Is your vagina supposed to have its very own multi-step skincare routine? If the recent rise in intimate beauty brands like The Perfect V, Queen V, Deo Doc, VMagic, Lady Suite, and Two L(i)ps have any say, the answer is a resounding yes.
There are exfoliators, cleansers, special bar soaps, wipes, sprays, “LIP” BALM (!), a vulva highlighter that has “luminious iridescent color to add some extra prettiness.” Heck, two L(i)ps recently had the internet raising eyebrows over its vagina sheet mask-a $25 “infrared-activated charcoal mask” to “detox and soothe your vulva.”!
Problematic suggestions that your vagina needs to be prettified aside (for the record: it doesn’t), the new wave of women’s intimate skincare is cheeky and ever Instagrammable-but is it safe?
“The vulva and vagina are self sufficient and self protective,” Dr. Jamie Schultis, a gynecologist at New York’s Pure ObGyn, says. “Additional products are really not necessary for normal vaginal, everyday hygiene. Just washing the regular outer vulva and the labia with water once a day is actually more than enough to be protective.”
When we brought up the vulva sheet mask, Schultis emphasized that, while charcoal is known to “extract toxins in your pores like a magnet” you should know that “the vulva is not exposed to the everyday environmental toxicities like your face is.” She continued, “There’s little indication of why your vulva would need to be ‘purified’ or ‘detoxed.'”
As far as sprays and lotions go, Schultis first suggests that if you notice a difference from your baseline, regular vaginal scent or discharge to “confirm there’s not an underlying infection that can cause symptoms before buying possibly expensive products to mask the smell.” Where claims of rebalancing your pH levels are concerned, as some products advertise, Schultis says “your vagina and vulva already do that themselves so it’s not necessary.” She also warned that intimate skincare products often don’t go through the rigors of FDA clearance and can make sensational claims.
That being said, Schultis won’t completely write off feminine skincare products on the basis of personal preference. “If it works for someone, great. I have seen women with good results. Does your vulva actually need it? Probably not,” she said. The very sensitive skin of the vulva can be irritated with minimal amounts of product, especially if there are additive fragrances. That could consequently put you at risk for a “very intense yeast infection,” so if you notice any redness, itching, or irritation, she recommends stopping use immediately.
At the end of the day, Schultis stresses that the vagina and vulva can naturally protect themselves. “I always go with the less is more rule,” she said, “Let it be. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”