“Can You Talk To Me About Butt Hair?” is the email subject line I never thought I’d write. Not that butt hair is a rare thing: You have it, I have it, the Kardashians have it (or they did at one point, anyway). But even in a culture of oversharing, in which we talk openly about nipple piercings and pimple popping, this is one topic that nobody really touches (even though we all have questions).
So we sent off our queries to dermatologists, gynaecologists, aestheticians, waxing and laser professionals, and those who have been on the receiving end of the very intimate body hair removal process. Thankfully, they weren’t as bashful as us. Below, see their responses to AMA, Butt Hair edition.
Why do I have butt hair?
“Body hair tends to grow more heavily in men than women, but hair on the buttocks develops, to some degree, in everyone,” dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, explains. “Women tend to have vellus hair — also known as peach fuzz — on the cheeks of the buttocks with darker, terminal hairs developing closer to the anus.”
While researchers have been able to pinpoint the functions that hair serves on various parts of the body, an explanation as to why we have bum hair is a little more elusive. “We likely have hair in the genital area around the buttocks because of evolution,” Dr. Zeichner explains. “Theories include the idea that hair protected those areas from potential microorganisms and infections, or that it kept the genital area warm.”
The derm also acknowledges other theories that may explain backdoor fuzz, including the idea that our predecessors required butt hair to help prevent chafing. Another indicator may signal the evolutionary need for butt hair to trap our natural scent. “Sweat, oil, and dirt certainly get trapped in our hair and contribute to our natural odor. So this theory may also be possible,” Dr. Zeichner says.
Should I Leave It Or Lose It?
From a health standpoint, there’s no overwhelming reason to keep or remove the hair on your butt. “I have not found that people who have removed hair from the buttocks are at an increased risk of infections. However, trauma to the skin from the hair removal process itself can put you at risk for an infection if you have any open or raw skin, ” Dr. Zeichner says.
Omnia M. Samra-Latif Estafan, M.D., an obstetrician and gyneacologist of nearly 20 years, agrees. "In regards to STDs, keeping or removing the hair is not the issue, but [rather] skin damage that can occur with its removal," she says. "Once a break in the skin has been created, exposure to STDs is increased. The break creates a 'doorway' in which the STD can enter the body." On the flip side, she notes that there may be sexual health benefits to going bare back there. "Removing [pubic] hair has been found to reduce some STDs such as pubic lice," she says.
From an aesthetic standpoint, to take it or leave it is entirely dealer's choice — body hair is personal and what you choose to keep or remove is your prerogative. But if you do choose to remove it, the method you pick definitely warrants major consideration. “Shaving the skin around the buttocks is a challenge because it frequently leads to cuts and nicks in the skin,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Waxing may lead to irritation or the potential to burn sensitive skin around the buttocks. And cutting the hair with clippers can be a challenge, especially if you’re trying to use them by yourself at home.”
In all, he says laser hair removal may be the best bet. “I am finding laser hair removal in this area [to be] increasingly popular in my practice. When done carefully, it is possible to remove the hair safely,” he notes. For laser hair removal to work, patients will typically need to complete six to eight treatments — depending on the amount of hair and thickness — spaced about four weeks apart. “This allows the full hair growth cycle to occur in between treatments," says Christine Danisan, a registered nurse and laser hair removal specialist at Blue Medi Spa. Yearly maintenance appointments may be required for women with hormonal changes, she adds.
We spoke to a few laser hair-removal veterans who had hair zapped from the buttocks (including between the cheeks). Some experienced slight pain during the actual laser treatment — what felt like the rapid-fire snapping of a rubber band to skin — along with uncomfortable chaffing once the hair grew back in between appointments; The unexpected friction and resulting scabbing and sores was enough to ward them off from finishing the series of sessions.
Others didn't experience any discomfort whatsoever, both during the appointments and the grow-back periods. The discrepancy may be due to the quality of their treatments — and major advancements in the technology. Whereas those who reported pain had undergone their treatments four to five years ago, those who did not have any issues started their sessions more recently. "The technology has changed quite a bit," says Christian Karavolas, owner and president of Romeo & Juliette Laser Hair Removal, who has seen a 50% increase in buttocks laser hair removal among his clientele over the past five years. "There are lasers that still give that [snapping] rubber band sensation a bit, but with the different cooling techniques available, it feels much lighter — like a slight tap."
If you're still worried about pain, Danisan suggests popping over-the-counter pain relief before the treatment, or in some cases, applying a numbing cream. She also strongly recommends avoiding any tanning or antibiotics beforehand, which can cause rashes or dark spots due to increased photosensitivity.
No matter what type of laser is used, there was one warning from every patient we spoke to: Get ready to be up close and personal with your technician. "They have to hold everything open and flat. I was like ‘Whoa! My doctor hasn’t seen as much — even my husband hasn't seen that much,'" one recipient, who prefers to remain anonymous, says. But it wasn't necessarily awkward. "The nurse was like, 'Whatever.' Laser RNs can't be shocked," she added.
Those looking to test drive the hair-free experience — or whose butt hair isn't dark enough for laser hair removal to work – may want to try sugaring, a hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic form of removing hair. "Sugaring removes the hair in the natural direction of the growth, as opposed to waxing or shaving, which removes the hair from the opposite direction of the growth, so it can be less irritating," says Courtney Claghorn, founder of Sugared + Bronzed.
How should I take care of my skin after hair removal?
Intimate hair removal is so common, it’s easy to forget that both sugaring and lasering are delicate treatments that require a bit of downtime. "We don't recommend perspiring, exfoliating, soaking in warm water (especially hot tubs), or any activities between the sheets for at least 48 hours post-sugaring session," notes Claghorn. Danisan suggests avoiding saunas, steam rooms, and exercise for between 24-28 hours after laser hair removal treatments. She also recommends tending to any redness or sensitivity by applying ice or hydrocortisone cream to the area.
What About Bumps, Lumps, and Rashes?
According to our pros, you can have skin issues in the bum area whether you choose to keep or lose your body hair — with pilonidal disease, a skin infection caused by ingrown hairs near the tailbone, at the top of the list. “A pilonidal cyst is a deep cyst that tracks down from the skin to the buttock. If they are small, they can remain in place. However, they can grow in size and become infected or inflamed requiring surgical drainage or removal, along with oral antibiotics,” Dr. Zeichner says.
That’s not the only skin condition that can develop behind our backs: “Folliculitis is a common rash that develops around the buttocks. Many people confuse it with true acne, however when hair follicles become infected, it may cause small pus pimples to develop,” Dr. Zeichner says, noting that exercise and other sweat-inducing activities can lead to folliculitis. To help prevent it, the derm recommends using a gentle exfoliating cleanser to help remove dirt, oil, and dead skin cells.
Those who decide to go completely bare can contend with their own special circumstances as a result of removal, including ingrown hairs and rashes. To relieve them, Dr. Zeichner suggests applying an occlusive ointment anywhere on or between the cheeks and outside the anus.
If you're noticing painful red bumps, that may signal an infection. “Apply over-the-counter antibacterial ointment twice daily and immediately after going to the bathroom,” Dr. Zeichner says. “If the bumps don’t improve, make sure to visit your dermatologist for professional help."