Coloring pubic hair?

Dear Alice,

My girlfriend and I were wondering about dying her pubic hair. Is it okay to use regular hair dye or are there special products to use for it?

Colored hairs

Dear Colored hairs,

Thanks to advances in modern science and research, there are now products available made specifically for dyeing hair below the belt. Brands like Betty Beauty claim that their formula is safer on pubic hair than standard hair dyes because the dye doesn’t drip into the sensitive areas of the genitals. They offer colors ranging from more “natural” like black, brown, blonde, and auburn, to more artificial and vibrant like hot pink, lilac, aqua, and bright red. You can choose to dye your pubic hair to match the color of the hair on your head, to recolor grey hairs, or to go for a more vibrant, eye-catching color. In addition to Betty Beauty there are others as well—just make sure they specifically state it's safe for use on pubic hair.

Most of the major companies that manufacture hair color test their products on head hair and can only be guaranteed safe when used as directed. These products also often contain harsh chemicals like peroxide and ammonia, which can cause major irritation and injury to the genital area. The genital area has the lowest number of cell layers in the body, making the skin down there very thin and delicate. It’s also the only area other than the face with exposed mucous membranes, meaning it has a higher concentration of nerves, blood vessels, and skin appendages (hair follicles, sweat glands, etc.) than other areas of the body. Aging also has an effect on the skin downstairs: the older you get, the thinner and more permeable your skin becomes.

For these reasons, many people have experienced irritation like burning, itching, blisters, redness, and loss of hair in their genital area after dyeing their pubic hair. You might consider performing a patch test first to make sure the dye won't cause a reaction or other uncomfortable symptoms. By testing out the product first on a small bit of skin, you can determine how your body will react to the product—before you generously apply it elsewhere! Once you've done the test and are satisfied with the results, limiting your dye job to hair in the “safe zone” that covers the pubic bone (the mons), will help to avoid any of the mucous membranes including the labia, the vulva, and the anus. It‘s also advised that you avoid getting dye on the shaft of the penis and scrotum where the skin is equally as sensitive.

Following the directions on the hair dye package and paying special attention to any “Caution” or “Warning” messages—especially regarding how long to leave the dye on or how much to apply at a time—can reduce your risk of irritation. Depending on the instructions and the product, you may want to wear gloves to prevent your hands getting stained and avoid mixing different brands together to minimize potential reactions. Here are a few more tips that might be helpful:

  • Depending on natural hair color and desired outcome, the hair pigment may need to be removed and go through two or three steps to reach the preferred color. Coarser hair tends to take longer to absorb color.
  • If you have hair outside of the "safe zone," make sure to trim the area to avoid the product absorbing into those hairs and the sensitive skin beneath. 
  • Apply petroleum jelly to the penis, scrotum, and vulva to help prevent the dye from staining your skin if the coloring drips before the dye can be washed off with water. 
  • To help the color last longer, consider limiting your hot water usage when showering, since hot water can make the hair cuticles swell and open, which releases color molecules from the dye, especially with vibrant colors.

If you're nervous, consider getting a professional dye job. Some salons specialize in bikini waxes and dyes and will take care of the whole process for you. If you and your girlfriend have more questions about a specific hair color product, you might try contacting the manufacturer—most companies provide a toll-free customer service number on their boxes or will have a list of frequently asked questions on their website.

Be safe and have fun!

Last updated May 26, 2023
Originally published Apr 20, 2001

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