Feb. 6, 2013 at 7:02 AM ET
Whether it’s a DIY Brazilian wax or a botched attempt at "manscaping," homegrown efforts to remove the hair down there are sending more people to emergency rooms, new research suggests.
Pubic hair grooming injuries jumped five-fold between 2002 and 2010, according to a recent analysis of ER visits by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco. The cringe-inducing reports increased most at the end of the time frame, with an estimated 2,500 grooming mishaps a year by 2010.
And those are just the cuts, burns, gashes, rashes and other unpleasant outcomes that required emergency medical attention, said Dr. Allison Glass, a clinical researcher at UCSF. Those figures are likely a vast underestimate of the true injuries, and a reminder, among other things, of the need for extra care when wielding razors or hot wax.
“We actually found that 3 percent of all genitourinary injuries were related to grooming practices," said Glass. “I think the message is this is something that general practitioners and urologists should be aware of.”
Not to mention the average Jane -- or Joe -- considering a little trimming.
Pubic hair grooming has become increasingly common, virtually ubiquitous, in recent decades, the report published in the journal Urology notes. Surveys suggest that between 70 percent and 88 percent of young women in the U.S. partially or fully remove their pubic hair, the study said. Among men, both gay and straight, the estimates ranged between 58 percent and 78 percent.
Nearly 57 percent of the injuries logged in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database were in women, but 43 percent affected men, a surprise to some urologists, Glass said.
“This is not a female thing. It’s a male thing, too,” she said.
Shaving razors were the culprit in 83 percent of the injuries, with cuts being most common result. Scissors were used in nearly 22 percent of injuries, and hot wax led to 1.4 percent of the harm.
The accounts of the reported injuries would make anyone squirm. Suffice it to say that the 17-year-old boy who picked up a razor after smoking marijuana now understands that that was a bad idea.
What’s behind the reason for the rise in the most private of grooming injuries? Glass suggests that it’s caused in no small part by a social shift that has filtered down to girls as young as 12. A 2011 study by researchers at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University analyzed Playboy centerfold images between 1953 and 2007. They found that pubic hair began disappearing from popular pinup depictions starting in the 1970s and disappeared by the late 2000s.
“Changing beauty ideals are reflected in media sources … and have likely contributed to the expansion of this cultural trend,” Glass and her colleagues wrote.
The mean age of those injured was nearly 31, the study found. But almost half of the injuries in women occurred in those aged 19 to 28 -- with nearly 29 percent occurring in girls younger than 18. In men, the harm was more evenly distributed, with about 37 percent in those aged 19 to 28, and nearly 30 percent in those aged 29 to 45. Only 16 percent of injuries occurred in boys younger than 18.