Intimate care, from down-there washes to post-wax products, is booming right now. Cult Beauty has a ' Feminine Hygiene ' section on-site housing everything from Dr Barbara Sturm's V Drops , £75 (fancy moisturiser for your vulva) to calming oils and deodorant for your private parts. Feelunique's ' Intimate Care ' category sells dedicated washes, wipes and refreshing sprays for your nethers.
This abundance of products is all well and good, and it's great to see mass-market brands such as Venus launching a 'Pubic' range that encourages us not to shy away from using grown-up language to talk about our vulvas, but do we actually *need* products especially for our intimate area?
For our vagina (the inside), no. "The vagina is a self-cleaning system and the less you do the better it will be," says Marie Drago, founder of microbiome skincare brand Gallinée. But for our vulva (the part you can see), a specialist washing regime isn't a bad idea.
We don't mean buying all kinds of balms, drops and oils to lavish on your labia, more that it's sensible to buy a low pH wash rather than using your normal and perhaps scented or essential-oil rich body wash. "For the vulva, it makes sense to use very gentle products to care for this very specific area," confirms Marie. "Look for products with a low pH (it will likely say these words on the packaging) and possibly pre- or postbiotics to support the local bacteria."
You can even follow with a V-specific moisturiser if you like a multi-step routine. Moisturisers designed with your vulva in mind will soothe any irritation in the area, but should only be applied to the outside, not internally.
Why do we need special skincare and washes for our vulva?
Our vulva microbiome is a fragile ecosystem, Marie tells us. "It can be disrupted by sex, periods, overwashing and hormonal changes," she says. You know you've caused a disruption when you feel redness, itching irritation, dryness and discharge, explains Dr Tania Adib, consultant gynaecologist at The Medical Chambers Kensington.
Because our vulva is so sensitive, many things that come into contact with it can cause irritation. Even a nice calming bath can cause issues, according to Marie, especially if you're adding essential oils. "A lot of things come in contact with the vulva and the vaginal microbiome when you're in the bath," she cautions, "Irritations from essential oils are possible, as well as from bath bombs and bubble baths."
If you're not prone to sensitivity, then it is fine to use essential oils in the bath to help you relax, says Dr Tania Adib. "If you are someone prone to vaginal infections or irritated skin then you should probably avoid them."
How should you wash your intimate area?
1. Keep it simple
"It’s a good idea to be as minimalist as possible with your intimate care products," Marie says. "I would recommend avoiding strong detergents, perfumed products or anything with a high pH. Your microbiome will be happier, which means less irritation, even if you’re not sensitive," she suggests.
2. Look for' gynaecologist-tested' products
Back in 2019, Mintel told us that in the past year intimate products launching with 'gynaecologist-tested/recommended' claims had grown by nearly 50 per cent compared to 2016, confirming consumers' trust in scientifically and medically backed formulas. "Look at the back of the packaging and check if the product has been tested under gynaecological supervision," says Marie.
3. Be extra careful if you're menopausal or on your period
Even if you're generally fine with essential oils in the bath, periods bring a change of pH in the vulva, so that’s a good time to use low pH washes and avoid soaking in the bath unless it's in plain water, Marie says. She adds that menopause also brings changes to the area "and often translates into a drier, more fragile vulva," so avoiding any irritants is key at this stage too.
The best V-care products to add to your routine
If you do want to treat your V to its own skincare routine, here's the pared-back routine we recommend.