Women's health: Associations among body hair removal, appearance concerns and behaviors, and sexual health

Stephanie L Grossman, Fordham University


Body hair removal is an appearance management behavior that has become normative among women. Pubic hair removal, in particular, has been recently demonstrated in the media as the feminine ideal. However, the process of hair removal can be painful and result in increased susceptibility to infection. It is unknown if removal is associated with harmful correlates similar to other appearance altering behaviors, like dieting, or with high-risk sexual behaviors in an attempt to please one’s partner. The aims of this study were to both create and validate a hair removal scale, and to examine the relationships between pubic hair removal and body image, eating and sexual health concerns, and related behaviors. Women (n = 264, Mage = 33.82), recruited from both a University and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, completed self-report measures assessing hair removal, thin-ideal internalization, body image dissatisfaction, psychological investment in physical appearance, eating disorder symptoms, perceptions of ability to use condoms, and sexual behaviors. Participants were divided into two groups based on frequency of body hair removal: daily/weekly (n = 65) and less often/never (n = 140) and were also assessed in terms of strength of reasons for hair removal. Results demonstrated good psychometric properties for the pubic hair removal scale in terms of internal consistency and test-retest reliability. In regards to validity, both the reasons for and against pubic hair removal scales exhibited unitary factor structures. Linear regressions demonstrated that greater thin-ideal internalization predicted less condom use self-efficacy, and also showed that greater thin-ideal internalization, appearance investment, self-objectification, and disordered eating, and less condom use self-efficacy (partner disapproval specifically) all predicted stronger endorsement of reasons for pubic hair removal. ANOVA analyses showed that those who sometimes use birth control endorse more reasons for removal than those who never use birth control, and also showed that “frequent pubic hair removers” reported greater thin-ideal internalization and appearance investment than “infrequent removers”. Thus, women who express stronger reasoning for pubic hair removal, and subsequently do so more frequently, endorse problematic beliefs and behaviors in other high-risk areas. The implications of these findings are discussed in relation to media consumption and sexual health education.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Grossman, Stephanie L, "Women's health: Associations among body hair removal, appearance concerns and behaviors, and sexual health" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI1603358.