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Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009

Close Shaves

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What are the best products, shavers, creams, techniques, etc. to use to shave my partner’s pubic hair in order to eliminate any potential harm and prevent her from having discomfort after the shave?

There are many different reasons for shaving the genital area, so which methods you go with might be determined by the effect you’re trying to achieve. Some people shave for practical reasons—they don’t want hair peeking out of their underwear or bathing suit. Some shave for aesthetic reasons, because having less or even no hair is visually appealing to them or to their partners. (You can get as elaborate as you want with pubic aesthetics—sex toy manufacturer Fun Factory now makes pubic hair “stencils” that allow you to shave in a particular shape, and a company called Betty sells not only stencils but pubic hair dye as well, including my personal favorite color, a bright bridal blue.) Some people shave for erotic reasons, finding that having less hair makes oral or anal sex more pleasurable or that styling their pubes a certain way makes them feel sexier. The act of shaving itself can be very erotic, as it requires close-up contact with the genitals, and if you’re letting your partner do it, a good deal of trust and power exchange is involved as well.

The most common problems that can crop up when shaving pubic hair include cuts, ingrown hairs (when a shaved hair curls back into the skin as it regrows instead of growing out—very common with curly pubic hair) and itchiness as hair regrows. A lot of these problems can be avoided by not shaving very closely. In fact, some people find that their genital grooming needs are nicely served by trimming the hair with scissors rather than shaving. Others find that trimming prior to shaving makes shaving easier.

If you do opt for shaving, be sure to use a new, sharp blade (dull ones are more likely to cut skin). Get a high-quality razor with a pivoting head and multiple blades—this is no time for cheap disposables. Many people like Gillette Mach3 or Venus razors, although you might want to experiment to find one that’s right for you. Some people prefer electric shavers or trimmers, which do not cut as closely as blades and are thus less irritating. To get an idea of what other people have found useful, check out the forums at www.hairtell.com, especially in the “Mature Topics” section.

Getting the genital area warm and wet softens the skin and makes it easier to shave, so doing this in the bath or shower is ideal. Gently exfoliating before shaving might help prevent ingrown hairs and razor bumps for some people. Use a shaving cream that’s made for sensitive or “bikini-area” skin. Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel is one popular choice, and many customers at the Tool Shed swear by Coochy shave cream. Sliquid, a manufacturer of sexual lubricants, also makes a line of shave creams called Sliquid Smooth. Shave with—not against—the direction of hair growth; for most people, this means shaving down and in or down and out. Don’t shave too closely, as this can cause cuts and irritation—be careful of all the normal bumps and curves in the genital area. Pull skin gently taut, but not too tight.

If you follow the above instructions, ingrown hairs and razor bumps should be minimized, but what about itching as hair grows back in? This can be intensely irritating for some people, and is usually managed or eliminated with regular shaving—every day or every other day. You may have to be prepared to make a serious shaving commitment.

Lest readers think that I am down on hair after reading this column, I will point out that pubic hair performs some important functions, most notably providing a cushion and reducing potential painful friction during sex. Taking it all off could be uncomfortable for some people. Pubic hair also catches and retains pheromones and our natural body odors, which some people find very arousing. Whether you have a wild, untamed bush or are naked as a jaybird, as long as you and your partner(s) are happy, it’s all good.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.

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