Brazilian waxes and other forms of pubic hair removal may increase the risk of viral skin infections, particularly Molluscum contagiosum.

The finding came from new research published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections which suggested that shaving the pubic area causes ‘micro-trauma’ of the skin, which raises the chance of infection by a pox virus known as Molluscum contagiosum.

In the past, the removal of pubic hair was only meant for religious or cultural purposes. In recent years, however, girls have been shaving their pubic hair to be fashionable, with more and more men starting to join the trend as well.

Molluscum contagiosum is a contagious skin infection caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV). It is a pox virus that causes raised, pearl-like nodules or papules on the skin which are referred to as molluscum bodies, mollusca or condyloma subcutaneous.

It is fairly common in kids and people whose immune systems are weakened as a result of drugs or illness. However, a person can also become infected with the virus through sex, and according to the authors, the number of sexually transmitted cases has increased over the previous 10 years.

Therefore, a team of researchers set out to determine whether the rise in the number of these infections might be associated with the increasing popularity of pubic hair removal.

The investigators observed patients who visited a private skin clinic between January 2011 and March 2012 in Nice, France for the purpose of their study.

Thirty people were infected with Molluscum contagiosum during that period, 6 were female – the average age of all the patients was 29.5.

In four cases, signs of the infection (pearly papules) had spread up to the abdomen, and in one case it spread to the thighs.

In 10 cases, other linked skin conditions were identified, including:

  • warts
  • ingrown hairs
  • cysts
  • scars
  • folliculitis – bacterial skin infection

Ninety-three percent of the 30 patients had had their pubic hair removed, either by shaving it off (70%), having it clipped (13%) or waxing it off (10%).

Since Molluscum contagiosum can spread quite easily by self infection, for example by scratching, the authors pointed out that hair removal may also encourage spread as a result of the micro-trauma it causes to the skin.

The scientists explained why pubic hair removal may be increasingly popular:

“The reasons for choosing genital hair removal remain unclear, but may be linked with internet based pornography … increased sexual sensation … an unconscious desire to simulate an infantile look … or a desire to distance ourselves from our animal nature.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last month that the U.S. has around 110 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs or STIs), equalling a total of 20 million novel infections every year, and it is only getting worse.

Written by Sarah Glynn