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Wonder wool, shag rug, carpet, bush, frontal fleece… you’ve got a smattering of options for what to call pubes. But you’ve got even more for how you groom, grow, and tame them.
The good news? There’s no wrong way to groom ’em. That myth you heard in middle school about carpets being dirtier than wood flooring? It’s just that: a myth.
“There is no medical reason that you need to be removing or trimming some or all of your pubic hair,” says Nina Carroll, MD, OB/GYN, of Your Doctors Online. According to Carroll, the risk of infection — be it bacterial, yeast, or sexually transmitted — is not higher or lower based on your pubic hair practices.
In fact, a 2019 study found it’s not your grooming practices that affect your risk of STI transmission, it’s your safer sex practices!
Keep reading to learn about the different hair-removal methods at your disposal.
Before you start grooming, you have to know what you want it to look like. Pick a style below because this will help determine what method you should use.
For people with vaginas
|Style||What it looks like|
|Bush||Leave it all be and feel free!|
|Brazilian||Removes everything in and around your vulva and anus.|
|Bikini||Gets rid of anything you can see when wearing, well, a bikini bottom (or your underwear of choice!).|
|French (aka landing strip)||Keeps a little patch or strip of hair on the pubic mound and the hair around the anus but gets rid of everything else!|
For people with penises
|Styles||What it looks like|
|Bush||All the hair, don’t care!|
|Brief||Removes all the hair “leaking” out the bottom of your underwear.|
|Lion’s mane||Keeps the fluff above the peen, removes all the scruff below. Apparently, this is a good option for penis owners who want their penis to look ~lengthier~.|
|Trimmed||Entails using scissors to make the pubes shorter but doesn’t remove them altogether.|
|Landing strip||The idea here is that the only hair is on the penis and straight up the middle of the pubic mound.|
Not a fan of flashing your hole(s) to a stranger? Or would rather spend money on like, rent than on your pubes’ appearance? Do it at home!
By far the most cost-efficient option on the list, shaving is also the most likely to cause razor burn (LOL, duh). But these dermatologist- and gynecologist-approved steps will slash your risk of slashing yourself.
You can expect hair to start growing back 1 to 3 days after shaving, though it’ll take a week or three to get back to bush length.
- Get in the shower (or bath, if that’s your thing).
- Lather the hair and surrounding area with a chemical-free, fragrance-free, natural shaving cream or soap. If you have a vulva, do your best to avoid getting the product inside your vaginal canal, warns Carroll.
- Pull the skin tight and shave slowly with the grain of the hair to minimize ingrown hairs.
- Go over the hair only once — especially if you’re prone to folliculitis.
- When you’re done, moisturize to help avoid ingrown hairs and irritation.
What to know going in
- Designate a “vulva razor.” Do not dull this baby by using it on other parts of your body.
- If your hair is longer than half an inch, trim with scissors first. Long hair will clog your razor and dull the blade faster.
- The shaved skin will probably be itchy when your hair starts to grow back.
- Store your razor in a cabinet, not on the shower ledge.
- Replace your razor after every seven uses, or sooner if you see any rusting bits, says board certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD.
“Waxing removes the hair by the root, meaning that it is an effective way to keep the hair from coming back for a long, long period of time,” says Shainhouse. For some, this means up to 6 weeks, though many people’s hair will grow back faster, more like 2 weeks.
At-home waxing kits cost between $8 and $25 and include enough strips and wax for five or more waxes. That’s a heck of a lot less than the $50 to $120 salons charge.
Do it right, Shainhouse says, and it’s just as effective as a professional wax.
Psst… you should wax *only* your bikini line at home. Doing a full Brazilian can be super tricky and even dangerous.
- Buy a waxing kit. Please don’t try to concoct wax in your kitchen (seriously, even if you’re a scientist!).
- If your pubes are longer than half an inch, trim them before applying wax, says Shainhouse.
- Heat the wax according to the instructions on the box.
- Do a test strip on your inner thigh to test the temperature.
- “Apply the wax in thin, centimeter-long stripes. Then hold your skin tight and firmly rip the strip away from the skin,” says Shainhouse.
- Afterward, moisturize and put on a clean pair of skivvies.
What to know going in
Follow the box instructions to avoid tearing, bruising, or otherwise injuring yourself, says Shainhouse.
You can lessen the pain by taking an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen 20 minutes beforehand and applying pressure to the area after ripping.
Yup, we’re talking products like Veet and Nair.
“These inexpensive creams dissolve the hair that sits above the skin,” says Shainhouse. “But it’s physically safer [than shaving], as there isn’t a risk of cutting the skin or irritating it with a razor blade.”
The results will last 1 to 3 days — the same amount of time it takes your pubes to regrow after shaving.
TBH, it completely depends on which brand you choose. So make sure to follow the instructions on the box.
Generally, those will read something like:
- Apply the product.
- Let the product sit so it can break down the keratin in your hair, making it easy to remove.
