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Sex & Gynae
The V-care revolution: all the down there brands we’re getting intimate with
November 8th 2019 / 0 comment
Intimate washes and post-wax care are stepping into the spotlight, following a makeover from hush hush to hot topic
It’s only in the last year or so that the conversation has properly turned to all things V-care. It started with the revolutionary book Wonder Down Under by sexual health educators and medical students Nina Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl in 2018, which set the tone for more straight-talking tomes such as The Gynae Geek by Dr Anita Mitra and Period (subtitle: It's about bloody time) by Emma Barnett.
The very fact that we now have V-care as a name for all things to do with looking after our vaginas, vulvas, waxes and the nitty-gritty of periods, means those slightly embarrassed conversations about post-waxing ingrowns, sex-toy recommendations (you simply have to try the Womanizer, btw) and chafing are becoming a thing of the past.
“Brands are using anatomically accurate language to promote their products, making talking about the area more comfortable,” says Irina Ene, Beauty Innovation Coverage Manager at trend forecasters Mintel.
“Having a wider variety of specialised intimate care products, like the Activiated Charcoal Vulva Mask from Singaporean brand Two Lips, has contributed to lifting the taboos around women's sexuality,” Irina continues. “Additionally, women are more focused on the health benefits of targeted intimate care products, and in the last year intimate products launching with "gynaecologist-tested/recommended," claims have grown by nearly 50 per cent compared to 2016, confirming consumers' trust in scientifically and medically backed formulas.”
This year we’ve seen major beauty retailers proudly adding sexual health and wellbeing categories to showcase the enormous range of V-care offerings. Cult Beauty led the way in March with a ‘Sexual Pleasure and Wellness’ section (dubbing it a 'vulvalution') featuring toys, supplements and luxe lubricants by brands such as Smile Makers and Anatome. This was swiftly followed by Boots, with its own ‘Sexual Pleasure and Wellbeing’ category, a mass-market offering of things you’d never expect to see on their shelves, including a £100 sex advent calendar (a bit different to beauty calendars, admittedly).
Feelunique also came on board in August, with a Sexual Wellness section on the site, touting everything from sensual candles, to massage oils and quirky condom brands.
“There’s been a 115 per cent increase in sex and wellness searches online,” says Jennifer Roebuck, CMO at Feelunique of the decision to launch the section. “Sex is no longer taboo, and we want to normalise the conversation about sex and sexuality in retail.’’
“Eighty per cent of people believe that your sexual wellbeing can increase self-confidence, but we still don’t feel comfortable talking about female sexual pleasure and intimate health,” says Helen Normoyle, Marketing Director for Boots UK and Ireland. “At Boots, we’re using our communications channels to help normalise sexual wellbeing as a topic, as well as giving customers an accessible way to find out more.”
This industry movement, coupled with celebs talking openly about their favourite intimate care products (Emma Watson turned us on to Fur Oil with her glowing review – see below) and a whole host of modern V-care products, means women are now openly swapping tips on everything from the best remedies for ingrown hairs to the intimate washes we swear by to the vulva loving lotions that soothe us post-sexy time.
Here are some of the V care brands you need on your radar.
My Viv - The charitable one
Product pick: Vaginal Moisturiser, £10
10 per cent of profits from this vaginal moisturiser goes to Breast Cancer Now - but that's not the only reason we love it. It was designed specifically to target dryness caused by menopause, childbirth, medicine and illness and is enriched with natural ingredients such as hemp seed oil and aloe vera. My Viv is a nineteen product range, standing for My Very Important Vagina and is owned by Ann Summers.
WooWoo - The cheeky one
Product pick: Saddle Sore Intimate Soothing Balm, £6.75
This brand doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to intimate care, adding va va voom to your feminine hygiene products – not that they’d ever refer to them in this stuffy way. From condoms, to cleanser, they do it all – and have fun while doing it. Our pick from the brand is Saddle Sore, a godsend when it comes to both preventing and curing chafing, be it from an over-zealous spin class or intense bedroom session. The balm heals and soothes sore, irritated skin with chamomile, rosehip oil and aloe vera.
Fur – The celeb-approved one
Product pick: Fur Oil, £46
My interest in Fur Oil was piqued when Emma Watson told an interviewer that she used it on everything from her pubic hair to her split ends. Whether you prefer a full bush, a landing strip or like to go bare down there, this botanical oil is designed especially for softening pubic hair and clearing pores, meaning less pesky in-grown hairs. It’s expensive, but with nourishing ingredients including jojoba oil, grape seed oil and clary sage oil, I think it’s worth it. Plus, it’s made with vegan, cruelty-free and non-toxic ingredients that are gynaecologically tested, so is safe to apply to your sensitive nethers.
DeoDoc – The one with doctor backing
Product pick: Intimate Calming Oil, £25
Founded by doctor sisters Hedieh Asadi and Hasti Asadi, vegan-friendly DeoDoc aims to clear confusion about down-there care, with straightforward information and medically-backed vagina-friendly products. They offer intimate wash, wipes and this Calming Oil.
