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skin care

Your vulva doesn’t need a facial it needs pubic hair

vagina facialHot off my post regarding Gwyneth Paltrow’s recommendation for vaginal steaming (pro tip, don’t), I saw this little news item from Shape Magazine about “Vagina facials.”

First of all, the post means vulva. The vagina is INSIDE and the vulva is the OUTSIDE (where your underwear touches your skin). The vestibule is in between.

This what Shape Magazine had to say about it:

Created by Lisa Palmer, the facial came about after she “looked downstairs” and realized her vulva “was a bit wrinkly and dry compared to when I was younger,” she told BT. So, she decided to concoct a recipe that she claims combats dryness, improves elasticity, and even tightens the vagina. What’s in this “vajacial,” you ask? A mix of coconut oil, vitamin E cream, honey, and egg white that Palmer instructs you to apply to your vulva.

While the vulva, like all skin, ages what makes the vulva “age” faster, i.e. take on a dry and possibly wrinkly appearance, is either A) over cleansing B) removing pubic hair or C) a skin condition

When you wash you strip away natural oils.

These act like humectants (i.e. keep moisture in), so removing them makes you feel dry. Try to avoid soap directly on your vulva (water works just fine, remember, self-cleaning oven), but if you must use soap on your vulva use an unscented Castile soap or an unscented pure glycerin soap. Never use baby wipes or hygiene sprays or douches or feminine wipes. EVER. These will strip oils and possibly change your bacterial colonization from good to bad. No matter what Terrence Howard thinks or any man for that matter.

BTW over washing often paradoxically gives an odor due to the vulva increasing oil production and the change in bacteria.

Where does pubic hair come into this?

Removing pubic hair removes one of the sensitive vulvar skin’s natural defense mechanisms (the other two are the labia fat pads and estrogen). It also changes the bacterial colonization and the mechanical act of shaving or waxing strips away the oils. The result is increased friction on the vulvar skin (labia majora mostly) and so the skin responds by getting thicker and over time this makes the skin look wrinkly and dry appearing (and feeling). It can also cause the skin to darken. In addition to the physical changes it might also feel thicker and less sensitive. After many years of no pubic hair the labia can sometimes take on an almost a scrotal appearance.

Aging can also make the labia sag a little.

The lower genital tract is built to stretch (a good thing for having a babies), but gravity takes it toll on stretchy tissues. So your labia might possibly wrinkle a little more than everything else because it is a bit more elastic. Also, after menopause some women loose their labial fat, the skin can just get drier due to the hormonal changes, and there can be some pubic hair loss. So, after menopause even with the best of vulvar hygiene (i.e. no soaps) there can be dryness and wrinkling just because of ageing.

 

What about a skin condition? Lichen simplex chronicus of the vulva is an eczema-like condition that also makes the skin look dry and wrinkly (and also feel itchy). The treatment is avoid irritants, let the pubic hair grow back if it is being removed, and topical steroids.

If your vulva feels dry then  re-evaluate your hygiene and throw away everything with a scent that touches your vulva. Also, no dryer sheet or fabric softeners as those leave a residue that can be irritating. Consider letting your pubic hair grow back if you have been removing it. You can use a trimmer!  If your labia look wrinkly, do the same things. You can certainly use coconut oil, which is my preferred moisturizer not only for the vulva but also for dry skin most places. Adding egg whites etc. is time consuming and unnecessary. Don’t use honey. I have seen irritant reactions from that.

If you are menopausal and the coconut oil isn’t cutting it topical estrogen usually does the trick. You need to see a doctor for that.

But stop with the vulvovaginal spa tag lines already. It legitimizes unnecessary and sometimes even harmful treatments and leads women to do too much when the best self-care in this area is to do less.

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion

33 thoughts on “Your vulva doesn’t need a facial it needs pubic hair

  1. Thanks! I needed a laugh!

    Posted by Erin bliss | January 29, 2015, 2:58 pm
  2. I love your blog. a voice of reason in an environment of insanity.

    Posted by joyce weatherly | January 29, 2015, 6:02 pm
  3. One question on the coconut oil thing: It is my understanding that coconut oil is incompatible with condoms. This has most often come up when it is being used as a lubricant. But if you are using it to relieve dry skin, is there some wisdom as to how long before using a condom would be safe?

    Posted by cvcalhoun | January 29, 2015, 7:21 pm
    • How coconut oil degrades latex is unknown so it shouldn’t be used as s lube with latex condones.

