Mar 19, 2013
Brazilian waxes may increase risk of viral infection
By Meghan Holohan
Put down that razor. Step away from the wax. That Brazilian might be causing the spread of a sexually transmitted infection, according to a new study.
A dermatologist in Nice, France, observed more and more patients coming to his office with molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) outbreaks in their nether regions (molluscum contagiosum, incidentally, sounds more like a “Harry Potter” spell than a virus). About 93 percent of these 30 patients, both male and female, shaved, waxed, or clipped their pubic hair. This made Dr. Francois Desruelles, MD, wonder about the relationship between grooming downstairs and the spread of MCV.
“Pubic hair removal is a body modification for the sake of fashion, especially in young women and adolescents, but also growing among men,” writes Desruelles in a letter published online in the British Medical Journal. “Anyway, pubic hair removal may be a risk factor for STMC [sexually transmitted MCV] or perhaps other STIs …”
MCV, a pox virus, spreads by skin-to-skin contact, from sharing items such as towels or clothes, or sexual contact. It causes pearly papules with dimples in the middle. While MCV looks unsightly, it is not painful and often goes away without treatment. Although a few bumps might be an inconvenience, some people develop hundreds of these papules, which can be embarrassing and disfiguring.
After looking at cases of sexually transmitted MCV, Desruelles believes that people are self-inoculating, meaning they are giving themselves pubic MCV from grooming. A person might shave a papule on her leg, for example, and the virus remains on the blade, which transfers it to her lady parts.
This is a common way to spread bacteria or viruses, explains Dr. Robert T. Brodell, MD, a professor and chief of the division of dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. People often spread warts this way.
“You cut through a wart … and pull [the HPV] along a line so you end up with warts in a line. You have the original wart and nine more.”
Brodell, who did not participate in the study, believes there are a few other reasons why pubic hair grooming might cause the spread of MCV. People may share razors—so one person with MCV might pass it onto his roommate because they used the same razor (ew, people, get your own razors, especially if you are using it to trim your business). Or tiny abrasions from shaving makes it easier to contract MCV from a paramour.
“You have sexual contact with someone who has it and it is easier to pick up the virus,” Brodell says. He recommends that people abstain from sex with someone who has an outbreak of MCV. If people suspect they have MCV or warts they should shave around the bumps, not through them, he adds.
While grooming likely increases the spread of sexually transmitted MCV, it doesn’t mean we must go au naturel. Brodell notes there is nothing inherent about pubic hair that protects people from MCV or STIs. “The hair itself is not a defensive barrier.”