Valentine’s Day is a holiday dedicated to romantic evenings with one’s partner. Around this time, I’m sure people with vaginas are wondering — and I use the term “people with vaginas” instead of women, since there are people with female anatomy who do not identify as female — should I do something special? You might have even looked down that aisle in the store.
Feminine hygiene usually refers to pads, tampons, cups (even mess-free sex ones, how awesome is that?!), and anything that’s associated with menstruation. That’s because anything else isn’t needed.
Summer’s Eve and similar companies seem to be trying to sell their washes and wipes as self-care products. The word “fresh” comes up a lot in these ads, and I have to question them for this. Is something that’s smothered by two or more layers of clothing and in between legs supposed to be fresh? Is the human body supposed to be referred to as fresh?
Ads like these have drawn a lot of criticism from feminists. Summer’s Eve’s ad campaign slogan, “Hail to the V,” was criticized as reducing women down to one body part, which just builds the portfolio of their “bizarre, vaguely sexist advertising gimmicks.” Back in 2011, when Summer’s Eve launched the “Hail to the V” ad campaign, the company was under fire for their ads being “sexist, racist, and borderline obscene.”
Aside from terrible marketing, Summer’s Eve products contain a decent amount of harmful ingredients. For example, the wipes have Octoxynol-9, which is a contraceptive; however, “wipes containing Octoxynol-9 are not considered contraceptives, nor are they required to have any caution labeling on their potential effect on fertility.” Fragrance is used in all Summer’s Eve products, which OB/GYN Dr. Lissa Rankin said are “dangerous and increase the risk of allergic reactions, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and other dermatologic conditions.” They do offer fragrance-free options, but they aren’t truly fragrance free. The wipes also contain a trademarked ingredient called Neutreese, the contents of which are not disclosed to customers.
Summer’s Eve may be the poster child of this industry, but it’s far from the only option. Just a quick search at target.com for feminine hygiene products comes up with washes, wipes, sprays, and douches from at least eight different brands — including The Honey Pot, a Black-owned company that sells everything Summer’s Eve does and more — but only using natural ingredients. The company Honestly pHresh follows a similar philosophy to The Honey Pot by selling natural deodorant-centered products, including a vaginal wash. On their website, they have an article warning against ingredients often found in vaginal hygiene products. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, soap, parabens, phthalates, perfumes, and synthetic fragrances, they say, have no business being around your vulva; all are potentially irritating, with soap threatening the mucosal lining’s moisture. While what The Honey Pot and Honestly pHresh sell is better than Summer’s Eve, it’s still nowhere near something you should consider spending your money on.
Board Certified OB/GYN, Dr. Danielle Jones (Mama Doctor Jones on YouTube) is one of my personal favorite resources for questions about vaginas. In her video titled “5 Things Your Gynecologist Wants You To Know,” she cited staying away from that aisle in the store as the fourth thing. There are so many things you just don’t need. “These products are useless at best and harmful at worst,” she said. “These companies are making millions of dollars profiting on making women feel uncomfortable about their normal bodies.”
All one needs is water to clean their vulva. OB/GYN Mache Seibel, M.D., said that, more often than not, it’s sweat that needs to be cleaned, not actual bacteria. The vulva sweats just like the rest of the skin of the body. Dr. Seibel says that mild soap should be sufficient for cleaning the vulva if water doesn’t do the trick.
Though the vagina is an important organ in one’s body, it’s not so special that it needs expensive products that smell like flowers. There’s nothing wrong with a person’s natural scent. If one has questions, they should look for answers from an OB/GYN, or at least look at information verified by one. To all my fellow people with vaginas: don’t fall for corporate lies this Valentine’s Day.
Featured Image: Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus