Shaving your pubic hair alone will not make pubic lice (crabs) go away. Pubic lice attach themselves to pubic hair and feed on blood from the skin. Shaving removes the hair but does not kill the lice or remove their eggs (nits). To fully get rid of pubic lice, you need to use a pediculicide treatment in combination with thorough hair removal.
What are pubic lice?
Pubic lice, also known as crabs, are tiny parasitic insects that live on coarse human body hair, such as pubic hair. The scientific name for pubic lice is Phthirus pubis.
Adult pubic lice are 1-2 mm long and have pincer-like claws that allow them to tightly grip hair shafts. Their bodies are oval and broader than head lice. Pubic lice are tan to grayish-white in color.
Females lay 3-4 eggs (nits) per day. The eggs are firmly cemented at the base of hair shafts, closest to the skin. They hatch in 6-10 days. Newly hatched nymphs look like smaller versions of the adults. They mature into adults in 2-3 weeks and live for 4-6 weeks.
Pubic lice feed 3-5 times per day by piercing the skin and sucking blood. Their saliva contains anticoagulants to keep the blood flowing. The bites cause intense itching and a rash in the pubic region. Scratching can lead to skin irritation and infection.
How do you get pubic lice?
Pubic lice are spread mainly through close, prolonged physical contact and sexual activity. Less commonly, they can spread via shared clothing, towels, or bedding that has been contaminated with lice or eggs from an infected person.
Pubic lice cannot jump or fly. They crawl slowly from one area to another. However, their claws allow them to securely attach themselves, even during vigorous activity.
Factors that increase the risk of getting pubic lice include:
– Having multiple sexual partners
– Having sex with someone who has lice
– Living in crowded and unhygienic conditions
– Sharing clothes, towels, or bedding with someone who has lice
Pubic lice prefer to live in coarse hair and do not survive long away from the body. Places where transmission can occur include:
– Pubic region
– Other areas with coarse hair like chest, legs, back, armpits
– Eyebrows and eyelashes (but this is very uncommon)
Table 1. How pubic lice are transmitted
|Method of Transmission
|Close contact between genitals allows lice to crawl from one person to another
|Lice or eggs present on fabrics can crawl onto new hosts
|Shared personal items
|Less common method via brushes, towels, etc.
Will shaving get rid of pubic lice?
Shaving your pubic hair by itself will not eliminate a pubic lice infestation. Here’s why:
Shaving only removes the hair shaft – It does not kill the actual lice or remove the eggs. Lice and eggs left on the skin can continue to live, hatch, and reinfect the area as the hair starts to regrow.
Lice can grip stubble – For the first few days after shaving, short stubbly hairs remain. Pubic lice are still able to cling to these short hairs while seeking out new hosts.
It does not disrupt the life cycle – Shaving only targets the adult lice living on the hair. It does not affect eggs or developing nymphs off the body. They can quickly mature and recolonize the pubic region.
So while shaving may provide temporary relief from itching, it will not fully eliminate or cure a lice infestation. The lice will return as the hair regrows in a few days.
Table 2. Limitations of using shaving alone to remove pubic lice
|Does not kill lice
|Lice remain alive on skin and can crawl to find new hairs
|Does not remove eggs
|Nits cemented to hair shafts fall off and survive on bedding or clothing
|Regrowth allows reinfestation
|Lice repopulate the pubic hair as it starts to regrow in a few days
How to properly get rid of pubic lice
To fully eliminate a pubic lice infestation, you need to use a pediculicide product in combination with thorough hair removal. Here are the steps:
1. Apply an over-the-counter pubic lice treatment like permethrin cream. Follow product instructions closely.
2. Leave the treatment on for the recommended time, usually around 10 minutes. This will kill the active lice.
3. Use a fine-tooth comb to remove dead lice and as many eggs as possible from the hair.
4. Thoroughly wash off the treatment with warm water and soap.
5. Remove the pubic hair entirely by shaving, waxing, or using a chemical hair removal cream. This gets rid of the remaining eggs.
6. Apply a second lice treatment in 7-10 days to kill any newly hatched lice from eggs that may have survived.
7. Wash all clothing, towels, and bedding in hot water to eliminate lice or eggs transferred from contaminated fabrics.
8. Soak combs, brushes, and hair accessories in hot water. Discard any items that cannot be thoroughly cleaned.
Repeat the treatment schedule as needed until all signs of infestation are gone. Examine close contacts like sexual partners to see if they also need treatment.
This combination approach reduces the chance of reinfestation and breaks the lice life cycle. Monitor your pubic region carefully over the next few weeks and repeat treatment if you see signs of active lice. See your healthcare provider if symptoms persist.
Table 3. Multi-step process to eliminate pubic lice
|Apply pediculicide treatment
|Kills live lice on body
|Comb out lice and eggs
|Removes dead lice and some eggs
|Remove all pubic hair
|Eliminates remaining eggs
|Treat again in 7-10 days
|Kills newly hatched lice
|Wash clothing and bedding
|Destroys lice or eggs off body
Home remedies to avoid
There are many ineffective or risky home remedies that people try to use to remove pubic lice instead of proven medical treatments. Avoid the following methods:
– Applying kerosene, gasoline, alcohol, or bleach – These can cause severe burns and irritation on delicate genital skin.
– Using garlic or essential oils – There is no evidence these naturally repel lice or kill eggs. The strong oils may sting sensitive skin.
– Taking oral medications or herbs – Things like ivermectin, black walnut, or oregano oil can have toxic effects without proof they work.
– Shaving with normal razor – Does not fully remove eggs cemented to base of hairs.
– Overuse of pediculicide treatments – Can cause skin reactions without increasing effectiveness.
– Suffocating lice with products like mayonnaise or petroleum jelly – Unlikely to properly eliminate infestation.
Rely on lice combs, pediculicides, and hair removal techniques that have been clinically tested and approved by health authorities. Supportive measures like anti-itch creams can also help manage symptoms.
You can reduce your risk of getting pubic lice by taking some preventive steps:
– Avoid close intimate or sexual contact with someone who has lice.
– Limit your number of sexual partners.
– Use latex condoms correctly every time you have sex. This creates a barrier to lice transmission.
– Do not share clothing, bedding, towels, or hairbrushes with others.
– Check yourself regularly for signs of lice, like itching or rashes in the pubic area.
– Shower immediately after sexual activity to help wash away any lice that may have crawled onto your skin.
– Keep pubic hair trimmed short to discourage lice growth.
– Use pediculicide or medicated shampoo prophylactically after being exposed to someone with lice.
Early detection gives you the best chance of treating lice before they can spread and lay new eggs. See your doctor at the first signs of pubic itching or rash for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Shaving your pubic hair alone will not eliminate a pubic lice infestation. The nits remain cemented to hair shafts and can survive to reinfect the area as hair regrows. To fully get rid of pubic lice, you need to combine mechanical removal of hair with topical pediculicide treatments applied at least twice, 7-10 days apart. This multimodal approach is the most effective way to kill active lice, remove eggs, and break the reproductive life cycle to cure the infestation. Avoiding high-risk sexual behaviors and contacts as well as practicing good hygiene can help prevent pubic lice from taking hold in the first place.