The myth of feminine hygiene

So last night I was laying in bed scrolling through Twitter instead of going to sleep early for work in the morning (a very regular occurrence). I seen a tweet about beautybay.com stocking a new range called ‘The Perfect V’, which is described as being inspired by the Scandinavian women’s self-loving lifestyle and in their own words, this range offers indulgent pampering for the v area. So initially two things stick out already, not all people with vaginas are women and not all women have vaginas. This wording is used across all feminine hygiene products so ‘The Perfect V’ is not the only culprit and if you’re going to sell products aimed at cleaning the vulva or vagina, why can’t you use those words?

When I saw the tweet I laughed at how ridiculous the range is (I tweeted about it looking like a yeast infection in a bottle, which I stand by) but the more I think about it the more I get annoyed by it. Why are brands like this perpetuating the notion that we need to pay £49 for a serum to make our vulva’s more appealing? I know this kind of marketing exists for everything from make up to food, but it just seems so ridiculous to me that now the appearance of our genitalia is coming into question. There is so much pressure on us all to look a certain way and to conform to a standard image of beauty and honestly, I’m exasperated that now my vulva must look a certain way to. WHEN WILL IT END?

All vulvas and vaginas are beautiful, they come in all shapes and sizes and I think it is very irresponsible of brands to make us worry about every single area of our body. I am not judging anyone who wants to alter their appearance in any way, that is your choice and you do you hun but the pressure we see everywhere to change your appearance is horrible and it is awful to see that most of the beauty industry is built on this. I have spent most of my teenage and adult life hating my body – hating my weight, embarrassed about my stretch marks and detesting my natural curls and I am only now starting the process of being kind to myself and trying to love myself. Minus thinking about pubic hair trimming and smell, I never even thought to be self-conscious about how my vulva looks. According to The Perfect V, this range will make the intimate area as beautiful as the rest of the woman’s body (again using the word vulva won’t kill you) and this just reads as a backhanded compliment. ‘Yes your body is beautiful, but it isn’t really because you aren’t using an exfoliator and a mist to make your vulva subscribe to our notion of beauty’.

So, it is apparent by now that this side of things has annoyed but something else I have been pondering is – are products like this safe to use? I joked about the products being a yeast infection in a bottle and after some research, I stand by my initial assessment. After my highly professional research (a quick google search), the lowdown on what I have found is the vagina is self-cleaning and anything like douching or using goop eggs (EYE ROLL) can actually cause problems down there. The good old NHS advises that vaginal douches get rid of all the bacteria in your vagina including the healthy ones and that doing this can increase the risk of STI’s and other infections. The NHS website quotes Professor Lamont who puts its quite bluntly, “if nature had intended the vagina to smell like roses or lavender, it would have made the vagina smell like roses or lavender”.

‘The Perfect V’ doesn’t have douches in their range but they do offer washes, creams, serums, mists, beauty sheets and exfoliators. It does say on Beauty Bay that this brand is approved by dermatologists and gynaecologists, so if we take them at face value then they are safe to use. Going back to the advice of the NHS though, it is a good idea to avoid using perfumed soaps, gels, wipes and sprays on your vulva (the outside genitalia including the labia majora and minora) as they can affect the healthy balance and pH levels in the vagina and cause irritation.

So, the long and short of it is your vulva and vagina is beautiful, don’t stick anything up there to clean it and while everyone has different sensitivity, it is best to avoid use of any perfumed soaps or products. If you are worried about smell or a change in smell, particularly if you find it foul, please visit your doctor or a local GUM clinic. Changes in smell and discharge can indicate infections such as thrush and bacterial vaginosis and STI’s such as trichomoniasis. On a side note, STI’s are nothing to be ashamed about they are very common but the sooner you get checked and get treated the better. It is also very normal to feel embarrassed about going to your doctor or GUM clinic, but they have seen it all and in all the times I have sought medical advice for anything genital related they have been lovely and treated me with kindness and zero judgement. Looking after your sexual health should be like looking after any other aspect of your health – you are doing a responsible thing by looking after it and I know society isn’t there yet, but there should not be any stigma around it.

I am based in Derry in Northern Ireland, so I am linking the website to get all the info about local GUM clinics across NI here; including opening times, information about the walk-in clinics and a phone number. Not everyone reading this is going to be from Northern Ireland but a quick google will tell you your nearest one or of in doubt contact your GP.

Pink like the inside of your…

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