Wax On: Study Finds No Link Between ‘Extreme’ Grooming, STDs In Women

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Women who shave or wax their pubic hair don’t raise their risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), according to a study by researchers at Ohio State University. These findings are especially noteworthy because they contradict previous research, which suggested a connection between “extreme grooming” and elevated odds of contracting chlamydia or gonorrhea.

The researchers focused on laboratory-confirmed diagnoses of two common STDs, chlamydia and gonorrhea, among 214 female college students.

The research team looked for possible links between “extreme grooming,” defined in this case as the removal of all pubic hair at least weekly, or at least six times in the past month, and testing positive for either STD. By the end of their research, they had found no connection.

Jamie Luster, the study’s lead author and a former graduate student at Ohio State, said that she personally wasn’t surprised by the study’s findings because there really has never been an established biological reason why shaving pubic hair would lead to increased susceptibility to STDs.

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Each participating woman in the study had visited the campus location at Ohio State for STD testing and filled out a questionnaire on their typical grooming and sexual habits. In all, 98% of the participants said they had done some grooming, and between 18-54% of participants were extreme groomers, based off of two measures used.

Participants also agreed to share their STD test results with researchers; 10% tested positive for a type of STD.

While the research team admit that the scope of their study was relatively small, they believe it is important for women the world over to realize that shaving pubic hair does not definitively lead to more STDs. They believe more research is needed on the topic in order to make a final conclusion one way or the other.

When it comes to protecting oneself against STDs, researchers recommend that men and women alike take more sure-fire approaches such as staying in a monogamous relationship with an STD-free partner and properly using condoms.

This study also took into account previously disregarded factors such as frequency of sexual activity, age, race, and income.

“Particularly concerning is that previous work didn’t adjust for sexual frequency. It could be that women who were having more sex with more people – and were therefore more likely to contract infections – were more likely to be grooming,” says Ohio State associate professor of epidemiology and study advisor Maria Gallo in a university release.

Furthermore, this study sets itself apart from similar research by only using laboratory confirmed cases of STDs, not participants’ self-reports like previous investigations had relied upon.

“Previous research asked participants if they’d ever had a sexually transmitted infection, but didn’t measure whether they had one at the time of survey. That makes connecting any current grooming habits to STDs difficult,” Gallo says.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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