A shaving accident is no fun, especially if it’s on your bikini line. Thought you were the only one with Band-Aids on your lady bits? According to the Journal of Urology, the second most common reason that people visit the emergency room from genital injuries comes from mishandling razors, scissors and clippers to remove unwanted body hair. Ouch.
“When you shave, each hair follicle becomes raised—and when the area isn’t smooth you may be more likely to nick yourself with the razor,” says Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, M.D., an ob-gyn in Los Angeles. Not only can this hurt when it happens, but it also sets you up for infection later on. When you cut yourself, the external bacteria has an open invitation to enter your bloodstream. “Anything that’s living on the skin should say on the skin and not go inside the tissue—with open cuts you can get a bigger infection than you would otherwise,” Gilberg-Lenz says.
If you do shave, just make sure you’re only swiping the visible areas, Gilberg-Lenz advises. The further south you go, the more delicate your skin gets. That said, even though you have a higher density of hair follicles on the mound (versus the undercarriage), you can easily get an infection in that area, too, she says. Her rule? “If you can’t see what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing it. Let a professional do it instead.”
Something else to remember: Your pubic hair is there for a reason. By removing it, you are altering the balance of the protective secretions and oils down there, Gilberg-Lenz says, which can substantially change the micro-conditions of the area around your vulva, leaving it more at risk for infection.
Luckily shaving, while convenient, isn’t your only de-forestation option. Here, a quick review of four other hair-removal choices:
Using a body trimmer may leave you with a bit of stubble, but it’s safer than taking a blade to your lady bits. As with shaving, limit trimming to areas you can see and don’t get too close to any of the important parts.
Cost: $30-$70. We like the Bliss/Philips Bikini Perfect deluxe trimmer ($60, target.com).
These alkaline creams and lotions dissolve hair from the surface of the skin, and although they can be pretty messy, the results are quick. For a more effective removal, find a formula that comes with a plastic scraper, says Cindy Barshop, owner of Completely Bare Spas in New York City..
Need to know: The skin near your genitals is thin, which makes it more sensitive to the chemicals in depilatories, she says. Make sure not to leave the product on too long and do a patch test first.
Waxing, like tweezing, removes hair at the root. Hard wax doesn’t stick to your skin, making it less painful, but can only be used in small areas at a time. Soft wax may hurt more, but it can be used in larger areas and is better suited for your bikini line. Although popular, waxing still compromises the integrity of your skin, and can create small portals allowing bacteria to enter the body. Make sure you are getting treatment from a licensed aesthetician, and do your own recon at the salon to make sure things are being cleaned and replaced when appropriate, says Gilberg-Lenz
Need to know: In order for the wax to adhere to the hair, you’ll need at least a quarter of an inch of growth before application, Barshop says.
The light pulsation kills the follicles underneath the skin and the hair falls out later, Barhop says. Although it can be painful (feels like pinch), the results are close to permanent. You’ll need to three to seven appointments every 6 weeks to see the best results, she says.
Need to know: The energy in the laser was designed to target dark pigment, so originally this treatment was most successful for light-skinned, dark-haired individuals. But new technologies are being developed to operate at longer wavelengths, targeting darker complexions or super light hair.
Cost: $150 to $500 for each session, depending on the area