10 women reveal their grooming habits — down there

Think everyone waxes but you? Think again.

For a body part we keep mostly hidden from the world — except under special circumstances, like birthdays — our vulvas have a lot of aesthetic possibilities. They can be shorn, Nair-ed, lasered, waxed or, unbelievably still, vajazzled. They’re also subject to trends: In the ’90s, our private parts were as hairless as that weird cat on Friends; in the ’70s, not so much.

This June, a study published in the journal JAMA Dermatology surveyed 3,000 American women on their pubic preferences, and found that the driving factor behind a woman’s personal maintenance method was hygiene. (Ed. note: There is no conclusive link between being hairy and being dirty.) Still, it’s girl gospel that how we groom below the belt is informed by so many more factors than germs: What about porn? Or age? Or one’s tendency to develop in-growns? For science (and fun!), we asked 10 real-life women to spill on how they prefer to style their pubes. And, yes, we used a few pseudonyms:

“I used to be afraid to wax; I thought it would be too painful. It turns out I have a high threshold for pain. I’ve been known to wax myself while talking to my sister on the phone. Waxing works best for me because it’s one less thing I have to do in the morning. (In case you haven’t heard, Portuguese women, like me, know how to grow hair.) I used to shave, but again, due to the whole Portuguese thing, I found waxing prevented in-grown hairs and made it thinner. 
I’ve noticed that the pressure to be free of hair has become a much bigger thing [now]. When I was in my 20s, some people waxed, but not the majority. It wasn’t the porn-influenced status quo I see today.” — Gina, 42

“I used to wax, but I have an excess of dark, coarse hair. It would grow back, and I had to wait for it to get long enough to wax again. Not convenient during the summer. I started lasering my bikini line in my early 40s, and I would have done it earlier, but laser is expensive. Removing it made me feel more feminine, and better about myself.” — Virginia, 52

Related: The 7 cardinal sins of at-home hair removal

“I read the Vagina Monologues [when I was younger], and the first monologue in the book is about hair. I loved that book — it gave me permission to feel sexy in my body as it was, and to only change it when I felt like it. I didn’t do any grooming until about 2010, when I tried my first bikini wax. I kept that up for a while because I thought that it was sexier: I was in a phase of life when I was working out a lot, and associated my sexual worth with how closely I [aligned with] current beauty standards (thin and fit with no hair). Now, I trim if I feel like it. I usually do it every few weeks because I find that when my hair is long, its uncomfortable and retains smell a bit more. As they said in the Vagina Monologues, “hair is there for a reason.” — Amanda, 32

“I shave. I stopped waxing because it was expensive, and you can only stand Jenna from the wax bar crowding her colleagues into the room to say things like, ‘I’ve honestly never seen anything like this in my career’ so many times before it stops being worth that silky smooth finish.” — Alison, 28

“I trim when it starts looking like a full-grown Chia Pet. For now, because it’s convenient, I use an electric shaver — one that trims, not one that pulls from the root (because ow). I’m a curly haired girl, so shaving almost always leads to in-growns and bumps, which is a non-starter. I’ve waxed maybe twice in my life: I once got a full Brazilian, and now I know that I prefer ‘down there’ to have some hair.” — Chanelle, 26

“I shave infrequently all year round. But if I’m going on vacation, I get the [waxing] gold package. Right up in there, front to back. I feel like I could climb Everest afterwards.” — Kellen, 35

Related: Swimwear for your body type: The 50 best swimsuit

“I only trim. I don’t remove any hair at all. This routine started as a kind of protest: I tried shaving for a few years; it wrought havoc on my skin, but all of my friends were doing it, so I thought I had to as well. Then, when I was about 19, I watched The English Patient with a few friends. In one scene, Juliette Binoche’s pubic hair can be seen for a split-second as she gets out of a bathtub. It’s quite a beautiful, emotionally charged [exchange] between her and her lover, but apparently her bush was so offensive to a friend of mine that he had to yell, “Ew, shave!” I remember being incredibly irritated with the whole situation — that a hint of pubic hair was so disgusting to this friend, and that others seemed to think it was acceptable only in period films. I decided to grow out my pubic hair, and it took a few years to be comfortable with my choice. Now, on the rare occasion I am asked why I don’t remove my pubic hair, I say what I said way back when: ‘Because too many people expect me to.’” — Anastasia, 28

“My mid-20s, no-pubic-hair look was inspired by Pamela Anderson’s sexy Baywatch one-piece — the one that barely covered her crotch. The intense itch when the bush started to grow back meant a regular routine of close shaves and a light coating of vaseline at night to keep the irritation at bay. Nowadays, with ripply thighs and my full bush showing signs of grey, there’s not much maintenance needed.” — Brenda, 50

“In my 20s, shaving felt like an especially urgent activity because, in my mind, it was linked to the possibility, however small, that I might have sex that day. After a while, I couldn’t outrun the hair anymore – I’d shave in the morning and have a five o’clock shadow by 2 p.m. So I went for my first wax. I waxed for years – I’d do full leg and bikini, but never a Brazilian. (I never understood how anyone thought putting hot wax “down there” was a remotely good idea.) Now I’m back to shaving: I have less time to devote to waxing appointments, and had a couple of bad ones in a row by new people at my regular salon. Also, my husband doesn’t care if I let it grow. It’s not like shaving opens some magical hole in the space-time continuum that allows us to have more sex.” — Cindy, 39

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