V-care, cosmetics you use ‘down there’, is on the rise and Belgian brands are in on it, too. New kid on the block Shinn launched with a nourishing oil and YUN recently added intimate (washing) gels to its skincare range. But do you really need them?
Washing gels, nourishing creams and oils, labia balms, sheet masks, even highlighters… V-care, a niche within the beauty world, is starting to become a thriving business. In case you did not know, the V stands for vulva. (A quick biology lesson: the vagina is on the inside, the vulva is the external part of the female genitalia.)
Just like you use a daily moisturizer on your face, V-care brands advise you to do the same with your vulva, using a product that was developed specifically for that area. Most V-care brands are founded by women who get what (other) women want. Their products come in attractive, Instagrammable packaging that you would proudly display in your bathroom and are a far cry from the traditional ‘intimate soaps’ you often have to look for in a back corner at the chemist, hidden on a bottom shelf.
Vulva cosmetics have been popular for a while now but in Belgium the category is not that well known yet. However, this seems to be changing slowly now that both Shinn and YUN launched V-care this year. The difference with the average foreign V-care brand: us Belgians keep it more down-to-earth, no nonsense and more basic with washing products and caring gels. No highlighter in sight.
Shinn launched its Intimate Oil Spray this summer, a nourishing oil that promises to prevent and/or soothe discomfort such as shaving irritation and itching. (The idea for the brand originates from a Flemish gynaecologist practice.) YUN, known for its pre and probiotic skincare, recently expanded its range with four ‘intimate’ wash gels and a probiotic gel.
But: do you really need to use specific products or any product down there? Your GP or gynaecologist probably told you that washing with lukewarm water is sufficient. After all, a (healthy) vulva is self-regulating. However, plenty of women and girls want to take some extra care down there. They want to feel clean and/or want to deal with problems such as shaving irritation, itching or dry skin, caused by frequent shaving.
In which case correctly formulated V-care can help. (Emphasizing the correctly formulated here.) Vulva cosmetics must respect the vulva’s specific pH. (The vagina, and by extension the vulva, has a pH of around 4; that of the skin is around 5.5). A product with the wrong pH can throw the vulva’s pH out of balance, which can lead to additional problems.
According to dermatologist Dagmar Ostijn of Dermadent in Merelbeke, it is best to also avoid fragranced products. “As long as fragrance does not irritate your skin, you can use it. However, I would avoid it as fragrance is one of the biggest allergens in cosmetics. I would especially avoid using it on the labia minora. Their mucous membrane is thinner and more permeable than skin. I would even avoid using any product on them. By the way, some of the cosmetic products you use on your body will automatically migrate to that area.”
I have always been a bit sceptical about V-care. My GPs always told me that washing with lukewarm water is enough. Plus, a lot of products are fragranced, which I am allergic to. And I also do not like the idea that women should smell like roses down there, and thus should use fragranced creams and washes, as if there is something wrong with their natural scent. But as I’ve been slightly itchy down there lately – that’s what daily morning exercise in synthetic sportswear does to a girl I guess – I decided to test YUN’s Prebiotic Wash Gel (19.90 €).
Its hypoallergenic formula is free from fragrance and soap and contains prebiotics that are meant to nourish the lactobacilli that keep the vagina acidic. Since I have been using the wash gel, I am under the impression that I itch a lot less than before. Plus, I also like the idea that I have taken good care of myself, compared to only washing with water.
Reading the INCI and online reviews on its website, Shinn’s Intimate Oil Spray also seems like a nice product. But I have not tried it yet as I did not know the brand also carried a fragrance-free version. The fragrance in the fragranced oil is hypoallergenic but I am still afraid I might react to it. (In theory, a hypoallergenic fragrance does not contain allergens, so you can use it if you are allergic or sensitive to fragrance. In reality, the term is not legally controlled. I assume Shinn uses a ‘real’ hypoallergenic fragrance, but I don’t want to take any risks.)