Whenever you’re feeling a little tender downstairs, be it during your period or after wearing a constrictive pair of skinny jeans, apply this concoction of chamomile, almond and shea butter to protect the sensitive skin of the vulva from further friction.
A medical doctor, Hedieh offers this advice on preventing irritation with your V-care: “The vulva has a delicate eco-system with a specific pH that should not be disrupted. Any washes used on the vulva should have a pH of 5. Products with different pH levels can disrupt your body’s natural pH, leading to irritation, discomfort and, possibly, infections. Never wash with regular soaps, body washes or body gels because many contain high pH levels and non-hypoallergenic fragrance ingredients that are not correctly formulated for intimate area skin.”
Necessaire – The clean beauty one
Product pick: The Sex Gel, £20
I cringe thinking about the sticky cherry flavoured Durex lubes of my youth, so all my minimalist dreams came true when I laid eyes on The Sex Gel by Necessaire, a clean skincare brand loved by Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop. It rivals skincare products in the style stakes, and wouldn’t look untoward next to the candles and sleeps sprays on my bedside table.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty (or not), Sex Gel gives the perfect glide, with ingredients including aloe vera to soothe and hyaluronic acid to moisturise – plus, it won’t stain your sheets and it’s water-based so entirely condom friendly. Necessaire pride themselves on creating body care products that feel like self-care rather than an afterthought; if a luxe lube isn’t the highest form of self-care, I don’t know what is…
Two Lips – The boundary-breaking one
Product pick: Bumpps, £68
We feel no qualms on using high-end skincare for our face, so why should our nether regions be any different? This is the ethos behind Two Lips, which uses botanical ingredients such as charcoal that you'd normally find in a high-performance facial serum or mask. The price certainly reflects that. It claims to be the first luxury intimate skincare range.
Having launched just one year ago has become a serious disrupter in the V-care industry. Founder Cynthia Chua, who spent 20 years in the industry and headed up global chains of waxing salons says: “We are addressing an issue that many have shunned, and are able to help women come together and share their vulva woes, which they have been battling for a long time.”
Earlier this year we tested the brand's hero product, the charcoal Vulva Mask (Read Imogen Edwards’ Jones hilarious review here) Also noteworthy is Bumpps, a sebum control serum that banishes blemishes from the pubic area. There’s nothing more annoying than your flawless Brazilian wax being blighted by pesky pimples – we’ve all been there, but this product clears these bumps by fighting bacteria and preventing infection. Apply it post-wax to any areas of irritation to feel smooth and sexy.
The Perfect V – The luxury one
Product pick: Gentle Wash, £19
While Femfresh wash will always have a place in my heart (and on my bathroom shelf), sometimes I’m in the market for something a little bit more luxe when I’m lathering up in the shower. That’s where The Perfect V comes in.
The brand’s founder, Avonda Nelson Urben wanted to create an indulgent pampering range to care for our sensitive pubic skin. This collection includes an exfoliator that wards off ingrown hairs and beauty sheets to making wiping clean feel that bit more decadent. Boasting a chic Scandi design and high-end ingredients, plus glossy pale pink and rose gold packaging, this feminine wash is ultra-mild, gynaecologically-tested and paraben-free, It refreshes the outside (the pubis and vulva) without disrupting the area's pH balance.
Hemple – The calming one
Product pick: CBD Love Gel, $42 (launching in the UK soon)
I’d be lying if I said I always felt totally confident in the boudoir, so a little helping hand from CBD oil would be welcomed every now and then. Enter Hemple’s CBD Love Gel, created in collaboration with skincare brand They Call Her Alfie. Designed to be applied to the surface of the clitoris before sex, it promises a more sensitive sexual experience, thanks to natural aphrodisiacs fenugreek and longjack (sounds made up, but is actually a shrub which improves low testosterone), while CBD oil claims to relieve anxieties around sex when absorbed by reducing tension, helping us enjoy a positive experience between the sheets.
Flamingo - The American one
Product pick: Mons Mist, $12
Customs fees are a real pain (I should know, my Kylie Cosmetics customs fees have totted up to more than the makeup I’ve purchased), but every so often a product comes along that is worth the hefty fee, and this is one of them. Mons Mist is a conditioning spray for pubic hair, that hydrates no matter where in the hair growth cycle you are, thanks to jojoba oil, coconut oil, botanical extracts.
Regardless of whether you wax or shave, this mist is one post-treatment step we never want miss out. Flamingo is all about hair removal, from razors, shave gel and waxing kits, so we trust them implicitly to provide products to care for our follicles.
Nessa - The pregnancy one
Product pick: Vagina Victory Oil, £24
Nessa wants you to celebrate your vagina and all that it goes through (menopause, childbirth, pregnancy - all those delightful things). This organic collagen boosting oil was designed for intimate skin; during pregnancy it can be used from 34 weeks to prepare the vagina for childbirth through perineal massage, while post-baby it can be used to combat hormonal dryness, loosen scar tissue, and build collagen through daily massage.