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vagina, vulva

I’m wary of the new Scandinavian “vaginal” highlighter

A “vaginal highlighter” is now upon us.

Sigh.

Before we get into the specifics the editors who have approved the various headlines about this product from the Perfect V™ (ugh) need an anatomy lesson because no one is selling a vagina highlighter or make up, this is vulvar product. I have devoted an entire post to the important difference between vulva and vagina and it irks me that this confusion continues and quite frankly a woman’s magazine should be on top of this. Allure and Glamour I am looking at you, but I guess I expect it from The Sun). Confusing the two is the same as confusing scrotum and penis. Just so we are all using anatomically correct language here is a handy vulvovaginal Venn diagram.

vulva

You’re welcome.

OK, on to the “highlighter” nonsense.

The product is called Very V Luminizer and it is supposed to be a Scandinavian fruit poultice or something to “highlight, soften, and illuminate”(?) and add “extra prettiness to the V.” And yes, typing that sentence made me very, very angry because insinuating that vulvas need extra prettiness is not a very empowering message. At all.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 6.57.32 PM

I have some concerns so here goes.

What’s in it?

The ingredient list includes arctic cloudberry, bilberry, elderflower, rose hips, and sea buckthorn. I highly doubt the product looks like a compote so there has to be something else. What you ask? I don’t know. This is important so hang onto to that thought.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 9.29.15 PM

How does it work?

The site says it is a “highlighting cream” that “renews and improves the skin, making it appear more youthful and fresh” and can “even “skin tone and “prevent dark spots.”

There are two ways to brighten up the appearance of skin with product. One is make-up and the other is with chemicals that cause skin depigmentation and/or increased cell turnover. Preventing dark spots and renewing skin is usually code for the latter. I’ve never seen a concealer or blush advertised that way. It also doesn’t appear to come in shades. 

Common products used for depigmentation/increased cell turnover that are considered safe for the face are ascorbic acid (vitamin C), retinoic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, and salicyclic acid. Hydroxyquinone is available in the U.S. but it is banned in Europe. These products have not been tested for the vulva. 

Ingredients that should not be used for this purpose in cosmetics are mercury, monobenzyl ether hydroquinone, and corticosteroids. There is apparently quite a robust illegal cosmetic practice in Europe with unsafe or unapproved skin whiteners so bowls of berries in lieu of ingredients just doesn’t cut it for me, you know?

What if it a has “safe” depigmentation ingredients?

Given the magnificent pictures of berries and rose hips and such and the repetitive mention of vitamin C my best guess is this is a vitamin C serum mixed with a moisturizer. Hydroquinone (HQ) is apparently found in cranberries and blueberries so it is possible that the product could contain more than trace amounts as well, but who knows? 

Just because a plant lightens your skin doesn’t mean it is fine for your vulva or safe at all for that matter. Any depigmentation agent or drug that increases cell turnover poses a risk of an irritant reaction and/or contact dermatitis. The vulvar skin differs from other skin as it is more permeable. It is also more susceptible to friction and more prone to, yes you guessed it, irritant reactions and contact dermatitis. Women who remove their pubic hair are even more likely to develop irritation and allergic reactions from topical agents due to microscopic breaks/trauma in the skin and this appears to be the target group. This could very easily lead to an itchy, scratchy vulva. 

What if it is just a moisturizer?

A moisturizer isn’t going to brighten anything, so I’m having a hard time buying that.

The most common cause of a dry feeling is too much product/soap/hair removal. Consider leaving hair alone, use a very mild soap infrequently and consider coconut oil or a product with hyaluronic acid, like HyaloGYN or Vagisil Prohydrate, for hydration. A barrier ointment can also help. It is best to check in with a doctor as skin conditions can present with very dry skin. Menopause can also lead to dry skin. 

Why would anyone want this?

You mean apart from society making women feel insecure about yet another body part?

