Pubic hair grooming is on the rise, especially for women who are younger, white and went to college, a new study finds.
The researchers surveyed more than 3,300 women ages 18 to 64 about their grooming practices, such as shaving, waxing or trimming. This is the first time that a nationally representative sample of women has been surveyed about this subject, although there have been numerous smaller studies done in parts of the country, according to the study, published today (June 29) in the journal JAMA Dermatology.
And most earlier studies about pubic hair grooming failed to include women of the broad age range examined in the new study, said Dr. Tami Rowen, an OB/GYN at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center and the lead author of the study. But the new study's inclusion of middle age women makes it clear that pubic hair grooming is more popular among younger women, Rowen said. [7 Facts Women (And Men) Should Know About the Vagina]
Compared with women in the 18-to-24 age group, women in the 25-to-34 group were 83 percent less likely to groom, the study found. And women ages 55 to 64 were 96 percent less likely to groom compared with 18- to 24-year-old women.
In addition, the researchers found, grooming was the most common among white women. Women of all other races were less than half as likely to groom compared with white women, according to the study.
The researchers also found that women who had gone to college were 3.4 times more likely to groom than those who did not have a high school degree. Income also played a role: Women who made more than $100,000 a year were 22 percent more likely to groom than those who made less than $50,000 a year.
Shaving was the most common method that women used to groom, with 61 percent of the women reporting using razors and 12 percent using electric razors. Other common methods included trimming, with 17.5 percent of women saying they use scissors, and waxing, with 4.6 percent of women saying they used that method, according to the study.
The survey also included a number of questions about why women practice pubic hair grooming.
One common assumption about why women groom their public hair is that it makes certain sex acts better, Rowen told Live Science. However, the researchers found no link between the types of sex acts women were participating in and their grooming preferences, she said.
Rather, "partner preference played a big role," she said. Indeed, women were 96 percent more likely to groom if they said their partner preferred it, according to the study.
The researchers also found that 40 percent of the women reported going to the doctor as a reason for grooming. Anecdotally, Rowen said that she has seen many women in her practice in recent years who are apologetic about their appearance if they have not groomed.
Groomers considered themselves to be hairier than those nongroomers. They were also more likely to agree with the statement "most women groom their pubic hair" than were nongroomers, the researchers found.
Women who regularly groomed were more likely to say that they looked sexier and that their vaginas "looked better" when their pubic hair was groomed, compared with nongroomers, according to the study.
This particular was not surprising, Rowen said. It's in line with the current cultural trend of what people consider to be the definition of sexy, she said. [51 Facts About Sex]
Nearly 60 percent of the women reported that they groomed for hygiene purposes. Removing pubic hair, however, does not make things cleaner "down there."
"Hair has a purpose," Rowen said. In the case of pubic hair, it's there to protect important, delicate tissues, she said. Some women, for example, have very sensitive labia, and removing the hair can leave the labia susceptible to injury, she said.
"There's nothing cleaner about" groomed pubic hair, she added.
And grooming can even result in injury, Rowen said. She personally has seen many injuries as a practicing gynecologist, she added. Common injuries include cuts, abscesses, burns from hot wax and inflamed hair follicles, she said.
And in the case of women with sensitive labia, removing the hair from the area can lead to thickened, irritated skin, she said.
Rowen noted that she didn't have a strong medical opinion as to whether women should groom. But if women are experiencing problems due to grooming, she said, she would talk to them about alternatives.
In addition, she cautioned against making any permanent changes to one's physical appearance. People are spending thousands of dollars on laser hair removal because of a trend, she said.
Originally published on Live Science.