Pubic hair: beyond brazilians, more than manscaping

From Hollywood waxes and vajazzles, to bleaching and piercing, there are seemingly endless ways to style the nether regions and attempt to create an idealised body image.


  • Dan Baumgardt

    Senior Lecturer, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, University of Bristol

Perhaps, though, before following the latest genital fashion trends, we should be asking why hair is there in the first place: what function does it serve – and could its removal be bad for our health?

There’s a purpose for all the many clusters of hair that grow on our skin.

Eyebrows, for example, prevent sweat dripping into our eyes and allow us to convey our emotions through facial expression. Eyelashes prevent debris from damaging our eyes. Even the individual tiny hairs on our arms and legs connect to equally tiny nerves and act as sensory organs, giving us a sense of pressure and vibration.

So, what about pubic hair? What does the science tell us about its function?

Let’s talk about sex

Much of the effort that goes into shaping or removing pubic hair also shapes and defines sexual identities. Research has shown that women, in particular, feel social pressure to remove body hair and that pubic hair can affect their self-perception and sexual attractiveness.

But pubic hair may play a role in helping to attract potential sexual partners – and increase sexual pleasure.

Part of the mating rituals of animals is governed by pheromones, chemicals that can induce behavioural changes in different sexes, instigating awareness of and attraction to a potential mate – and a desire to breed.

While the properties of pheromones are not as well established in humans, there’s speculation that pubic hair plays a significant role. The pubic and groin regions have a large concentration of sweat glands, which may be the source of pheromones. Pubic hair may either retain pheromones or, because of the heat trapped underneath them, make the pheromones volatile (turn to gases). This could potentially maximise their effects on a sexual partner.

Another suggested sexual benefit of pubic hair is that either the sensation generated from hair movement or the effect on friction during intercourse could be sexually pleasurable – or act as a defence for the surrounding skin.


Could pubic hair serve a protective function? One study found that under the microscope pubic hairs had a thicker outer cuticle compared to those taken from the scalp. This is perhaps the reason that pubic hairs feel coarser in texture. The authors of the study hypothesise that this thicker cuticle may act as a barrier to skin damage from urine, which contains the irritant compounds ammonia and urea.

Pubic hair grooming has been associated with an increased risk of genital infections but this has also been refuted.

Another investigation suggested that women who groomed their pubic hair were at a greater risk of developing recurrent patterns of urinary tract infections (UTIs), already more common in females. The science behind this observation was that removing pubic hair also removes clusters of bacteria that reside in and around the hairs. These may have a protective effect, preventing the invasion of other bacteria, such as one of the main causes of UTIs e-coli.

The same study went on to suggest that bacteria may enter damaged skin after pubic treatments and that there may be other protective agents in hair follicles that help prevent infections.

For those who would like to reshape their pubic hair, studies have shown that hair follicles can be grafted to the pubic region, much as they can be transferred to the scalp. Hypotrichosis of the pubis, a condition that causes pubic hair loss, can also be treated with hair follicle grafts.

So, pubic hair and its true role remains a conundrum. One thing is for certain – the struggle against ingrown hairs is real for those who shave, wax and pluck. If you experience any irritation, then best to leave your nethers alone. Your skin will thank you for it.

The Conversation

Dan Baumgardt does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

/Courtesy of The Conversation. View in full here.