Hair removal could increase risk of skin infections

shaverWaxing, shaving and other methods of hair removal around the pubic area could result in ‘micro-trauma’ and be linked to the rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) seen in recent years, according to the findings of a new French study.

The researchers who carried out the study focused their attentions to 30 patients who had visited a private skin clinic in Nice, France, between January 2011 and March 2012. All were determined to be suffering from a poxvirus called molluscum contagiosum – a common and highly contagious viral infection of the skin that causes red, itchy spots on the skin.

It can be transmitted from contact of the skin or through contact of a contaminated object such as a flannel or towel. ‘At risk’ groups include young children, those with many sexual partners and people who have a diminished immune system because of HIV or AIDS.

‘Contact of the skin’ is usually through sex and the researchers realised that the number of STIs increases almost annually, with conditions such as chlamydia, herpes and gonorrhoea are rife – partly because of a careless failure to use condoms.

From the 30 patients who had molluscum contagiosum during the fourteen month time period, 24 were men, with an average age of 29.5 for the whole group.

There were other connected skin problems in ten instances which included warts, ingrown hairs and folliculitis – an inflammation in one or more hair follicles, cysts and scars.

Interestingly, in all cases except just two, the patients had undergone pubic hair removal. There were 20 instances of shaving, five were clipped and three waxed. In addition, the warts had managed to spread to the abdomen region in four cases and to the thighs in one case.

Writing in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, they warned: “Hair removal (especially shaving) could favour its acquisition, propagation and transmission by micro-traumatisms.”

They also added that it was ‘unclear’ for the exact reasons behind a surge in preference for pubic hair removal but suggested it could be ‘linked to internet-based pornography’.

The authors continued: “Another reason cited is an increased sexual sensation. There may also be psychological reasons, as an unconscious desire to simulate an infantile look or a desire to distance ourselves from our animal nature.”

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