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Health Vagina Sex Periods Std Feminism
Molly Longest / Her Campus
Wellness > Health

The Problem With Wearing Leggings and Shaving

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

Shaving pubic hair is a choice. Whether someone decides to shave, not to shave or somewhere in between, they should never be shamed for their decision by their partner or anyone else. However, it is important to make informed decisions about matters that can have an impact on your health.

Not many of us think of shaving as something that is health-related. It seems to be more of a cosmetic preference than anything. However, I spoke with gynecologist Dr. Francesca Lynd and learned that shaving, waxing and other forms of pubic hair removal can actually cause us more harm than good.

First, a quick anatomy lesson. We often refer to the outer nether-region of a biological female as a “vagina;” however, the accurate term for this external area is the vulva — the internal birth canal is the vagina. One important difference between the two is that the vagina does not have hair, but the vulva does. Though the hair can be tedious to deal with, it is there to protect the skin of the vulva, and more data is coming out that suggests it also preserves the balance of the vaginal microbiome, which is the community of microorganisms, such as bacteria, that resides within the vagina.

So, when and why did we start shaving the hair on our vulva? While the practice originated with ancient Rome and Egypt, it did not gain extensive popularity until the early 2000s. One main reason is that access to the Internet allowed the porn industry to take off. As porn videos often featured women with hairless vulvas, removing hair in the pubic region became a cultural norm for women. 

Having practiced for over 20 years as a gynecologist, Dr. Lynd commented on the relatively recent rise in problems associated with shaving: “I definitely started seeing more patients with issues like chronic dermatitis and allergic reactions to soaps and laundry detergents around 2010… When you shave, you are scraping a blade against your skin, which takes off that top layer and makes you more prone to infection.”

Dermatitis is a general term for skin irritation which can take a variety of forms such as dry skin, a rash or blistering. She says that if it is caught early enough, dermatitis can be partially or potentially completely reversed by removing the triggers to the inflammation. This can be accomplished by not shaving and using body soaps and detergents with minimal fragrance and excess chemicals. However, generally there is no cure, which is why it is important to take preventative measures.

“If someone really wanted to remove their hair,” Dr. Lynd said, “a better option would be to wax, since you don’t wax as often as you shave. This causes less trauma to the top layer of skin.”

But what do leggings have to do with all of this?

Along with shaving, wearing leggings for extended periods of time can wreak havoc on the vaginal microbiome. By trapping moisture, the material that leggings are made of can trigger UTIs, yeast infections and vaginitis (vagnial bacterial infections). The risk is higher for infection when a person has been wearing leggings after a workout for a long period of time. 

A better option, Dr. Lynd explained, is wearing organic cotton underwear and avoiding wearing tight clothes for long periods of time. It is also important to remove clothes as soon as possible after sweating and swimming.

As someone who loves wearing leggings and has many friends who wear leggings often, I was surprised to hear about how harmful they can be. However, I asked Dr. Lynd whether she believed that it was more important to abstain from shaving or wearing leggings, and she replied, “Give up shaving because you can wear leggings as long as it is not for a long period of time.”

As always, it is important to be educated about matters that affect our health. Whether or not someone chooses to shave or wear leggings, they should be aware of the potential risks and benefits of their choice.

Hello! I am studying to be a physical therapist with a minor in English at Saint Louis University. In my free time, I like to be in nature, work out, and journal.