      If it’s out on the labia and so less likely to come Olin contact, well any potential risk is unknown as it’s unstudied. If it feels absorbed then probably ok but you just never know. A polyurethane condom would be safe for sure.

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | January 29, 2015, 7:53 pm
  4. My lady-land was recently shorn clean for the removal of a labial tumor; it was the first time I have ever been clean-shaven in my entire 40-some years. Although the scar from the labial excision was painful and took time to heal, I think the total removal of all of my pubic hair has been more painful in the long run.

    The porn aesthetic–clean-shaven, child-like labia–is gross on so many levels, but mostly, I finally understand why young women are choosing labiaplasty at an ever more frequent rate. Of course one’s lady parts will look “weird” or “oversized” when their natural cushion of hair is removed. Of course the labia minora, no matter how big or small, will catch in one’s underwear and be painful without a buffer of hair in between. I found my labia minora to be excruciatingly sensitive while I waited for my hair to return, and it didn’t get better after a few days. It was just uncomfortable. I cannot imagine choosing to live like that all the time.

    Our labia majoras are MEANT to be covered in hair once we reach sexual maturity. Thank you for pointing out what no longer appears to be obvious to many women.

    Posted by HL | January 29, 2015, 9:36 pm
    • But, but — the ancient Egyptians used to remove their pubic hair, so that proves it’s totally normal and natural and not at all porny! (Just kidding — I think it’s a weird and stupid thing to do, if one doesn’t have to for medical reasons.)

      Posted by Montana Wildhack | January 30, 2015, 7:33 pm
      • Yikes, this is right up there with being policed about shaving armpits and legs. _All_ our our personal hygiene/grooming is unnatural, singling out pubes isn’t consistent. It gets really old having people give their opinions on what my genitalia is ‘meant’ to do.

        Shave, trim, or go natural. Slap some lotion on if it gets dry. Use some wipes when you’re on the rag or away from shower facilities for a long time. Reassess if you run into problems with infections or irritation. Stop judging women based on whether or not they like to deforest, and especially stop using ‘nature’ or exaggerated medical issues. Jeezum.

        /not a doctor
        //I’m sure plenty of women have these issues
        ///But I sure don’t
        ////So seriously, back off my mons

        Posted by Kerlyssa | January 30, 2015, 8:03 pm
      • No one is judging you for your cosmetic choice. Really, but understand it’s cosmetic with potential ramifications like dry, thick skin.

        A dentist would never tell you to get your tongue pierced because the consequence is chipped teeth and gum disease. Similarly a GYN would never recommend removing pubic hair.

        Many women are shocked to learn their cosmetic choice can have health consequences. If you know in advance then you can decide.

        Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | January 30, 2015, 8:15 pm
      • I wasn’t responding to the OP so much as the comments on it, in which it’s called gross, weird, stupid,childlike, and porny, among other things. So, yes, the cosmetic choice is most certainly being judged in the comments here, if not directly by the OP.

        Also, consequences in your example CAN BE chipped teeth, etc, but that doesn’t mean they ARE. Considering that I can look at the consequences you listed, and assess that I have not experienced them, saying ‘this WILL happen’ doesn’t really do much for me.

        I certainly agree that women should be aware that these things can be consequences of removing hair. I don’t agree with the judgmental attitudes.

        Posted by Kerlyssa | January 30, 2015, 8:30 pm
      • Ah, it isn’t always easy to tell on the mobile platform if it’s a response to the post or a comment. Thanks for clarifying.

        I agree, women should not be judged for their cosmetic choices and pejorative terms are unnecessary.

        Consequences don’t always happen, true. But if consequences, such as chipped teeth or thickened darkened labia can happen people IMO prefer education.

        In my experience women who chose laser hair removal who suffer consequences years later are upset they were never warned about the consequence.

        Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | January 30, 2015, 8:42 pm
  5. This is great. Thanks for being awesome.

    Posted by susan | January 30, 2015, 2:38 pm
  6. And here’s someone supporting GP and getting a free plug for her and her buddies’ business at the same time.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/30/vaginal-steams-help-women-gwyneth-paltrow-goop

    Posted by Iorek | January 30, 2015, 10:34 pm
  7. Thanks please I need to learn more

    Posted by ferojor | February 1, 2015, 10:49 am
  8. Hi Dr. Gunter, I know this is an old blog entry but I recently came across it on the search for a remedy for my wrinkly, rather deflated looking labia. I’m 25, and I feel like I am too young for these issues. I started shaving and taking hormonal birth control at 16. This year I stopped both. I’m unhappy with how my labia have changed over the years and I’m wondering if there is any way to “rejuvenate” them now that I’m being proactive about allowing my body to be in it’s natural state. The coconut oil: can this help with improving the skin’s elasticity? What about vitamin e? Any and all advice is appreciated. I’m feeling pretty low about what’s happening my body.

