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"Brazilian" and Bikini Wax Popularity May Be Fueling Recent Rise in STIs

Update Date: Mar 19, 2013 12:34 PM EDT

Summer's nearly here, and you know what that means: it's time for you to make that dreaded trip to the waxing salon to make yourself bikini-ready. But before you embark on a journey to the nearest esthetician, consider this: new research reveals that your 20-minutes of stinging sacrifice may actually be all pain, and no gain.

New research reveals that "Brazilians" and other types of popular public hair removal may significantly increase the risk contracting a highly contagious viral skin infection.

A new French study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, found that "micro trauma" caused by waxing and shaving might help the spread of a viral infection called Molluscum contagiousum. The virus can easily spread through skin-to-skin contact, like sexual contact or touching someone who is infected.  People can also become infected touching contaminated objects like clothing or towels.

The infection causes white, pink or red, round bumps that appear alone or in clusters. The unsightly papules can appear anywhere on the body and are usually painless but itchy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Without treatment, the infection usually disappears within 6 to 12 months without leaving scars.  However, some growths may remain for up to 4 years.

While the infection is most commonly seen in children and in people with weaker immune systems, researchers noted that in recent years cases of sexually transmitted cases of Molluscum contagiousum have been on the rise.

Researchers from the recent small study wanted to know if the rise in the number of Molluscum contagiousum was associated to the increasing popularity of public hair removal among patients who visited a private skin clinic in Nice, France between January 2011 and March 2012.

The study revealed that of the 30 people infected with Molluscum contagiosum during the study period, six were women and the average of the entire group was 29.5 years.

Researchers found that the signs of infections or pearly papules had spread up to the abdomen in four cases and to the thighs in one.  The study found that in 10 cases, there were other associated skin conditions including ingrown hairs, warts and folliculitis (bacterial skin infection), cysts and scars.

The findings revealed 93 percent of the 30 patients in the study had their public hair removed, with 70 percent opting for shaving and 13 percent for clipping and 10 percent for waxing.

Researchers explained that because Molluscum contagiousum can spread relatively easily by self-infection through scratching, hair removal might also assist transmission because of the micro trauma the process causes the skin.

While it's painful, unnatural, and often ill-advised, researcher go on to speculate about the reasons for the rising trend of pubic hair removal.

"The reasons for choosing genital hair removal remain unclear, but may be linked with internet based pornography ... increased sexual sensation ... an unconscious desire to simulate an infantile look ... or a desire to distance ourselves from our animal nature," researchers wrote in the study. 

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