It is more than coincidence. It is FATE that brought us today's Friday Weird Science. First, Mr. S alerted me to the reviews for this hair removal product. Warning: do not read the reviews unless you have the space and time to laugh til you cry. As a brief excerpt:
I didn't have long to wait. At first there was a gentle warmth which in a matter of seconds was replaced by an intense burning and a feeling I can only describe as like being given a barbed wire wedgie by two people intent on hitting the ceiling with my head. Religion hadn't featured much in my life until that night but I suddenly became willing to convert to any religion to stop the violent burning around the turd tunnel and what seemed like the destruction of the meat and two veg.
It gets better. Read them all. There's even one in verse!
So my mind was already on the subject of grooming in the nether regions when I received a tweet from Bug_Girl:
— Bug G. Membracid (@bug_girl) January 6, 2013
The tweet linked to the following study, and today's weird science was born.
Because let's be honest: we've all thought about the hair down there. Is there too much? Too little? How much is enough? How much should you even care? Even if you decided you don't care at all, you still put in the time to contemplate the grooming of your nether regions. And if you HAVE groomed below, there's probably been more than one...close shave. After all, it's tough to see and there are shapes and folds and I don't know what all.
And so it may not surprise you much to know that some people do indeed take it a bit too far. So far, in fact, they end up in the ER.
Glass et al. "Pubic Hair Grooming Injuries Presenting
to U.S. Emergency Departments" Urology, 2012.
(There is no safe for work image I can use here. Instead, I present this partially shaved poodle. As a metaphor. Source)
Why look at pubic hair grooming? Well, until very recently in human history, it was something that...most of the time didn't exist. But with the advent of mass pornography and the decrease in bathing suit coverage (at least for women), came the advent of...well, hair-scaping. It is now estimated that between 70 and 88% of women remove some or all of their pubic hair. Unfortunately, "some or all" could mean everything from a simple bikini line trim to a full on Brazilian, so the exact grooming habits involved still need some research.
But of course, when people take to their nether regions with hair removal products (forget Veet and Nair, there's also hot wax and your regular old straight razor, and tweezers, if you like to do it the hard way), there's bound to be a few injuries. It's hard to see down there!
But what kind of injuries? And how many? How will we know the relative delicacy of the American population when dealing with the hair down there?
After all, we've probably all dealt with a nick or two. But there are some nicks that can't be ignored, and some that are enough to send you to the ER. In fact, between 2002 and 2010 there were 335 ER visits as a result of grooming products. The number increased pretty impressively over time, with 1/3 of all injuries occurring in the last year of the study, probably as a result of increased grooming popularity. It's split rather evenly between women and men, but the men tend to be older (average age 30 vs 25 for the women). I wonder if men get the idea of manscaping later in life?
Non-electric razors (the usual kind) accounted for 81.9% of all the injuries, with hot wax accounting for only 1.4%. Men suffered particularly from scissor injury (trimming it up rather than shaving it off).
The primary injury? Laceration, of course. And if it's laceration bad enough to give up your dignity and go to the ER, I have to assume that was way more than just a nick. Obviously, due to the huge number of nerves in the area, any pain you're going to feel down there is going to be pretty severe. There was also a good amount of rash reports, and things like infected follicles (owie). The authors note with some surprise that only women suffered injuries from hot wax. Perhaps men just aren't that convinced about waxing, or maybe they're just too nervous about going to the ER with an...awkward hot wax injury.
It should be noted that most of the injuries resulted from regular use of a product, the razor slips, the wax was too hot, you know. But 2% of the injuries resulted from MISuse of a product (hello, VEET for men!).
Examples, identiﬁed with our NEISS search term criteria, included
the use of the shaving cream lid to control bleeding from
a vaginal cut, self-circumcision with scissors, slip and fall
on a razor with external genital injury, use of a razor to
incise genital lesions, razor handle assault by another
person, ritualistic genital cutting, and shaving skin over
a spider bite.
For most of these, I can only respond with a look of total shock. But really, why on EARTH did you use a shaving cream lid to try and stop bleeding? How...how does that even WORK? And I would have loved to see the third person in the ER "Hi, um...I'm bleeding...down there...I slipped and fell and impaled my cootchie snorcher on the razor blade!". And finally, I have to wonder...shaving over a spide bite is of course horrid in and of itself, but HOW did someone get a spider bite where the sun don't shine!? That must have been one desperate spider.
But at least they were more specific in this study when looking at different types of injury. Previous studies were not so careful:
CPSC issued a Hazards Screening Report in 2005,
describing injuries related to “personal use” products
from 1997 to 2003. Individual product categories included
electric grooming devices, unpowered grooming devices,
and grooming devices nonspeciﬁed, in addition to other
categories such as clothing, eye glasses, and shopping carts.
I don't know if I want to know about the shopping cart.
But there is one serious question that isn't address in this paper. The authors state that more people are grooming the hair down there, but they do not address where people LEARN to attend to their nethers. And the fact is, this isn't exactly something you learn from your mom or dad (if you DID learn this from your mom or dad, then good for them, and you probably won't end up in the ER from horrid misuse of wax). If you were lucky, you had a friend or two who was ahead of the curve and who you could trust to give your pointers (and not to, say, play a hilarious practical joke by suggesting you use VEET on your junk). But most of us, probably, figured it out on our own, through trial, error, some hilarious lower hair styles, and some small nicks or burns.
And that's the real problem. There are professionals you can go to to get a wax, sure, but if you want to DIY? Is there a safe place to learn how to do this? I feel like this is something that there should be a safe space for people to learn, rather than just taking a razor to your tenderest parts, you know what I mean?
But in the meantime, if you, like many, have learned through trial and error, be careful out there when trimming down the carpet. As we have seen, that's an AWFULLY awkward thing to try and explain in the ER.
Glass, A., Bagga, H., Tasian, G., Fisher, P., McCulloch, C., Blaschko, S., McAninch, J., & Breyer, B. (2012). Pubic Hair Grooming Injuries Presenting to U.S. Emergency Departments Urology, 80 (6), 1187-1191 DOI: 10.1016/j.urology.2012.08.025