“Your vaginal routine should be just as important as your skin care 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 skin care products are having what’s known as A Moment, with brands like Queen V, Rosebud Woman, and Lady Suite taking skin care to a whole new (significantly lower) level. Do you really need a multi-step skin care routine for your vagina, though?
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 skin care” — 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 people always been taught that the vagina is “self-cleaning” and that douching is the absolute worst thing you can do? But on the other hand, we’re talking specifically vulvar intimate skin care, so is that more smiled upon? With that in mind, I reached out to two OB/GYNs and a dermatologist to get their thoughts on skin care 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.
Should You Be Using Intimate Skin Care Products?
If we take care of our faces with a meticulous skin care routine, why wouldn’t we do the same for one of the most sensitive parts of our body? That’s how Dr. Barbara McLaren, a board-certified OB/GYN and the co-founder of Kushae feminine care brand, sees it. “When we talk about skin care for down there, we're really talking about the vulvar area, which is outside the vagina and requires daily cleansing ... The vulva and vagina are among our most prized possessions, the most intimate parts about our beautiful bodies,” she tells TZR. “When women develop a vulvar skin care routine, they are being more proactive about maintaining the right balance ‘down there’ and can often address most issues before they cause too much discomfort or stress,” she adds. “Women deserve to feel their best every day when it comes to vaginal health, and shouldn't wait to consider it only when problems occur.”
Dr. Omnia M. Samra-Latif Estafan, a board-certified OB/GYN, agrees. “As an OB/GYN, I absolutely embrace the change women have taken on the outlook of vaginal and vulvar care,” she tells TZR. 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.
What To Look For In Vaginal Skin Care
Of course, the era of vaginal empowerment 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,” Samra-Latif Estafan shares. “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,” Samra-Latif Estafan says. “I advise avoiding products with added fragrance, perfumes, sulfates, alcohol, parabens, and dyes.” That goes for anything near the area — cleansers, lotions, oils, and even lubes.
So while you might be tempted to lather up with your regular body wash or even dual-duty your facial skin care down there, McLaren says it’s best to reach for products intended for the area. When perusing the abyss that is vulvar skin care, she stresses the importance of reading the labels on products, just as you would nutrition labels on food. “Optimally, for the vulvar area, you want to use products that are gentle yet effective, specifically formulated for that area, and pH-balanced [between four and five] to support vaginal health,” McLaren tells TZR. “Generally, most soaps fall on the alkaline side of the pH range, and the vaginal area thrives in a more acidic environment. The vagina and vulva are happiest at a more acidic pH, (specifically 3.8 to 4.5 for the vagina), whereas most soaps and body washes are too harsh, often at a pH range of eight to 13,” she explains, adding that a pH imbalance can lead to complications like yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and vaginal odor.
As for the actual vagina? It’s a self-cleaning machine, so no worries there.
Creating A Vaginal Wellness Routine
A pull towards a sacred, spiritual approach is what led me to “step one” of my personal vaginal skin care routine: Moon Juice’s Holy Yoni Oil (sadly now discontinued). When it launched, 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, founder of Moon Juice, tells TZR. “Putting care and loving attention on something daily is, to me, the very definition of beauty.” The product featured 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 with a little love — after all, historically, anything to do with the vagina has been messaged as shameful and embarrassing — insert negative adjective here.
“Vaginal health was once considered a whispered and hushed topic,” 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.
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 skin care regimen (Refresh Cleansing Spray, Arouse Stimulating Serum, Soothe 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.”
For those who shave, wax, or laser, experts say that applying lotion or oil to prevent ingrowns or razor bumps 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 Perfect V VV Cream Gentle Exfoliator. I’ve personally fallen hard for the gynecologist-developed DEODOC Pre-Shave Intimate Oil (step six) and Shaving Intimate Foam (step seven), which I follow with a bit of Fur Oil (step eight) post-shower.
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 people’s bodies — and the shame that often comes along with them — caring for my vagina and vulvar skin, anointing my yoni, and oiling up my pubic hair has started to feel more like steps towards self-love than steps in a skin care routine.
Ahead, 12 ways to curate your very own vaginal regimen… whether you’re here for a smooth shave or a “holy” yoni.
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