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I hear a lot of apologies about pubic hair in my ob-gyn practice. “I’m so sorry, I haven’t shaved in a while,” a patient might say as we begin their pelvic exam.

Pubic hair is natural—we are mammals, after all. And yet, people can be very emotional about the state of their hair “down there.” These feelings are deeply rooted in societal expectations and myths about pubic hair, especially for women.

Here’s what I want you to know about pubic hair care and how to groom yours safely, if you choose to do so.

What’s the deal with pubic hair?

The purpose of pubic hair is to protect us, just like the hair around your ears, nose, and eyes. It keeps the skin of your vulva warm and moisturized. It protects the delicate skin from friction during sexual activity. It keeps dust, dirt, and germs away from the vagina to prevent infection. Researchers even suspect pubic hair may play a role in sexual attraction and sexual pleasure.

What’s more, the vagina is a self-cleaning organ. If you sense a little body odor, it’s because your pubic hair is doing its job of trapping sweat, oil, and bacteria. To care for your pubic area, all you need to do is regularly rinse with water.

Long story short, there is nothing dirty or unclean about pubic hair. There is no medical reason to remove it. And yet, many people feel pressured to shave or wax because of our society’s long-standing ideas of gender, beauty, and purity. (This is all very American. Women in other cultures are far less likely to groom their pubic hair.)

Still, some people choose to groom their pubic hair out of comfort or personal preference. If you wish to groom your pubic hair, it’s important to learn safe ways to go about it.

Your options for pubic hair removal


Trimming is the safest option because it shortens your pubic hair without cutting close to the skin, which can lead to injury or infection. You can use scissors or a trimming tool marketed for use on pubic hair, or even tools made for trimming beards. Because of the low risk of infection, trimming is the way to go if you have a weakened immune system due to diabetes, chemotherapy, or another medical reason.


Shaving cuts the hair close to the skin. I’m not a big fan of shaving your pubic hair because it can hurt sensitive skin, leading to rashes, ingrown hairs, and infection. If you choose to shave, use a new, clean razor every time, as used razors can carry bacteria. It’s best to shave in the direction of hair growth if you can, but that can be hard to tell. It’s common for pubic hair to grow in multiple directions.

Waxing or sugaring

This hair removal method involves pulling all the hair out at the root with hot wax or a sugary paste. The results may last for several weeks, but the process can be painful. There is a risk of burns and general irritation, plus small cuts and other skin damage you can’t see.

If you choose waxing or sugaring, go to a licensed professional with lots of experience. Watch that they follow hygiene practices (no double-dipping with the applicator, for example). If you’re worried about the pain, it’s OK to take an over-the-counter pain reliever before you go. But don’t apply numbing cream to your skin beforehand—if you get burned, you want to be able to feel it.

Laser hair removal

As the name suggests, laser hair removal uses lasers to destroy hair at the follicle. This is the most expensive hair removal option, requiring several sessions with a licensed professional. They customize the type of laser depending on the color of your skin and your hair. While the results are not permanent, laser hair removal reduces the amount of pubic hair that grows over time.

Laser hair removal is generally safe when done by a licensed professional. There may be swelling or redness for a few days after it’s done.

Sometimes people ask if laser hair removal is safe during pregnancy. There are no studies on this, but your skin is more sensitive to burns while you’re pregnant. Your skin may be more likely to burn and scar.

Depilatory creams

I do not recommend these hair removal products, which dissolve hair at the skin line. The chemicals in these creams can be very irritating to the genital area.

A few more cautions

If you choose to groom your pubic hair yourself, take your time and use soap or shaving cream as a lubricant. Use a mirror as a guide, so you can see what you’re doing.

Also, don’t shave, wax, or laser within 2 weeks of a planned gynecological surgery. You want to give any cuts a chance to heal so they can’t get infected. If trimming is needed for surgery, doctors handle it in the operating room. (And no, you don’t need to shave before giving birth.)

Normal and natural

As an ob-gyn, I want you to know that pubic hair is normal. Whether to groom or let it grow is your choice—no one else’s. And there is no reason to apologize about your pubic hair, to your ob-gyn or anyone else.

Published: June 2023

Last reviewed: June 2023

Copyright 2023 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.

This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to women's health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.

About the Author
Holly W. Cummings, MD, MPH
Dr. Holly W. Cummings

Dr. Cummings is an obstetrician–gynecologist who serves as assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.