    Thanks, Jen.

    Posted by Jennifer | July 28, 2015, 2:04 pm
  9. Thank you for clarifying the difference between vulva and vagina! Can’t believe how many erroneously think the vagina is external.

    Posted by Karin | August 18, 2015, 8:37 pm
  10. I agree with all of this and would rather not.. but i wax and tweeze because I’m really sensitive and the hair irritates my vulva especially my clitoris. My hair is really curly and coarse so it like stabs at it sometimes and its annoying.. even the very fine soft hairs closer in make me itchy. so what would you guys suggest in this case…?

    I cannot shave becauae the hair is so curly i get craxy ingrown hairs even if i exfoliate amd use a clean razor etc etc. And sharp stubble ia even worse than hair.

    I dont like waxing.. i used to like the smooth look but now not so much. It was never about appearance anyways but comfort. But i feel then skin is becoming less sensitive. Its time consuming too. The sentence in the article that says “scrotal appearance” scares me😦

    Posted by jen | December 10, 2015, 9:31 am
  11. I agree with all of this and would rather not.. but i wax and tweeze because I’m really sensitive and the hair irritates my vulva especially my clitoris. My hair is really curly and coarse so it like stabs at it sometimes and its annoying.. even the very fine soft hairs closer in make me itchy. so what would you guys suggest in this case…?

    I cannot shave because the hair is so curly i get crazy ingrown hairs even if i exfoliate amd use a clean razor etc etc. And sharp stubble ia even worse than hair.

    I dont like waxing.. i used to like the smooth look but now not so much. It was never about appearance anyways but comfort. But i feel then skin is becoming less sensitive. Its time consuming too. The sentence in the article that says “scrotal appearance” scares me😦

    Posted by jen | December 10, 2015, 10:01 am
  12. Concur completely about a woman’s lady-bits hair. By all means, trim with scissors the edges. but the “balding” of American women is kinda strange. My girl offered to “bald out” when we started our life together and I forbade it. It’s expensive, it’s painful and truth be told, for a grown man to want his woman hairless between her legs is a little “wrong” somehow. Keep your hair ladies. Trim it, but it is no impediment to the man that loves you. You are healthier with your hair down there, not to go poetic or anything.

    There are many tested and certified benefits to coconut oil. Our favorite way to using the coconut oil is as a lubricant. And, it is during sex that you receive the most effective way to deliver coconut oil. It works for us! Generously lubricate the “applicator”, insert. Repeat as necessary for maximum pleasure and effectiveness. We use it for massage, for making love and for the hands in the Winter. Great stuff.

    My advice, derived from many others, use only cold-pressed, extra-virgin organic coconut oils. We use Carrington Farms, but there are others, I’m sure. They are in the oils section of the supermarket. They are solid in the tub, and to melt it, we warmed the container it comes in and then poured it into a tall mustard-squirter for use in the bedroom. Very convenient. These have a long narrow snout and a snap-on lid. They can be dropped into a small pan of hot water to melt the oil and make it liquid for use; not too hot! Warm, not hot! Ouch! Coconut oil seems to go solid for us at around 73-76 degrees. Warmed, it will stay liquid throughout the long night. Again, this is great stuff! We’ll never go back to the water-based or toxic silicone stuff out there again. And it really is, warmed, the greatest massage oil. Enjoy!

    Posted by Jim Christian | January 6, 2016, 7:40 am
  13. I just came across your blog and have to say: amen sister, thank you for doing the good work.

    Posted by Eva | October 8, 2016, 3:59 am
  14. I’ve been shaving since I was 19, I’m now 43 and my vulva skin is no different than when I was 19. If you enjoy a pubic hair free free zone, shave. If you enjoy pubic hair, don’t shave. I’m so tired of the sudden influx of “experts” spouting bullshit to control the masses to live their way.

    Posted by Jenn | November 17, 2016, 8:33 am
    • Not everyone who smokes gets cancer.
      Not everyone who pierces their tongue gets a chipped tooth or gum recession.
      Not everyone who removes public hair gets irritation or skin changes.

      Public hair has a function. If you cosmetically like the look and it works for you, great. But it’s an intervention that is not medically indicated and some women develop issues.

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | November 20, 2016, 10:40 am

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