Friday Weird Science: When pubic hair gets public

Feb 08 2013 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

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:

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? 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

8 responses so far

  • figleaf says:

    While the American trend in pubic grooming for "glamour" is pretty recent whole cultures full of people have done it since at least antiquity for entirely more prosaic reasons: to control lice, heat rash, etc. that again in most of the rest of the world don't exactly scream "oooh sexaaay."

    While it's not new elsewhere we do seem to going about it all the wrong ways here. Like most everything else we do if we give it a sexual connotation.

    If we didn't overload it with so much oo-la-la I wonder if we wouldn't either a) learn something from men since we've had to shave our faces for generations now or else b) see more papers consolidating the sometimes appalling lacerations or chemical burns men sometimes get. (Note: a man shaving his beard for the first time in several years can be subject to almost all the injuries and infections that can befall him when he first shaves other convoluted, capillary- and nerve-ending-rich parts of his body.)

    Final point: don't sell short the equanimity of ER staff! And don't oversell the idea that embarrassment and/or fear of offending ER staff's sensibilities should keep people from going if they need to. Because between sports injuries, hot coffee spills, the aftermath of fights and assaults, bike accidents, births, miscarriage, hernias, twisted testicles, pistol-in-the-pants accidents, TSS and TSLS admissions, the need to clean up after trauma-induced loss of bowel or bladder control, catheter insertions, or even routine zipper catches, treating someone with a "personal grooming" accident whether slight or severe probably won't so much as raise a doctor or nurse's eyebrows, let alone give them reason to gossip about you later. They've seen sillier, and they've seen worse. Unless it's the beginning of their shift they may have seen sillier and worse already that day. So if you think you should go to the ER don't worry, just go!


  • CyberLizard says:

    The worst side-effect of grooming the forest down there is the little "pube-tribbles" I leave on the bathroom floor. At least according to my girlfriend.

    I attended a class on genital shaving given by a licensed, professional barber who performs said shaving as part of the services offered in his salon. The class was at Frolicon so not quite mainstream-accessible. But very fun and informative none the less.

  • JaySeeDub says:

    This appropriate for a twitter conversation...

  • llewelly says:

    over 100 million people grooming their crotches, and only 335 ER visits?
    Sounds very safe. Probably at least as safe as showering.

  • [...] Friday Weird Science: When pubic hair gets public | Neurotic Physiology RT @pzmyers: Damn. There goes my pubic topiary project. RT @holland_tom: how bad pubic hair grooming injuries can get, [...]

  • K says:

    If I saw a man who shaved down there, first I would burst out into laughter for emulating women, who emulate children with no body hair. Then I'd leave because it is a huge turn off to see a man look like a prepubescent child. Clearly, this whole shaving thing has gotten out of hand. Someone tell the men to, you know, man up and act

  • K2 says:

    Why is that whenever the topic of pubic hair removal comes up, someone invariably claims that the only reason you'd ever do so would be an attempt to look prepubescent? Shaving your bits does not magically make them look like those of a 10 year old kid (especially for men, but also women). And, even if that was the major point of shaving your bits, and this was agreed to be a bad thing, where is the outrage over all the men who shave their faces to look like children? Or women who shave their legs/underarms/upper lips? Hair growth in all of those places is a sign of physical maturity so, obviously, anyone who removes said hair must be trying to look like a child. And anyone who prefers that look must prefer looking at children.

    I couldn't guess the number of women I've heard say that men look ridiculous with a mustache and/or beard, yet I hardly think they were all secretly into little boys. Shaving of legs and underarms is the norm for women (at least in North America), but I don't think appreciating this is cause for alarm. And what about competitive bodybuilders, who shave and oil every inch of skin? Are all of the people in the audience there to look at adults who look like children? No, because the presence (or absence) of body hair isn't an important enough signal to override the other visuals.

    It's a choice. If you choose it, great! If you let your hair grow until you resemble Sasquatch, great! But don't malign those who choose differently, and don't pretend to know their reasons.

  • idlemind says:

    Shorter K: get off of my [pubic] lawn!

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