It may seem pretty left field, thinking about your grooming habits and your mental health, but could it be possible that trimming pubic hair (or any body hair, really) could contribute to higher levels of self-esteem or reduce anxiety?
As someone who believes that body hair is beautiful, this isn’t intended to be a piece about clean shaven bodies and the allure of hairless skin. In reality, I love my bush and don’t miss the days of razor burn. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t approve of the link between grooming as self-care. If those grooming habits are positioned around your pubes, well, you do you. Everyone deserves to feel calm, happy and confident, hairless or not.
Can Trimming Your Pubes Really Make You Feel Better?
After reading a piece in Mel Magazine, “Feeling Down? Try Trimming Your Pubes” I was intrigued. As someone who stopped trimming and shaving my pubes and armpits two years ago, I’ve felt more comfortable and in tune with my body since I shelved the razor and embraced the fur. My body looks like my own, sex feels better and showers are shorter.
That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy shaving my legs, though. It’s a ritual. I feel good when I do it. I feel good afterwards. I don’t shave every day, but when I do, I often take a bath, exfoliate, and moisturize. Even though I don’t always groom now, I did for the majority of my adult life. I never associated my pubes with my hygiene, or my mental health. I don’t think many people have. I don’t think I thought of shaving my legs as a type of self-care. Yet now that I’ve reflected on it, I do think that it’s necessary to my comfort within my body. Of course, I’m a supporter of body hair. I believe that the unattainable hairless bodies in advertisements and popular culture send negative messages about unattainable ideals.
I also support the idea that it’s a choice: to shave or not to shave. And while it's easy to assume that everyone removes hair in response to societal pressure, that isn't necessarily true.
Pube Trimming as a Gift to Self
Miles Klee from Mel writes, “Pube maintenance can be a gift to yourself, not just someone else.” This is important to note. When I asked for sources for this piece, I received some combative responses as a result. People automatically assumed I was in favor of bald genitals when, in fact, I am in favor of whatever makes people feel awesome in their own skin.
“Pubes and self-esteem have, I firmly believe, a mysterious but irrefutable connection - they give shape to a hidden shame or unspoken strength” writes Klee in his light-hearted humor piece on Mel. I wanted to see if there was a truth in this. I wanted to know if people - and not just people who identified as men - found that grooming, trimming, or shaving could enhance mood and confidence.
Ginger, who is 40 years old, told me that grooming helps with her inflammatory bowel disease and herpes outbreaks. “I feel much better - body dysmorphia wise - when I’m smooth and I personally prefer sex that way.”
At the age of 12, she began using her mother’s scissors because she loved how short and neat her pubic hair looked. She didn't start grooming because she though her pubes were dirty or gross. She said that pubic hair was a sign of growth. By 15 years old she began shaving. “I discovered bikini waxes in the late '90s when the whole Brazilian trend took off with the J Sisters in New York and people like Gwyneth Paltrow extolling it,” she stated. Ginger was excited because it was now not “weird” to be bare.
“I love shaving and definitely do it for me. The only time I have not been bare is when I was shamed for it after a serious sexual assault and felt I should stop to prove I hadn't been at fault. It made me so miserable and led to so much body hatred,” said Ginger. After beginning to shave again, she stated she felt like herself. “It also makes hygiene easier for me as I have inflammatory bowel disease and it makes it easier to deal with my occasional outbreak of herpes too.”
Olivia, on the other hand, is a 27 year old queer woman who doesn’t groom her body hair as much. She says that her hair is connected to her mental health and empowerment. Olivia doesn’t shave her genitals, but does groom them whenever she finds them to be too “unruly.” However, she mostly embraces her body. She told me, “I used to enjoy shaving my legs when I was younger, or getting waxed, but I’m so much happier now that I don’t obsess over shaving.”
Catherine, a 35-year-old cis female who is queer and married said that she doesn’t shave her armpits for feminist and aesthetic reasons. She shaves her legs sporadically and grooms her bush once a month. “I find when I’m really stressed, one thing that helps is completely shaving my legs, armpits, and pubic hair - it’s like getting back to a totally blank canvas.” She makes a ritual of it by exfoliating her body afterwards and using a moisturizer. “It’s like sloughing off everything that came before and letting new growth come in,” she explained.
“Does that sound utterly bizarre?!” she asked me.
It's All about Self-Care
It doesn’t seem bizarre at all. As people gain more awareness of self care, it's become clear that what that means is different for everyone - there are no cookie-cutter methods. Self-care can mean eating better, taking time for yourself, avoiding burn-out from work, or treating yourself to a dessert. It can also include grooming.
“I actually battled for a really long time with trichotillomania, which is compulsive hair removal, and this is my compromise for myself,” Catherine revealed. If she can control her body hair somewhat, and only occasionally, she doesn’t feel the need to “tweeze and shave and wax the rest of the time.” She went on to state positively that, “I can actually enjoy my body in its natural state.”
But There Are Still Judgments and Concerns
This isn’t to say concerns over body hair and grooming aren’t still rampant in our society. A 2013 study found that most people who identify as women believe their body hair is “disgusting.” In the study, participants grew out their body hair for 10 weeks and journaled about their experience and feelings. The journals revealed that women became obsessed with their body hair and refused to interact with other people during the 10 week study.
However, things are changing. An advertisement for a subscription razor service called Billie recently became the first ad to feature women’s body hair (bikini line, legs and armpits). The company says, “Hair. Everyone has it. Even women. The world pretends it doesn't exist. But it does. We checked. So however, whenever, if ever you want to shave, we'll be there."
The company has aligned with the Project Body Hair campaign, which wants to see an increase of body hair in media. Even though it’s a razor advertisement, it’s still working to shed the shame around body hair and society's expectations around it - especially for people who identify as women.
It may seem like a small task, to groom, but it’s essential for some people. For others, it is not. The key thing is that people choose the approach that's best for them, without judgment or policing from others.