Depilation of intimate areas may seem just a cosmetic treatment whose only impact is related to one’s subjective sense of beauty. Is this really true? The possible health effects of removing pubic hair are discussed by Dr hab. Andrzej Galbarczyk from the Institute of Public Health of the JU Medical College.
Urinary tract infections are a very common problem mainly affecting women . The results of our study suggest that pubic hair can protect young woman from recurrent urinary infections.
Before discussing the abovementioned issue, let us briefly turn our attention to facial hair. The idea behind our project originated from my reading of an article on bacteria inhabiting faces of bearded males working at hospitals. The authors of the study assumed that only a clean shaven face ensures a proper hygiene level among the hospital staff. To their surprise, it turned out that the faces covered with a thick beard were less likely to be colonised by dangerous bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus . Further research confirmed these results, indicating that beards are inhabited by ‘good’ bacteria, which produce substances hindering the growth of pathogenic bacteria .
If facial hair is so beneficial to the owner’s health, it seems that the hair growing in the lower part of the body should have similar properties. In fact, beards and pubic hair have a lot in common – they start to grow during puberty and look almost the same.
In order to check whether this is true, we have designed a study, during which we have asked almost two and a half thousand young women about their habits related to removing pubic hair and the occurrence of urinary tract infections. Among these females, we identified those who completely removed their pubic hair. Taking into account such factors as age, sexual activity, use of spermicides, and history of previous urinary tract infections, we have found that although those women who totally removed their pubic hair did not differ from others in terms of the risk of suffering from at least one urinary tract infection a year, they were three times more likely to suffer from recurring urinary tract infections, occurring three or more times per year.
For many people, the removal of pubic hair has become an indispensable part of personal hygiene. Yet, it turns out that we need to rethink our perception of what is clean and hygienic. Our results have shown that pubic hair can play an important part in protecting the body against harmful pathogens. It is known that pubic hair is inhabited by bacteria specific to this area . Possibly, similarly to bacteria inhabiting beards, they protect us from pathogenic bacteria. By getting rid of pubic hair, we also get rid of this protection.
To sum up, although pubic hair does not provide full protection against urinary tract diseases, it should be stressed that women suffering from recurring urinary tract diseases are strongly advised to reconsider their decision to entirely remove them.
The Polish version of article, available at nauka.uj.edu.pl has originally been published on the JU MC Institute of Public Health Blog.
Dr hab. Andrzej Galbarczyk
Department of Health and Environment
Institute of Public Health
Faculty of Health Sciences
Galbarczyk, A., Marcinkowska, U., Klimek, M., Jasieńska, G., Early-life adversities and later-life reproductive patterns in women with fully traced reproductive history. Scientific Reports 13, 19045 (2023).
Yang, X. et al.Disease burden and long-term trends of urinary tract infections: A worldwide report. Front. Public Health 10, 888205 (2022).
Wakeam, E. et al.Bacterial ecology of hospital workers’ facial hair: A cross-sectional study. J. Hosp. Infect.87, 63–67 (2014).
Harahap, I. Exploration of antibiotic producing bacteria from the human beard. In International Conference of CELSciTech 2019-Science and Technology track (ICCELST-ST 2019)106–111 (Atlantis Press, 2019).
Tridico, S. R., Murray, D. C., Addison, J., Kirkbride, K. P. & Bunce, M. Metagenomic analyses of bacteria on human hairs: A qualitative assessment for applications in forensic science. Investig. Genet.5, 1–13 (2014).