Maybe you wax it. Maybe you shave. Or maybe you just leave well enough alone. There are plenty of ways to deal with your pubic hair, and plenty of rumours about it, too.
MYTH: Pubic hair protects against STDs
Reality: Actually, quite the opposite. Pubic hair acts as a breeding ground for bacteria. "There's no question that being hair-free in that area is cleaner simply because of the fact that the hair does provide bacteria," says Dr Wendy Askew. While researchers haven't studied germs in pubic hair specifically, studies have shown alarming amounts of bacteria in men's beards, says Askew.
Still, many women incorrectly assume pubic hair protects them from genital warts and STDs that result from skin-to-skin contact. "Pubic hair alone is not sufficient enough to protect against STDs," says dermatologist Sejal Shah. In fact, it could help the virus thrive. A Chinese study concluded HPV present in a man's pubic hair could lead to HPV-related issues in their female partners.
MYTH: Pubic hair makes sex less enjoyable
Reality: This one varies from woman to woman. Many think pubic hair leads to less friction between the sheets, making sexytime a bit smoother. (And pubic hair does help cushion and protect the area, says Shah.) But, some women prefer the more intense feels that happen when they're hair-free, adds Askew. "In theory, you can get more direct stimulation without that buffer," she says. "It depends on how much women prefer, and how much stimulation or pressure they require to achieve orgasm, [as to whether] the hair may or may not be a hindrance."
MYTH: The colour of your pubes matches the colour of your hair
Reality: Ah, the classic "does the curtain match the drapes?" dilemma. Truth: The age-old expression is a sham. If you must know, check out a lady's brows for a more accurate prediction. "For the most part, pubic hair tends to match eyebrow colour, except that it's a little bit courser," says Askew.
MYTH: A full bush is a turn-off
Reality: Technically, it depends on your partner, but there is some evidence that pubic hair could be a turn-on because it's full of pheromones. "The sebaceous glands, which are so prevalent in hair-bearing skin, produce what starts as an odorless secretion," says Askew. "Then, it mixes with the bacteria that we have on the skin and in the hair, and it produces a scent called a pheromone. You will have more of an odor or a smell if you have pubic hair or if you don't groom because the bacteria populations are going to be there." People who are scent-sensitive might be attracted to it.
MYTH: Pubic hair never stops growing
Reality: Thankfully—for groomers and those who go au naturel—the hair stops growing when it reaches a certain point, says Askew. "It will stop and basically stay at a certain level, and then it will shed and new ones will grow," she says. The length at which it halts varies from person to person, but Shah says it generally stops between .5 and two inches. Eventually, it might even become thinner. "We typically see it after women go through menopause and they have hormone deficiencies," says Askew. "A majority of women experience not only losing the hair—maybe they'll go completely bald—but the hair will become much more sparse, much finer, and much less densely populated."
MYTH: If you have sensitive skin, you shouldn't shave down there
Reality: You may just need to adjust your approach. "If you shave aggressively real close to the skin and don't use some kind of emollient shave cream, you are going to be more prone to breaking or nicking the skin," says Askew. "Then, the bacteria that live down there naturally have access to get under the skin and cause bumps and infections." If smoothness is your goal, consider other hair-removal methods like waxing or laser hair removal.