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The Frisky Feminist

The Hair Affair

We recently received a request for an article on “personal grooming, especially shaving,” which we are pretty sure means giving your junk a haircut (technical terms here). And you know our motto – “We Will Help You Go About Your Sex Life in a Wittily Informed Manner.” Admittedly, that’s a little clunky as mottoes go, but Oprah’s team didn’t give us a whole lot to work with in terms of a PR budget.

This should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway – do (or don’t do) whatever you want to your pubic hair, everybody. None of this is meant to suggest that you should be grooming it or that you should be removing it a different way or more of it or less of it; your personal preferences and comfort are key here. On a similar note, while it’s understandable that your partner (or you) might have preferences when it comes to pubic hair and find certain looks sexier than others, nobody has the right to try to make anybody feel like they should be doing something different or to make you feel bad or unattractive (and you shouldn’t be doing that to anyone, either). These concerns often come up in discussions about pubic hair, and we wanted to get that out of the way first.

Brian Alexander, who writes the Sexploration column on MSNBC’s website, suggests that pube grooming has likely been a practice for centuries, perhaps even as far back as the ancient Egyptians, who may have been motivated less by wanting to seduce their partners and more by avoiding lice infestations. Approaches to hair removal and popular styles have varied over the years. A study released last year in the Journal of Sexual Medicine of 2451 women ages 18-68 found that despite the common assumption that more and more women are going completely hair-free, there was no dominant style or approach to hair removal; many women engaged in partial hair removal and slightly fewer occasionally removed all their hair, with the numbers for those categories (and for “no removal” and “typically hair-free”) changing according to different variables like age and relationship status. So as with any other aspect of sex and the human body, while some things are more common, there’s no such thing as “normal.”

(And for that matter, pubic hair grooming doesn’t necessarily have to do with your sex life – both of us began grooming our pubes for our own personal comfort long before we started having sex with other people.)

Trimming is probably the cheapest and easiest method of hair removal, though if you’re hoping to go completely bare you won’t be able to stop with trimming alone. You could use lots of different things – small scissors work well (blunt-tipped or even children’s nail scissors, if you’re clumsy and afraid of stabbing yourself, like paperispatient), and some women swear by clippers marketed for “bikini area grooming” or even beard trimmers. Sit down with a mirror and some good lighting and trim away.

If you’re hoping to remove more hair, you can follow up by shaving. This is another one of those subjects where different things seem to work for different people; we’ve always read that to avoid ingrown hairs you’re supposed to shave with the grain of your hair, but paperispatient does the opposite and has never had a problem with ingrowns. So experiment – you might need a few tries to figure out what works and what you like. But don’t try again too soon after; you’ll want to give the hair time to grow back a bit before trying again (shaving any more frequently than two or maybe three times a week leads paperispatient down a razor burny and unpleasant path).

You’ll probably want to do it at the end of a bath or shower, so your skin has softened and your pores are more open. Lots of articles suggest exfoliating before you shave as a means of avoiding ingrown hairs; you can do this with any kind of body or facial scrub, but something not too abrasive. You’ll definitely want to lather up with something before you start shaving, and this is another part where your mileage may vary. Some women swear by shaving cream or gel, others prefer soap, and still others prefer body wash. As usual, if your vulva is sensitive and/or if you’re prone to infections, you’ll want to be picky about what products you use and be very careful that they don’t get up in your vag.

Then, shave. If you’ve got a hand mirror or a cosmetic mirror on a stand, that might bePink razor helpful the first few times, especially if you’re interested in shaving the hair on your vulva as opposed to just the hair on your pubic mound. If any Persephoneers want to jump in in the comments with additional suggestions, please do! Paperispatient leaves her labia alone, so anyone with experience shaving their vulvas, please chime in with your own tips and tricks. People recommend different products for after you’ve shaved – we’ve heard people suggest moisturizer, baby powder, and even stick deodorant in addition to the various products marketed specifically for pubic area care. And of course the nice thing is, if you weren’t intending to get rid of all your hair and get a bit overzealous because you were going for symmetry but then one side ended up shorter so you had to level it out but that just caused the same problem on the other side (not that that’s ever happened to one of us or anything), it’ll grow back and you’ve got another chance.

Another option that people sometimes forget is an epilator, which looks like an electric razor but with lots of bitty tweezers that pull your hair out. This may be your speed or it may not – some people find it moderately painful while others think it’s a breeze (it tends to get easier with repeated use). If you were considering it, you’d probably want to try it on a less sensitive body part first, and we’d recommend using it on your pubic mound only – too many sensitive bits that might get pinched on your vulva.

