The wellness world is infiltrating all aspects of beauty, and is now pushing intimate care well beyond the pharmacy shelf.
No longer just limited to depilatory creams for your bikini line, ‘breathable’ liners and intimate washes, indie brands are offering both considered and premium products ranging from reusable sanitary underwear and organic tampons to good-for-your-vulva skincare and pubic hair oil.
And with 98 per cent of Australian women affirming that their intimate health is important to them it makes sense that the beauty world is cottoning on.
One of the first key ecommerce sites to introduce an intimate care section to their beauty category is fashion and beauty giant Revolve. “We see this as an extension of the wellness movement; consumers are not only more conscious of the products they are eating but also their skincare routine,” says Revolve’s beauty buyer Kandice Hansen. “We spend a lot of time and money on grooming and hair removal treatments that can irritate the sensitive skin in this area.
There has definitely been a gap in the market for products that address these concerns and it’s exciting to see so many new and innovative brands creating products for this market.”
With the rise of ‘self-care’ — the act of dedicating time to ourselves without feeling guilty about indulging in beauty rituals — skincare that extends past your pelvis isn’t just for vanity; it’s a positive shift to make women feel empowered rather than embarrassed about wanting to care and shop for vagina beauty. It also promotes being informed about personal hygiene and being in tune with our bodies.
Therese Clark, founder of Lady Suite, an intimate skincare and wellness brand based in the US, says that wellness and beauty are more synonymous than ever. “Women can actually care about their bodies in a way that’s healthier, more complete and are not as nervous or shameful around paying attention to their vaginas. I like seeing education around vaginas and vulvas that doesn’t feel like ‘I have a problem’ and is more positive and communal. I think education in a way that’s not cold or sterile and more conversational can help undo the taboos around vaginas.”
With $1.81 billion spent in Australia on professional hair removal like the humble bikini wax in 2016, and more recent figures showing 86 per cent of women remove their hair — this new wave of intimate care is set to explode.
Here’s a snapshot of some of what’s on offer…
- The Perfect V VV Serum ($86.43, revolveclothing.com.au) A rejuvenating and revitalising serum made from sea buckthorn, vitamin E and liquorice root extract formulated to tighten and firm skin and soothe inflammation.
- Fur Fur Oil ($64.95, nourishedlife.com.au) This blend of tea tee, jojoba, grape seed and clary sage oils work to soften pubic hair and skin, reducing ingrowns and itchy skin.
- Yes Cleanse Intimate Wash in Rose ($21.95, yesyesyesaustralia.com.au) Designed to respect vaginal ecology, this cleansing foam is pH-matched so won’t cause irritation like regular body washes and soaps.
- Lady Suite Rejuvenating Botanical Oil for Intimate Skin (about $66, ladysuitebeaty.com) This oil contains no nasties and is formulated with a vulva-friendly blend of naturally derived oils including jojoba and sesame to support skin suppleness and roadblock razor burn.
- Two Lips Blackout Mask (about $29, twolips.vip) The world’s first vulva mask utilises activated charcoal to detoxify the vulva, while cornflower and chamomile calm and moisturise the skin and white liquorice brightens and evens skin tone.
But when it comes to this category, what’s just a marketing ploy and what works? Are we doing more harm than help? According to Dr Judith Gardener, gynaecologist, obstetrician and GP, that may be the case.
“I welcome women being more aware of their vulvo-vaginal health and encourage them to discuss any concerns with their general practitioner,” she says. “However, social media and false advertising are leading women to believe that their normal labia, pubic hair and vaginal secretions are aberrations that require treatment. This is leading to an increase not only in vaginal cleansing but also Brazilian waxes and requests for cosmetic surgery.”
Personal choice of hair removal aside, the vagina is self-cleaning and it’s important to be educated when it comes to what products you choose. “The vagina contains numerous bacteria that are essential for good health. These ‘good’ bacteria protect the vagina against pathogenic or ‘bad’ organisms and maintain the correct low vaginal pH for optimal health and function. So, cleansing regimens will disturb this balance and increase the risk of infection,” explains Gardener.