Some women do get changes in their vulvar skin, darkened and thickened labia, from chronic hair removal and some women have acanthosis nigricans, a darkening of the skin that can affect the vulva and inner thighs (most often due to insulin resistance). I can see how some women might feel self-conscious about these changes if they are with a new partner or even their regular partner. Hey, I have terrible sun damage on my shins and when I wear a short skirt sometimes all I can think of are my crocodile legs. The skin on my face could be peeling from the worst sunburn and I would still be thinking about how bad I think my legs look. How we feel is how we feel. However, concerning skin changes should be addressed with a GYN or a dermatologist not a Nordic bouquet garni and jam with uncertain ingredients. 

Bottom line

While a bowl of rose hips looks natural pubic hair is the most natural (and green) product around.

If you have irritation or concerning skin changes see a doctor who is a vulvar specialist.

If your partner really cares about you they are unlikely to notice what you perceive as an imperfection especially on your vulva. 

Stay clear from anything with a suggestion of skin whitening/brightening/dark spot prevention for your vulva.

The perfect vulva is the one you have.

Discussion

24 thoughts on “I’m wary of the new Scandinavian “vaginal” highlighter

  1. I apologise most sincerely for this – but if the Perfect `V` is used , does it tell the Perfect `P` where to be put in ?

    Posted by Jim | July 26, 2017, 1:07 am
  2. Err, why would you use any kind of product on the vulva at all?

    I was told in health class that a daily rinse with warm water is enough.

    Posted by Knitting Cat Lady | July 26, 2017, 2:33 am
  3. The concept of this product is sickening and might literally make people sick.

    Posted by Lynn Somerstein | July 26, 2017, 5:53 am
  4. Luminizer? It’s going to glow in the dark?? And all this obsession with bleaching and lightening sounds kind of racist to me.
    Plus, folks tramping up the world’s remaining bogs/marshes and devastating the cloudberries is not an appealing prospect for this wetland fan.

    Posted by Angiportus | July 26, 2017, 6:07 am
  5. I can send you some Arctic Cloudberries. We call them Salmonberries here in Alaska. I am sure they will work. 😉

    Posted by David Compton | July 26, 2017, 7:21 am
  6. Please keep plugging away at your mission of educating the masses about the difference between vulva and vagina. This drives me nuts in popular media–“She wasn’t wearing underwear and you could see her vagina.” Actually, no, unless you had a speculum handy. And don’t even get me started about “va-jay-jay.” I’m not even going to comment about this Luminizer crap, but I betcha it turns up on Goop pretty soon.

    Posted by catherineapCatherine | July 26, 2017, 8:02 am
  7. Wow … just wow, there are no words …

    Posted by Sheila | July 26, 2017, 8:12 am
  8. Just what the actual fuck? It’s not enough they have to dominate, maim, torture, and murder us; they have to get that cash out of us. Did this shit come out of Goop?!
    I didn’t find out what a clitoris looked like until I was in my late 40’s and I see this snake oil is being pedalled to women who don’t have a clue what a vulva is because none of us are properly educated about anything that has to do with our own bodies. It’s to be expected a man doesn’t know by why don’t WE women know?! So they can sell shite like this to us and keep that old domination gig going, surely?
    I’m so angry at what the patriarchy has done to me just because I am a woman and it makes me homicidally angry that we have cars and aeroplanes and the internet yet girls and women are still only a junket of body parts to service men along with being their eternal mothers, servants, and prostitutes.

    This product is clearly here to remind women we’re objects and it is beyond the pale.

    Thank you so much, Dr. Jen Gunter! Thank you for putting yourself on the front lines for all of us.

    Posted by GenderDysphoriaCritical | July 26, 2017, 9:33 am
    • It is actually being marketed and sold by a woman.

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | July 26, 2017, 9:44 am
      • Just like that CLUE app, it’s a woman owned company but every employee is male and they won’t use the word “woman” anymore because they’re afraid of offending a bunch of loud, violent trans identified men.

