Skincare For Your Vagina Is More Than Just Skincare

by Jessica L. Yarbrough

This article originally appeared on The Zoe Report.

“Your vaginal routine should be just as important as your skincare routine,” Lauren Steinberg, the founder of intimate care brand Queen V, tells me. A few years ago, that statement probably would have prompted an eye roll or two. Today, it seems like a perfectly reasonable notion. Vaginal skincare products are having what’s known as A Moment, with brands like Queen V, Rosebud Woman, and Lady Suite taking skincare to a whole new, significantly lower, level. Do you really need a 10-step skincare routinefor your vagina, though? In the name of investigative beauty journalism, I tried it… and the answer is no. But you just might want one anyway.

First of all, let me acknowledge that "vaginal" is not the anatomically correct way to describe these products. Most of the trending cleansers, moisturizers, and oils are technically “vulvar skincare” — the vulva being the fleshy area surrounding the vagina — but that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?

Second, I know what you’re thinking: “OB/GYNs are going to have a field day with this one!” I mean, haven’t women always been taught that the vagina is “self-cleaning” and that douching is the absolute worst thing you can do? With that in mind, I reached out to both an OB/GYN and a dermatologist to get their thoughts on skincare for down there, fully expecting them to say it was a scam. But that didn’t happen. At all. The doctors I spoke with are truly excited about the emergence of more feminine care products.

“As an OB/GYN, I absolutely embrace the change women have taken on the outlook of vaginal and vulvar care,” Dr. Omnia M. Samra-Latif Estafan, a board certified obstetrician/gynecologist, tells The Zoe Report. She’s particularly enthusiastic about the fact that many of today’s intimate innovations reject the aesthetic-driven products and procedures of years past. (Think: labial bleaching, perfumed cleansers, and even what the OB/GYN calls “vagifacials,” which are exactly what they sound like.) Instead, there’s a focus on gentle ingredients, fragrance-free formulas, and sensual — sometimes almost spiritual — self-care.

A pull towards the latter is what led me to “step 1” of my personal vaginal skincare routine: Moon Juice’s Holy Yoni Oil. When it launched last year, the brand’s marketing was less “here’s a vagina oil!” and more “here’s a way to connect with the divine feminine within;” which appealed to me on a personal level. “Holy Yoni is a ritual for the sacred space between your legs, which is what yoni translates to from Sanskrit,” Amanda Chantal Bacon, the founder of Moon Juice, tells TZR. “Putting care and loving attention on something daily is, to me, the very definition of beauty.” The product features a carefully curated blend of natural oils and extracts, designed to both “bring extra juiciness” and bring out your "inner goddess" via schisandra berry extract, vitamin E, and sweet almond oil. And with that, my obsession with vaginal wellness began.

Through using Yoni Oil, I discovered how good it felt to treat this area to a little love — after all, historically, anything to do with the vagina has been messaged as shameful, embarrassing, insert negative adjective here.

“Vaginal health was once considered a whispered and hushed topic,” Dr. Samra-Latif Estafan agrees; and when it was talked about, it was in terms of “advertising how to create a more ‘aesthetically pleasing’ vulva,” as the OB/GYN says. I don’t think I’m reaching when I say that Holy Yoni Oil — and its peers, like Fur’s uber-popular pubic hair oil — helped usher in an era of vaginal empowerment. (Can someone make that a thing, please? #eraofvaginalempowerment?)

Rosebud Woman is another brand that exists within this cross-section of self-care and self-love. Besides introducing me to steps two through five of my own intimate skincare regimen (Refresh Cleansing SprayArouse Stimulating SerumSoothe Calming Cream, and Honor Everyday Balm), the company puts an emphasis on education — which, really, is the foundation of empowerment. The book The Invitation: Daily Love For Your Intimate Self, written by founder Christine Marie Mason, is merchandised alongside the brand’s product offerings and covers everything one would possibly need to know about mindful vaginal care; from anatomy, to pelvic floor exercises, to “conscious sensuality.”

Of course, the Era of Vaginal Empowerment (OK, yep, I’m making that a thing) isn’t all sensual vibes and yoni oils — there’s some actual science that needs to be addressed here. “The skin of the vulva is not as strong as the skin on our face, it’s more sensitive and thinner, so treatment has to be different,” Dr. Samra-Latif Estafan shares. “I advise avoiding products with added fragrance, perfumes, sulfates, alcohol, parabens, and dyes.” That goes for anythingnear the area — cleansers, lotions, oils, even lubes.

“The vaginal region has a pH of around 4, while the remainder of the skin is higher and more alkaline,” she adds, noting that the acidic pH of the vagina serves an important purpose: It helps defend against bacteria, yeast infections, and even STIs. “I often see women scrubbing and using harsh soaps or perfumes to help them feel clean, and unfortunately, these habits affect the skin of the vulva and the pH of the vagina,” Dr. Samra-Latif Estafan says. That’s why she recommends using body washes and cleansing wipes that are pH-balanced between 4 and 5 — simple soap and water will do just fine, too. As for the actual vagina? It’s a self-cleaning machine, so no worries there.

For those that shave, wax, or laser, experts say that applying lotion or oil to prevent ingrowns is fine. Even some light exfoliation is OK, as long as you’re using something specifically formulated for the vulva — i.e. no large, harsh grains — like the The Perfect V VV Cream Gentle Exfoliator. I’ve personally fallen hard for the gynecologist-developed DEODOC Pre-Shave Intimate Oil (step 6) and Shaving Intimate Foam (step 7), which I follow with a bit of Fur Oil (step 8) post-shower.

All expert interviews and independent experiments considered, I can say with confidence that your vagina certainly doesn’t need a 10-step skincare routine — it’s a magical thing that takes care of its basic needs all on its own. But personally, I’ll continue to give my “sacred space” a little extra attention, and here’s why: With all of the unrealistic beauty standards pushed on women’s bodies — and the shame that often comes along with them — caring for my vagina, anointing my yoni, and oiling up my pubic hair have started to feel more like steps towards self-love than steps in a skincare routine.

Cover image via @filipinogrndma