing foods like yogurt and kefir to your diet. And, take a broad-spectrum probiotic supplement like Probiotic-8, or any of our other probiotics for women.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.