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One in Four People Have Hurt Themselves From Grooming Their Pubes

And almost 10 percent of people who got hurt developed an infection.

Susan  Rinkunas

Susan Rinkunas

Sujata Jana / EyeEm / Getty Images

Last summer, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, released what was believed to be the first nationally representative assessment of women's pubic hair grooming habits. Now, UCSF researchers have published a study looking into the undercarriage maintenance of both men and women. Equality!

Why is this worth studying? Benjamin Breyer, a UCSF urologist and co-author of the study, told the Guardian that he and his colleagues are interested in people's pube routines because they've been surprised to see how many people are getting hurt: A previous study found that 3 percent of people who went to emergency rooms with an injury to their reproductive or urinary organs were there because of grooming injuries. But that study only captured issues that warranted a trip to the ER. If doctors can ID people who are at risk of injuries, maybe they can talk to them about safer grooming habits during routine appointments.

For the new study in JAMA Dermatology, the team had a nationally representative group of people ages 18 to 65 fill out an online survey on their pubic hair grooming habits, including the age they started, frequency, and instrument used, and if they've ever hurt themselves.

About 7,500 people completed the survey and 76 percent (5,674 out of 7,456 people) said they had groomed their nethers at least once, specifically 67 percent of men and 85 percent of women. Most people said they tidy their garden themselves, using razors (47 percent), electric razors (27 percent), followed by scissors (18 percent), and waxing (3 percent). Less than 1 percent of people said they used electrolysis and laser hair removal.

They found that about 26 percent of the grooming cohort had hurt themselves, which accounted for 24 percent of men and 27 percent of women. (It makes some sense that the rate is higher in women, since more of them reported grooming in the first place.) As anyone who's ever shaved around a kneecap, ankle, or chin knows, razors can present challenges when coming into contact with curved body parts. So it's not surprising that 61 percent of the injuries were related to lacerations, aka cuts (though razors were also the most-used instrument). Burns and rashes were the next most common types of injuries reported, at 23 percent and 12 percent, respectively; burns could be the result of waxing and hair removal creams.

Lots of people got hurt repeatedly: two thirds said they'd been injured more than once and almost a third said they'd had at least five grooming-related injuries in their lifetime. While most of these injuries were not serious, 1.4 percent of pube-cutters said they injured themselves badly enough to require some kind of medical attention, like needing antibiotics, draining of abscesses, or stitches to close a wound. Almost 10 percent of people who got hurt said they developed an infection as a result.

Men are most likely to hurt their balls, penis, and mons pubis, which is the area where there's an upside down triangle of pubic hair. For women, it's the mons pubis that bears the brunt, followed by the inner thigh and the labia.

Here are some fun heatmaps of injury by location. (Don't the nuts look angry?)

This heatmap shows that injuries (n = 562) were most common in the scrotum (378 [67.2%]), followed by the penis (196 [34.8%]), and pubis (162 [28.9%]). Less common were the inner thigh (86 [15.3%]), perineum (52 [9.3%]), and anus (17 [3.1%]). Other areas account for 3.1%. Courtesy: JAMA Dermatology
This heatmap shows that injuries (n = 868) were most common at the pubis (445 [51.3%]), followed by the inner thigh (340 [44.9%]) and vagina (369 [42.5%]). Less common were injuries to the perineum (115 [13.2%]) and the anus (48 [5.5%]). Other areas account for 1.4%. Courtesy: JAMA Dermatology

The frequency and degree of grooming—like removing all of one's pubes multiple times—were risk factors associated with injury. As Breyer told the Guardian: "You are getting at all the nooks and crannies of your body. You are going to get places you can't see very well and that probably in turn leads to a greater likelihood of getting injured."

Men who described themselves as hairy were also more likely to report injury compared to men who didn't think they were hirsute. Men were more likely to hurt themselves if they groomed while standing versus squatting or sitting. Neither hairiness nor grooming position were significant for women in terms of injury rates. Women who mostly used waxing were less likely than other women to report being injured five or more times.

The authors note that the study is based on self-reported data, so it may not reflect all of the injuries people experienced (people would definitely remember a trip to the ER for a pube abscess but they might not remember minor issues). And perhaps people weren't entirely forthcoming about their pube mishaps, although they weren't telling this info to a person, they filled out an anonymous survey online (the authors did acknowledge that some people might have been worried about results somehow becoming public). Lastly, the survey was also conducted more than three years ago, in January 2014, so unclear what the responses would look like today. And because the people who groom (and get injured doing so) are more likely to be younger, the problem could get worse. The authors wrote:

We found significantly greater prevalence of grooming among younger groups. This finding could signify a generational trend, indicating that this behavior may continue to become more universal as the population ages.

Overall, the study found that most people don't get hurt from pube maintenance, but the ones who do tend to be repeat injure-ers. So if that's you, maybe you need to come up with a new game plan. "One lesson to take from this is that if you have had significant grooming injuries, or keep getting injured, you should reconsider the areas you groom, how frequently you do it, and the extent to which you do it," Breyer told Time. He said he also plans to look into the relationship between grooming injuries and sexually transmitted infections to see if these cuts and burns might put people at a higher risk for STIs.

In last year's study, women said they groomed for various reasons, including for "hygienic purposes," to make their vagina "look nicer," make oral sex easier, and because their partner preferred it. But if you're repeatedly getting hurt from mowing the lawn, it might also be time to ask if your reasons for doing so are truly worth it.

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