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'Brazilians,' other forms of pubic hair removal may carry risk

March 18, 2013|By Melissa Healy

Perhaps you were thinking that removing your pubic hair was giving you a nice clean look? Think again, says a group of dermatologists.

Writing in a sister publication of the British Medical Journal, two French dermatologists and a global health researcher from Emory University have suggested that an upsurge in the spread of the sexually transmitted molluscum cantagiosum virus over the last decade may be attributable to the trend of shaving or waxing the hair around the genitals.

The group studied the cases of 30 adults who sought treatment for lesions in and around their genital area in a clinic in Nice, France. Of the six women and 24 men studied, 93% used hair removal-- shaving, clipping or waxing the hair in their genital region.

"Hair removal (laser excluded) could be a risk factor for 'minor' sexually transmitted infections, such as sexually transmitted molluscum contagiosum and perhaps condylomas" (a subspecies of papillomavirus) the researchers wrote. In children and the immuno-compromised, among whom the molluscum contagiosum virus is most commonly seen, the virus can be spread by scratching oneself.

"Hair removal, especially shaving, could favor its acquisition, propagation and transmission, by micro-traumatisms," the group wrote in a letter to Sexually Transmitted Infections, published by BMJ.

"Pubic hair removal is a body modification for the sake of fashion, especially in young women and adolescents, but also growing among men," the group wrote. Motivations for the trend are "unclear," but it may have its origins in pornography, or in a bid for increased sexual sensation, they noted. The researchers suggested that "an unconscious desire to simulate an infantile look" or "a desire to distance ourselves from our animal nature" prompts some to seek out the total or near-total removal of pubic hair, widely known as a "Brazilian."

Whatever the reason, they wrote, it may come at a price to one's health.

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