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In some surveys, up to 90 percent of women in North America admit to current removal of pubic hair, and closer to 100 percent of women will report in confidential surveys that they have done pubic hair removal in the past. About 60 percent of women report experience with complications due to pubic hair removal, usually skin irritation or ingrown hairs. Women of European or Asian ancestry are more likely to suffer complications from pubic hair removal than women of Hispanic or African ancestry. Women who attempt total, temporary pubic hair removal nearly always have complications, and women who are obese have more complications from pubic hair removal than women who are not.

What about Nair for public hair removal?

In much of the world, there are two very popular household products that are made with sodium hydroxide, also known as lye: Drano and Nair. The same chemical that breaks up hair balls in your shower drain also breaks of hairs on your skin. But if you wouldn't ever use Drano on your delicate parts, maybe it's not a great idea to use Nair, either. There are other methods of pubic hair removal that also not a good idea.

Shaving with a safety razor or a straight edge razor can indeed produce a clean look, but anytime you use a razor of any kind over skin that does not have a smooth contour, you risk laceration, bleeding, and infection. Every year in the United States alone, hundreds of women have to go to the emergency room for treatment of pubic hair shaving injuries, and a few even have to be hospitalized. Electric razors are less likely to result in serious injuries, but using an electric razor or beard trimmer can cause a rash and in some instances break the skin. There are cases in which women have had to get emergency treatment just for inward migration of shaving cream applied before shaving the genitals.

More men have unfortunate and severe injuries trying to remove pubic hair with scissors than women, although about 750 American women every year have to go to the ER for scissor injuries to the labia. And several hundred women each year have to get ER or even hospital treatment for injuries caused by applying hot wax in areas where it can cause tissue damage. In women who have suppressed immune system, hot wax treatments can be a prelude for severe staph infections of the labial skin.

If Nair, shaving, scissor cuts, and hot wax aren't good methods of pubic hair removal, what is?

The least painful method of pubic hair removal is ruby (referring to the laser) laser hair removal. Red laser light from the Palomar E2000, RubyStar, or EpiPulse Ruby device kills the hair follicle and the pubic hair falls out. Because the laser is tuned to a frequency that primarily resonates in the hair follicle itself, there is minimal pain or tissue injury. Hair may partially grow back, but it's possible to repeat the treatment. This method has been around for about 20 years, so dermatologists and aestheticians are very familiar with its safe use.

The drawback of this kind of laser public hair removal is that it works best for fine hair, only a relatively small area can be treated at one time, and women who have darker skin cannot be treated with it. African-American and other dark-skinned women need to be treated with long pulsed nd yag laser, which is much less likely to damage adjacent skin. The hair has to be trimmed before the laser treatment so the light can reach the hair follicles. This treatment also can be very helpful in treating folliculitis resulting from the use of other methods.

Laser pubic hair removal works for both men and women. It's important to see a professional who has experience in working with your skin type, however, and to avoid home treatments that have serious side effects.

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