Photo credit: Godisable Jacob
I was miffed when I recently read that the women’s personal care brands, Vagisil® and Summer’s® Eve, have released new scented personal washes and wipes.
According to Summer’s® Eve, the products “…eliminate odor-causing bacteria…” Vagisil® contends their products are, “…skin-friendly and designed for delicate skin…” and “…the products are formulated without dyes or MIT preservatives” so they don’t irritate vaginal skin.
First of all, let’s talk about MIT, or Methylisothiazolinone. It’s a preservative that’s used in personal care products. It’s linked to lung toxicity, allergic reactions, and potential neurotoxicity. Oh -- and it’s also used in industrial applications like vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, automotive plastics, and more.
Secondly, I’m offended that these companies assume my lady bits smell foul. Who decides what odors are acceptable and/or unacceptable? I’m going to answer this question for you later, but first let me give you a little background.
If my, or any woman’s lady bits smell foul, that means there’s something medically amiss. Something their feminine personal care products will only worsen. Something that needs to be addressed by a medical professional, not perfume.
Are they kidding me?
So Vagisil® thinks they’re doing women a favor by removing a toxic ingredient from their products? Hello! What about the fact that personal care products, like douches, do not have any health benefits? As a matter of fact, fragranced personal care products like douches cause more problems than good.
How does it affect me?
Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is a urinary metabolite that has adverse effects on women’s reproductive, endocrine, and developmental systems. Researchers found that African American women have higher levels of urinary DEP than white and Hispanic women.
The researchers speculate it may be due to the use of fragrance containing tampons, douches, and deodorants. This conclusion was derived by self-reports by the study participants. It was also noted that African American women douche, use feminine sprays, feminine wipes/towelettes, and other products four times more than white women.
It doesn’t stop there. African American women also had three times the urinary concentrations of Mono-ethyl phthalates (MEP) and Mono-n-butyl phthalate (MnBP) compared to white and Hispanic women.
MEP and MnBP are metabolites of BEP. Like their benefactor BEP, MEP and MnBP are derived from using colognes/perfumes and fragranced personal care products. Douching is the reoccurring culprit in these scenarios.
So why do women douche?
That’s a good question. Women reported douching to:
- Feel fresh and clean.
- Remove menstrual blood.
- Remove vaginal odors.
- Remove vaginal discharge and irritation.
I remember in the early 1990s, my OB/GYN informed me that douching was unnecessary. She stated that the vagina is self-cleaning by making mucous to carry bad bacteria away. And douching had no medical benefits.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) frown upon douching citing it causes yeast infections and vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina). Douching negatively affects your chances of getting pregnant. It negatively alters your vagina’s natural acidity, which is your body’s defense mechanism against infections and irritation. This increases your risk of potential pelvic cancer. It also gets rid of good bacteria, which hinders your vagina from naturally doing its job.
Why do African American women douche at higher rates?
In a 2011 article, An Odor of Racism: Vaginal Deodorants in African-American Beauty Culture and Advertising, Michelle Ferranti found African American women are subjected to a historical racist practice called, ‘odor discrimination’.
Advertisers capitalized on this practice against African American women by creating a culture that established douching as beauty aesthetics. This culture was passed down throughout generations. It was also used as a motivator for African American women to gain social and legal acceptance in white society.
I’m beginning to wonder, “Is everything marketed to African Americans for the benefit of being accepted by whites?” But I digress. That’s a question for its own conversation.
What’s the best way to clean my lady bits?
Wash the outside of your vagina with warm water. If you feel you need a little extra oomph, use a mild unscented soap. To keep your lady bits healthy, avoid scented feminine hygiene products. They only cover up odors and make things worse.
Sister girls, take care of your lady bits and let her do her job naturally.