“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 routine for 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.
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 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.”
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,” Dr. Samra-Latif Estafan shares. “I advise avoiding products with added fragrance, perfumes, sulfates, alcohol, parabens, and dyes.” That goes for anything near 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.
Ahead, 12 ways to curate your very own vaginal regimen… whether you’re here for a smooth shave or a “holy” yoni.
Shop Vaginal Skincare
This was my first foray into vaginal skincare, but it's now the last step in my overall routine. "I prefer to use the oil at night along with my quick skincare routine, and if it’s a sexy night with my husband, it brings an extra juiciness and rosiness to the scene," Chantal Bacon says.
I personally love to use this fresh out of the shower, before I apply any oils. It naturally smells faintly of roses, but doesn't have any added fragrance.
The DEODOC line was created in collaboration with a gynecologist — so you know the ingredients are safe and gentle.
My own copy is well-worn and well-loved — 10/10 recommend.
Jojoba shines as a key ingredient for both skin and hair in Fur Oil, a dual-action product meant for use on the bikini line, whether you’re “bare or bushy.”
When it comes to cleansing, "it is important to use products in the 4 to 5 pH range so that your bacteria is not thrown off," Steinberg says. "We recommend using our V Bar, which has a pH of 5."
"Our bath bombs are all-natural and are filled with essential oils aimed at relieving menstrual cramps," Steinberg tells TZR. "The heat of a bath combined with the essential oils help relax contracted muscles and soothe your body."
"A little goes a long way and if used one to two times a week, this VV Cream Exfoliator can really alleviate any ingrown hairs that can happen from shaving, waxing, or sugaring," Avonda Urben, the founder of The Perfect V, tells TZR.
"Our VV Cream Gentle Wash is super gentle and smells great — it's fragrance free, but has a light freshness from the Scandinavian natural ingredients," the founder says. "After I wash my entire body, I use the Gentle Wash for the V and it makes me super refreshed and confident."
As Lady Suite says, this botanical-based oil is all about "the glow below."
Bonus: Love Wellness' pH-balanced cleansing wipes are bio-dispersible, so they're good for the environment, too.