If getting a bikini wax is your regular method for down-there grooming, you may want to reconsider
In my mid-twenties, I got my first bikini wax. About six weeks after that, I got my first Brazilian. I remember the odd feeling of leaving that appointment, realizing that nobody I passed on the street had any idea I was completely bare down there. In some way, it felt like a rite of passage; an entrance into a superficial lady tribe. I had braved my first Brazilian. Despite the actual process, I liked the end result. It wasn’t until about six months later that I had pause about the whole operation.
One morning, I discovered two or three strange bumps along my labia—this is the most I’ve ever divulged publicly about my lady parts, so bear with me—they were small and looked almost like zits. I went into instant hysterics. I racked my brain for previous sexual partners who could have given me an STD and made an appointment with my gynecologist immediately, bracing myself for bad news.
When I told my gyno what was happening, she did what looked—or maybe just felt—like an eye roll. (She wasn't the warmest, so I stopped going to her shortly after this.) But what she told me stuck in my mind: "I'm not convinced it’s an STD," she said, and, thankfully, she was right. Then she went on to tell me how she always discouraged her patients from getting waxed. "It’s not normal to rip the hairs out of your skin, especially in a place as sensitive as the vagina. And those waxing places almost always double dip." I was horrified. Double dipped? Like with guacamole at a party? Even that is kind of gross. I told her the place I go to is a really clean, reputable salon and... "Doesn’t matter"—she cut me off, gave me some antibiotic cream, and sent me on my way.
The bumps subsided in a few weeks and all was right with my va-gine. But I kept thinking about how, in her mind, the wax, the materials, the facilities, were all just bastions of infestation (I guess it made sense why my vagina and my gyno were a little irritated). But I wasn't sure if she was completely right—at least not in a grand, sweeping “every woman should stop waxing” way. Frankly, I didn’t need the grief, or the breakouts, so I decided to find alternate methods of down-there grooming.
But should I really have given up waxing? In a 2014 study of 333 women ages 16-40, 87 percent have a current pubic-hair-removal regimen of some kind, and the other 13 percent have tried hair removal in the past. Yup, 100 percent percent of the women have groomed at least once, and out of those women, 60 percent admitted to having some kind of problem relating to hair removal—but very few (4 percent) talked to a doctor about it.
Anytime we wax or shave, we are opening up the pores and making ourselves more susceptible to infection, says Whitney Bowe, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. We have hair down there to “protect the fragile, delicate mucosal tissue of the vagina and the urethra,” she says. “These openings are lined by very delicate tissue that needs protection from allergens, pollutants, irritants, and infectious microbes. The hairs act like a protective barrier.”
But Bowe is also not a huge fan of waxing, mainly because of all the ingrown hairs. “Waxing not only pulls the hair by the root, but it can also disrupt the [follicle] that helps guide the hair from the root to the surface," she says. "So when a new hair tries to grow from the root, it can get stuck beneath the surface, causing an ingrown.” [For the full story head to Refinery29!]