Our Bodies, Our Lives
By Drs. Tristi Muir and Catherine Hansen 

The human body is amazing. And yet people continue to try to improve upon it. Arms, legs and abs are worked on for hours in the gym. Hair takes on different shapes and colors. Body art has been the rage for the past decade. Tattooing is common from head to toe. Piercing and gauging have extended from ears to nose to navel and elsewhere on the body across genders. 

Women have embraced body decorating for millennia. It has just become more inclusive recently. Pubic hair is dyed, styled, shaved, plucked and waxed. The pubic area is now frequently decorated or “vajazzled.”

The “Brazilian” (removal of all pubic hair) has spread rapidly in popularity over the past decade. Particularly in women under 30 years of age, the common style now is the Barbie doll look — no pubic hair at all. 

Young women would be wise to remember that pubic hair has a purpose. It provides a cushion against the friction produced with sex. Removal procedures can have negative consequences. As surgeons, we have stopped shaving for surgical procedures because of an increased risk of infection. If hair needs to be tamed in the operating room, we clip rather than shave. Plucking, waxing and shaving make small cuts in the skin that can lead to irritation and infections. If a woman is exposed to the herpes virus through oral or genital contact, these small cuts open the door for her to become infected with herpes. 

Beyond the removal of pubic hair, however, many women are now taking grooming to whole new level. Now there’s also the new world of vajazzling, defined by the Urban Dictionary as “to decorate your vag with jewels, thus bedazzling your vagina.” Although not anatomically correct (decorations are placed on the pubic area — the vulva — rather than “in” the vagina), we are sure you can get the picture. 

Some women include vajazzling as part of their dressing up for a special occasion, to provide a surprise for their partner, or just to feel sexy. Protruding jewels should be placed carefully or they may be painful for the woman or her partner when things heat up.

While the glitter and jewels may be removed, permanent cosmetic genital surgery has become a new business. 

Vaginal rejuvenation is a procedure marketed to improve couples’ sex lives. However, no scientific studies on its effectiveness or complications have ever been published. Some women request cosmetic surgery to reduce the size of their labia minora. The debate over the existence of the “g-spot” continues, although our medical ability to locate and enhance the spot is more in the genre of science fiction than reality. 

Freedom of expression is one of the things that makes our country great. If you decide to embrace decorative changes to your genital area, educate yourself on the health consequences associated with your choice of décor. In this world where people pay money to be different, be careful with how far you go in your pursuit of individuality. 

You could choose to embrace your own natural cosmetic differences.

Our Bodies, Our Lives focuses on issues surrounding women's sexual, gynecological and emotional health.

s. Tristi Muir and Catherine Hansen are gynecologists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. For more information, go to www.utmbhealth.com/pelvichealth.