Let’s get medical
V-Beauty extends further than just skincare, with non-invasive treatments and plastic surgery steadily on the rise. In fact, labiaplasty is the fasting growing cosmetic surgery in the world according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Melanie Parsons, the owner of Sydney’s Millennium Wellness, believes the boost in vaginal treatments comes down to female empowerment. “We’re no longer just content to put up with the changes that occur to our bodies through pregnancy, childbirth and ageing,” she says.
Offering a non-surgical radio frequency treatment [Viveve, from $2000] in her clinic, it works to tighten the vagina, increase sexual function and treat incontinence. “Vaginal laxity is the number one complaint after childbirth — even before stretch marks and weight gain. Sex after a baby may not be the same; sensation is decreased, arousal and orgasm diminished. Leakage can also be caused from tissue ageing and stretching and affects one in three women,” Parsons explains. “This treatment has been available internationally for a few years so we know from experience that it works and is safe.
Australian women are now able to enjoy the benefits from Viveve, allowing them to get their confidence back in and out of the bedroom, all being done within a lunch break.” Dr Oseka Onuma from The Australian Centre for Female Pelvic and Vaginal Rejuvenation believes that talk around V-Beauty stems from social media. “It has begun to drive the taboo subject of women’s vaginal and pelvic floor health more into mainstream conversation,” Onuma explains. “The negative aspect is that the information is relatively unregulated and not always possible to vet. It’s important that women are encouraged to view the vagina as a normal part of their anatomy and to be confident that any concerns that they have about it’s function will be addressed without fear of embarrassment.”
In his clinic he offers a gentle laser treatment (Lutronic Petit Lady, from $1500 for a course of 3) for vaginal tightening that remodels collagen and tightens tissue. The treatment is suitable for women with post-delivery vaginal alterations, atrophic vaginitis, vaginal relaxation syndrome, low sexual gratification, stress urinary incontinence as well as vaginal dryness, burning sensation and pigmented vulva, stretch marks and more. On the surgical side, labiaplasty is proving popular. “Patients can be diverse in their reason for wanting treatment.
From those who have developed an overtly protruding labia minora or where one side is obviously more prominent than the other, to those who are requiring repair following childbirth, and then there is a group who post-menopause have been left with a system that’s unable to regulate itself,” says Dr Naveen Somia, president of the Australiasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. Dr Somia agrees that the current trend of the Brazilian wax has a part to play with the awareness of vaginal appearance and labiaplasty, but that’s not the only driver.
“The procedure is [also] increasingly popular because the safety has improved with the need for an invasive technique being reduced thanks to improvements in technology,” he explains. “Specialist Plastic Surgeons (SPS) are increasingly meeting the requests of patients with both surgical and non-surgical vaginal rejuvenation with their technical skills and aesthetic intuition.” As with all major surgeries, safety is key and doing your research is a no-brainer.
“While seeking out the services of an SPS should be your jumping off point, you should also go one step further and make sure that your surgeon performs these procedures regularly,” explains Somia. Because any invasive procedure carries risk, it’s also a good idea to obtain a second opinion from an expert. In terms of cost, you’re likely looking at thousands of dollars. “It will vary depending on what procedure is right for you. An SPS will provide you with an itemised quote upfront so there won’t be any bill shock following the procedure.”
Upgrade your period kit with these tampons, cups and underwear that are better for you and the environment
- Pelvi Menstrual Cup Made from silicone, this can be worn at night and lasts up to 10 years. ($35.95, nourishedlife. com.au)
- Vee Underwear Made from organic bamboo, these are antibacterial and odour-resistant. Vee Underwear Eco-Friendly Bamboo Bikini ($19.95, veeunderwear.com)
- TOM Organic Tampons and pads made from 100 per cent organic cotton with no plastics. Tom Organic Tampons (from $9.20, tomco.com)
- Thinx Underwear that replaces pads, tampons, liners and cups. They’re period-proof, washable and reusable. Thinx Hiphugger ($50.69, shethinx.com)