        Funnily I know one of the people at the CLUE app company, one of the men, who is a complete misogynist and clueless yet here he is working at this company owned by a woman who chose him, and other men like him, to work there. Money is all they care about, whatever their rhetoric is.

        Posted by GenderDysphoriaCritical | July 26, 2017, 10:10 am
  9. Oh, no. Internalised misogyny is the worst. Women with internalised misogyny make for some terrifying handmaidens of the patriarchy. I’m gutted.

    Posted by GenderDysphoriaCritical | July 26, 2017, 10:03 am
  10. Umm, am asking for a friend. Could it be harmful if accidentally ingested, say by a male?

    Posted by Earl | July 26, 2017, 10:56 am
  11. If they’re so concerned with vulvar luminosity, why not just tape a damn string of LED lights and be done with it?

    Fostering genital insecurity has to be one of the most insidious banes of modern sexism.

    Posted by Cyranetta | July 26, 2017, 11:42 am
  12. Wha?

    Blech.

    Thank you for the review, and the reminder that not even Scandinavia is feminist heaven.

    Posted by Mrs Morley | July 26, 2017, 12:35 pm
    • From the product website:
      “She embraced the new and challenging environment by immersing herself in the local culture. It was her natural curiosity that led to her to become enchanted with the carefree confidence that embodies the Scandinavian woman. She thought, ‘if only I could bottle it.'”

      The founder is American as far as I can tell and lives in Copenhagen; she was a NYC marketing executive for L’Oreal, among others. They say the products are “inspired by Scandinavia”. So it appears to just be pure marketing to me. When I go to the website, it’s only available to buy in USD (I’m in Sweden, so typically the currency changes automatically to SEK) so it appears to be expressly marketed to American women, though the site is also partially available in Danish.

      And Scandinavia is in fact a feminist paradise, don’t let this put you off, lol. This is one of the reasons I looked a little deeper into this because this is not a very typical “Scandinavian” women’s product.

      Posted by fluxbots | July 29, 2017, 8:15 am
  13. Cloudberries should be kept for making Lakka liqueur the way G*d intended.

    Posted by Smut Clyde | July 27, 2017, 1:33 pm
  14. Holy shit, is nothing out of bounds now?!

    Posted by heidirgardner | July 27, 2017, 2:32 pm
  15. man, if it was vulva makeup in hilighter inspired colors, that would have been so much cooler

    Posted by kerlyssa | July 28, 2017, 8:20 am
  16. Off topic, but did you see this lifehacker post advising women to insert makeup sponges in their vaginas prior to sex, to soak up period blood? Initially the author’s only source of information for the article was an unnamed sex worker; after complaints in the comments, she contacted an OBGYN, but one who also approves of sea sponge tampons, so not really a good check. I’d love to see you take this on. https://lifehacker.com/use-a-makeup-sponge-for-mess-free-period-sex-1797313388

    Posted by Wehaf | July 28, 2017, 10:51 pm
  17. This reminds me of a question I’ve been thinking about. I am a mom of two little boys, and when my older one (age 3) wanted to know how I pee if I don’t have a penis, I gave him an accurate answer, but it didn’t name any actual body parts (beyond “a hole”). I was raised to refer to everything “down there” that’s not my butt as my vagina. I don’t want to tell my son that I pee out of my vagina, since it’s not true. But is the term urethra unnecessarily technical at this age? What do you recommend?

    Posted by Rebecca | July 30, 2017, 6:41 pm
    • If your kid is old enough to understand words like “refrigerator,” “urethra” isn’t any harder. Or you could say “pee hole” and mention that doctors call it “urethra” and there’s one in his penis too, but yours is just a little different.

      Posted by Irene | August 7, 2017, 12:52 pm
  18. JFC, I’m Nordic (Finn) and no, DON’T ever waste good berries like this, EAT them instead, much much much better that way! AAAAAGH. I hate it when scammers/money-milkers do something like this!

    Posted by Skiriki | August 2, 2017, 7:53 pm

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