Finally, waxing and sugaring are some options for longer-lasting hair removal. Once again, we’d like to call on the expertise of our readers; we don’t have any experience with this, either at home or in a salon (well, paperispatient has sugared her eyebrows, but that’s not quite the same thing), so if any of you have experiences to share or suggestions for making it go as smoothly (heh) as possible, please share them. You’ll probably want to give your pubes a little trim beforehand since the esthetician will likely do that anyway, but you’ll want to make sure they’re grown out enough that there’s something for the wax to stick to. Our question-asker sounded more interested in shaving, so we’re not going to give a lot of info about waxing here, plus we really don’t know a lot about this method of hair removal and don’t want to steer you wrong, but you can read about it on some other sites. We also haven’t discussed methods like depilatories and electrolysis, but if you’re interested in finding out more about those, drop us a line and we’d be happy to do some digging for you.

Got a ques­tion you’d like us to dis­cuss, myth you’d like us to bust, or general topic you’d like us to talk about? You can email us at FriskyFeminist@persephonemagazine.com, and we’ve also set up a Tum­blr for the sole pur­pose of receiv­ing com­pletely anony­mous ques­tions at paperispatientsexqanda.tumblr.com.

By paperispatient

I recently earned my MA in women’s studies. I enjoy reading, working out, playing Scrabble, watching cheesy movies, and cooking yummy vegetarian meals with my partner and Frisky Feminist co-author, Future Mr. paperispatient.

12 replies on “The Hair Affair”

For various reasons, my habit is to shave everything off once a month or so & then let it grow back. I used to wax my legs and sometimes my pubic area, but when I was dancing and had to keep it bare pretty much all the time, I couldn’t wait for the regrowth for waxing & got out of the habit.

I use a new (but not tooo new – shave the legs & pits first to dull it up a bit) blade (I am a fan of Gillette Mach 3 men’s razors). I use hair conditioner as a lubricating agent – I find it moisturises well & rinses off well, and I don’t need to buy an extra product with difficult to recycle packaging. I shave first with the grain, and then, pulling the skin as tight as possible, against the grain. In some areas that are more susceptible to ingrowns I shave across the grain in both directions instead. My labia I pretty much only shave with and across the grain. I only shave in the bath, with an inch or so of water in the bath, I find shaving in the shower too annoying.

And that’s how I roll.

i shave just about everything twice a week. i use bikini zone shave gel which i find works so much better than regular shaving cream. i usually wait til the end of my shower, smooth some gel on and try to use a new or almost new razor – old razors give me terrible razor bumps. if things seem extra irritated for some reason, i’ve found that putting some sensitive skin shaving cream with vitamin e and soy and letting that sit for a few minutes before rinsing helps a lot.

The more you wax, the less painful it is. I have some quite sensitive areas, but after about three or four times, I found I was pleasantly surprised by how not painful it was.
Now, I live in a place where they apply the wax with a butter knife (yes) and so now I just shave and trim. Still, my hair growth is less frequent along the bikini line and whatnot, for all the waxing I’ve done.

I swear by waxing via salon (because I am lazy but also overly polite, so if I make an appointment I will damn well show up 5 minutes early instead of, you know, not doing it). My esthetichian gave me a tip for those of us with coarse/curly/deeply grown hair (curse you, Italian heritage): trim before the waxing appointment, it will reduce awkward hairs getting caught by wayward wax and pulled before their natural time. Also look into exfoliants to prevent ingrowns.

SO, in topics I don’t generally discuss in detail, I don’t shave my pubic mound (razor burn and ingrowns galore there) but I do shave my labia about once a month for the sake of access when I’m bleeding (I hate getting blood all over my hands when I’m emptying the cup in public restrooms).

I don’t really have trouble. I usually sit in the tub in a sort of lotus position with the soles of my feet touching to make sure everything’s exposed and rock my hips back so the bits are tilting up. I don’t use a mirror anymore, though that helped when I was first getting used to it, and I always trim all the pubes pretty short first, so there’s usually not a distinct difference between the shaved and unshaved parts.

While we’re sharing details about our bits, I first began keeping my pubic hair trimmed short because of my period too – it was in seventh or eighth grade and I hated how the hair would get all clumpy and stuck together from the blood, and I found it so much more comfortable overall that I kept it up on a regular basis.

I’m a staunch advocate of sugaring, if it fits in the budget. It’s more expensive than waxing, but much, much gentler on the skin. I can’t shave or wax without breaking out like crazy, but I don’t have the same problems with sugaring. The drawbacks are: price and availability. Very few places do this, but if you’re looking for someone in LA or SF to try it out, I have recommendations!

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