- Wipe away the product and your hair with a warm towel.
“If you develop an itchy rash, remove the product immediately and discontinue use. Apply a topical hydrocortisone cream and take an antihistamine pill,” says Shainhouse.
If the rash hasn’t gone away within a few days, see your doctor or dermatologist.
Sensitive skin? Skip this
According to Shainhouse, hair removal creams tend to have irritating ingredients. but they aren’t supposed to hurt. Chances are, if you’re experiencing a burning sensation rather than your skin feeling hot, you should stop using the product immediately.
Pro waxing, sugaring, lasering — maybe be a little (read: A LOT) pricier. But professional hair removal is generally longer-lasting and more thorough.
“A professional can typically get the hair at a better angle, so that you’re actually getting the root, which means it can last longer,” says Shainhouse. “And you’re less likely to miss hairs — it’s a really hard area to see.”
Going to a professional waxer is a great option because an expert can minimize pain and potential skin damage, says Shainhouse.
The cost depends on where you live, but expect between $50 and $120 per waxing. The results should last 3 to 5 weeks.
As mentioned above, taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen 20 minutes beforehand can help lessen the pain. Also, board-certified dermatologist Rita Linkner, MD of Spring Street Dermatology notes that waxing can hurt more if you’re menstruating.
What to expect
An aesthetician will apply a layer of warm wax to a portion of your bits using a tool. They’ll press down on the area for a brief moment and then yank it away with cloth strips until they’re done.
“Sugaring is similar to waxing, but instead of wax, it uses a hot water/sugar/lemon juice solution,” explains Shainhouse.
Even though you can technically find these ingredients in your kitchen, don’t try this at home. “It’s not going to be effective or sticky enough if you try to concoct your own sugaring goo,” she says.
Sugaring costs between $10 and $60. The price depends on whether you get a bikini, a Brazilian, or some other style. It hurts more than shaving but less than professional waxing. It doesn’t grab at the skin the way wax does, says Shainhouse.
You can expect the results to last 2 to 5 weeks. If your hair typically grows quickly, you’ll likely start to see some stubble after 2 weeks.
What to expect
The sugar-er (aka the professional) will apply the paste to the sugar-ee (aka you) and then grip and rip the sugar away, pulling out the hair in the process. No special strips are needed.
Laser hair removal is a treatment that removes as much (or as little) of your fleece as you want gone. “It’s a great option for folks who struggle with constant ingrown hairs,” says Linkner.
Although lasering is often said to be permanent, your hair follicles do actually heal themselves in time. For many people, this means the hair will start to grow back months or years down the road.
What to expect
The procedure uses a light laser to zap-zap-zap the hair follicle. It takes multiple 15-minute sessions, spread out in 4ish-week intervals, to remove all the hair.
“The larger the contrast between the skin color and pube color, the less sessions it will take,” says Linkner. If you have pale skin and dark, dark pubes, you may need only four treatments. If you have very dark skin and very dark hair, it may take six to eight treatments.
It does hurt quite a bit, especially the first session. But most dermatologists will apply a topical numbing agent 15 minutes before the treatment to reduce the pain.
Expect it to cost between $250 and $450, depending on how much hair you want to get rid of. “But you can usually get session packages that help lower the cost,” says Linkner.
Electrolysis is another method that’s similar to lasering. It uses short-wave radio frequencies to damage hair follicles and prevent hair from growing back. Although electrolysis has fewer side effects, it generally takes more sessions to get rid of all the hair.
If you’ve already got some post-pube-removal irritation, now is not the time to remove the pubes that have grown back! Press pause on waxing, shaving, and sugaring until the area is slightly less sensitive.
If it’s really bothering you, either apply a warm compress to the area or take a warm bath. Feel free to rub a washcloth in circles over the area to help exfoliate it. This can help bring the hair to the surface faster.
If the hair pops free, go ahead and use some sterilized tweezers to pull it out. But for the love of your privates, don’t go digging, squeezing, poking, prodding, or hunting for it. Wait for it to grow to the surface.
In the meantime, try one of these OTC anti-inflammatory products:
And if the ingrown starts to hurt A LOT or starts excreting pus, call your doc or derm. They’ll be able to prescribe you an antibiotic wash or cream to clear up any infection. Steroid cream can also reduce swelling.
Try trimming with scissors
If you’re especially sensitive to lumps and bumps, try trimming with scissors instead. This won’t create a smooth, hairless effect, but it’s an effective way to keep hair at bay.
Tip: Invest in a pair of facial hair scissors, which have a rounded edge, or the small trimming scissors. Make sure to sterilize the blade with rubbing alcohol and when you get to the delicate nooks and crannies around your lips, slow way down.
The nice thing about hair is that it grows right back if you happen not to like your new downstairs ’do. You’ll get a chance to try a new one soon! Keep experimenting until you find a method and ’do that best suit your budget and your preferences.
Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. Follow her on Instagram.