Brazilian waxes can get bumpy

ATHENS, Ohio – More than 160,000 people have watched a YouTube video depicting several women receiving Brazilian waxes for the first time. The women go into the experience excited and leave triumphant after conquering the painful process.

With fashion trends such as low-rise pants and bikinis more popular than ever, it is very common now for people to “go bald” down there, said Char Kopchick, Ohio University’s director of Health Promotion.

However, those who choose to remove most of their pubic hair could face more serious consequences than the pain of the removal itself, Kopchick said.

Hair follicles can become infected, which results in acne-like bumps, Kopchick said, adding that lack of pubic hair leaves one more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections.

Shaving or waxing of pubic hair leads to more direct skin-to-skin contact during sex, and the hair removal process could create microscopic cuts that make it easier for infections like HIV, human papillomavirus and genital herpes to pass through, she said.

The Health Promotion Center plans to schedule a Wellness Wednesday program this quarter called “To shave or not to shave?” where the pros and cons of shaving will be explored. Despite the risks, some students said they think it’s more common to wax or shave than to go natural.

“I think it’s a cultural thing,” said Abby Trahan, an OU senior who spent six years working at a day spa. “We have an obsession with being clean.”

The trend is so popular that last year Missouri passed a law requiring minors to obtain parental consent for being waxed “on or near the genital area.”

Trahan said that in her six years at the spa, she saw men getting waxed just as often as women but that men mostly have their backs waxed while women go for bikini and leg waxing.

The motivations behind hair removal could be problematic, said Dr. Susanne Dietzel, Women’s Center director at OU.

“Pornography has permeated the country at large and that definitely has something to do with this increasing prevalence,” Dietzel said.

There is also some level of gender inequality in hair removal, she said, adding that most males who remove pubic hair, like body builders or swimmers, do so for athletic reasons.

“Removing hair is a marker of gender. So-called ‘real women’ don’t have body hair,” she said, adding that women often shave for the pleasure of their male partners.

A September 2006 survey by Massachusetts-based College Health Services LLC may reveal otherwise.

According to the online-administered survey, 43 percent of students who shaved said they did it for fun, while 38 percent thought it was sexy and 20 percent shaved because a partner asked them.

“Most people that I know, it doesn’t seem to make a difference,” said AJ Brannon, a freshman.

“[Men] might prefer that the girl shave, but they’re not going to ask them to if they don’t [shave],” he said.

While Kopchick said no formal statistics exist on gender and hair removal, the consensus seems to be that the practice is more popular with women.

“I definitely think that women would be more likely to,” said Stephanie Bastien, a senior.

Kopchick said that she would like those who go bald to consider whether the look is worth the potential consequences.

“A bald pubic area with an infection is a lot less sexy than a trimmed hairy one without,” Kopchick said.