Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/10/2020
It wasn’t so long ago that a full bush was all the rage — just look at any Playboy centerfold from the 1980s or earlier.
But in the decades that followed, less became more when it came to pubic hair.
Commercials suggested depilatory creams so we could wear short shorts, laser hair removal clinics popped up in cities across the country, and the women of Sex and the City introduced us to joy and pain of waxing.
One 2015 study found that most women have groomed their pubic hair at some point, with half of the women in the study reporting that they took it all off.
This new-found interest in hairlessness has some public health benefits — the incidence of pubic lice (also known as crabs) was reported to be way down worldwide in a 2014 study.
On an individual level, however, there may be some unpleasant results.
One study found that over 60 percent of participants had experienced at least one minor health complication as a result of pubic hair removal. Skin abrasions and ingrown hairs were the most common.
Hair — whether it is on your head or between your legs — grows out of follicles. Hairs are supposed to grow up from those follicles through the skin, but sometimes they can curve around and go back under the skin.
This is an ingrown hair. Ingrown hairs happen after hair has been removed and can appear anywhere you have waxed, shaved or plucked.
Of course, curly hair is more likely to curve around and grow back under the skin, so it makes sense that our genitals are vulnerable.
In women, ingrown hairs can appear anywhere on the vagina, and especially in areas where more hair tends to naturally grow. They can also appear on our thighs, back end or anywhere else hair grows on our bodies.
Ingrown hairs usually appear as a bump, pimple, or dark spot. They often go away on their own, so if you see one but it’s not bothering you, it’s generally best to just leave it alone.
But if it’s itching, hurting or just plain old annoying, there are a few things you can try to help it heal quickly:
Stop shaving or waxing the affected area, as it may further irritate the follicle
Use a warm compress to soften the skin and open the pores.
If you’re going to tweeze, tweeze only in the direction of the hair growth — but do not pick at the infected area. Like, not even a little bit. It’ll only make it worse and prolong healing.
Use topical ointments like benzoyl peroxide or even a retinoid like tretinoin.
Be patient. Like any type of infection, it can take a few days to heal and return to normal.
If all else fails and you notice no progress on the healing of your ingrown hair, the best thing to do is call your healthcare provider to discuss further treatment options.
The one way to prevent ingrown pubic hair is to go au natural but there are a few things that those who want to tame the tresses can do to prevent this and other complications.
When shaving, always use a sharp, clean razor. Shave with hot water and always use shaving cream or gel.
If you’re going to tweeze, tweeze only in the direction of the hair growth.
Be careful not to make things worse by over-waxing or over-shaving the affected area.
Always, always moisturize the affected area after a hair removal treatment.
The truth is that pubic hair exists for a reason. From a health perspective, there’s no reason for us to remove it.
But, today’s fashion says otherwise, and until bushy makes a comeback, it’s likely that many of us will continue to allow sharp razors, hot wax and even lasers (under professional guidance, of course) to come in contact with our most sensitive skin.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re prone to ingrown hairs, make sure you’re practicing proper precautions, keeping the area clean and moisturized and not setting yourself up for failure.