Let’s get one thing straight — there’s no one right way to deal with pubic hair. It’s cool to leave it how it grows, shave or wax it all off, trim a lil bit, or something else entirely. No matter what feels right to you, we’ve got you covered (or not covered, if that’s your jam).
1. DO I *HAVE* TO DO IT?
We get it. You’re bombarded by what seems like a million messages about pube-grooming — friends who talk about being totally bare, waxing ads at every salon — and you’re all like: Is this THE norm? Am I a freak? Should I shave-it-all-off stat? But the truth is, some girls <3 a bare bikini area, while others get a little freaked by feeling exposed. Still others may be into a little bit of a trim… but not all that psyched about the upkeep of taking *any* of it alllll off. (Seriously, it can get to be a pain.) So consider your pubic-hair stylings a very personal preference, says Jennifer Ashton, MD, an ob-gyn and author of The Body Scoop for Girls. Just like anything else you’d do to your bod — your haircut, your nail art, your makeup routine (or lack thereof) — tap into what feels right for you.
2. BUT…WHY DO I FEEL SO MUCH PRESH TO GO BARE?
Believe it or not, this trend toward full (or even partial) hairlessness down there is fairly recent. “It really changed drastically when porn become more readily available online,” explains Melisa Holmes, M.D., an ob-gyn and founder of Girlology.com. Now a mini-industry has popped up around this fad — Brazilian waxes that cost more than a pair of jeans, endless options for bikini trimmers, etc. It’s not wrong to get rid of it, but know the forces that are at work here. And only do it if that’s what *you* like best. Period.
3. SO BAE HATES HAIR DOWN THERE, RIGHT?
Everyone has a different opinion! And while it sucks that there’s no clear-cut consensus, we’re going to counter that with a big old…who cares?! Because even if they want you to shave or wax, they probably have hair, too. “Hello! Double standard!” says Dr. Holmes. The bottom line is that you can’t please everybody. So put pleasing YOU first.
4. BUT ISN’T PUBIC HAIR SORTA DIRTY? AS IN… I SHOULD WANT TO GET RID OF IT?
It *can* seem to get a little dank down there, sure. You’ve got tons of sweat glands and oil glands up in that area, which can make for a pretty clammy, maybe slightly odor-y environment. But it’s no dirtier than any other part of your body! And as long as you wash it with a little bit of mild, non-scented soap in the shower, you’ll keep the hair clean. Promise. In fact — not to be gross — but some girls say they hate going totally bare because there’s nothing there to “catch” their vaginal discharge, and *that* makes them feel uncomfortable… sometimes even red and itchy. “At the least, it’s best to leave the hair right around the vaginal opening alone, because the skin there is so sensitive,” warns Dr. Holmes.
“Trimming is fine, but shaving can create a problem.” Good to know!
5. SHOULD I SHAVE, OR WAX, OR… SOMETHING ELSE?
Waxing is fine — and TBH, it will probably leave you with a smoother surface and slightly less frequent upkeep than shaving — but real talk: Ripping your hair out is incredibly OUCH. So only go that route if you’re down to withstand about an 8 on a 10-point pain scale. On the other hand, depilatory creams can be pretty painless, but you have to read the package and the instructions VERY carefully, because not all are made for the uber-sensitive skin of your vulva and bikini line. (And even those that are can irritate — even burn — your skin if left on too long.) Shaving, then, can feel like an easier and more familiar introduction to bikini-line grooming: You’ve been doing it to your legs, so you’ve got the basics down, right?
6. SO HOW DO YOU SHAVE DOWN THERE ANYWAY?
Okay, first up: Grab a hand mirror and some sharp scissors and trim your hair in the spots you want to shave first. This pro move will keep your razor from getting all clogged up. Then hop in the shower and clean the area with some mild soap and warm water. (Yup, no pre-pool party, “oops-I-forgot” quickie jobs — this step is *super* important for preventing a major skin reaction…see #8!) “Any time you shave or wax, that hair follicle on your skin is going to be opened up,” explains Dr. Ashton. “That makes it easy for bacteria to enter and cause an infection.” So once you’re sure you’ve washed that area well, take a brand new blade or a fresh-and-sharp disposable razor (because, FACT: pubic hair is the thickest hair on your body), apply some shaving cream/gel, and shave downward *with* the hair, i.e. in the direction it’s growing. Using small strokes — and holding your skin taut with the other hand—will help protect against nicks and cuts. And of course: Take. It. Slow.