This all began when I had a 24K Gold V-Wax and LED Vajacial at VSpot in New York City. Yep. Let me explain.
I've been getting bikini waxes for as long as I can remember (real-time approximately eight years), and while they leave me feeling soft, clean, and decidedly happy, they also almost always result in a gnarly batch of ingrown hairs and red bumps. So much so that I've noticed discoloration and actual scars on my skin. When I first heard about VSpot's offering, I thought I might as well give it a shot, if only for the sake of my sad-looking skin. I get facials on my face for the same reasons, after all. Along with the usual waxing experience (applying hot wax, yanking it out, you get the picture), the specialist used hypoallergenic, 24K gold-infused wax to serve as an anti-inflammatory agent and to help brighten my skin. It felt pretty similar to any other wax I'd gotten (I frequented Spruce & Bond, a waxing spot with the same founder), but certainly more thorough. Afterward, she applied a feel-good gel moisturizer and positioned an LED light between my legs. This is different, I thought, pleased at what the results may yield. It was blue light, which uses specific wavelengths to stimulate the production of oxygen radicals that kill acne-causing bacteria, all without damaging the skin. In this case, the light was meant to fight those ingrown hairs and smooth out my skin tone.
I left feeling especially great, with my newly anti-aged and waxed bikini line putting a bit of pep in my step. Over the next few days, the time when the ingrown hairs and bumps would normally rear their ugly heads, I was pleasantly surprised. Far less irritation, practically no ingrown hairs to speak of. And my skin was brighter. The discoloration was visibly reduced, and I was a happy camper. So I decided it was time I took the appearance of my vagina back into my own hands. I'll give myself vagina facials, I thought, peering through my arsenal of exfoliating, brightening, and hydrating skincare products. And that's what I did. And let me tell you, it worked. I was getting far fewer ingrown hairs and the spots, irritation, and long-time scars were disappearing. That's when I pitched this story to regale all of you about how it's totally fine to use non-vaginal products on your external vagina area (technically speaking, your vulva) and offer up the products I was using with great results. That is until I asked a few experts.
Their responses were mixed, spanning "It's probably fine" to "No, the risk of irritation is far too high in the genital area—including the external skin of the genitals—to apply cosmetic products," which is what my go-to dermatologist, Rachel Nazarian, answered. Carolyn DeLucia, an ob-gyn at VSpot, replied, "Vagina facials are safe to do when done by a professional." Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau says, "The skin on the vulva could benefit from using skincare products, and I believe it is safe to do so. Like all skin, you’ll want to slowly introduce new products to ensure compatibility. Be sure to discontinue if irritation occurs."
Nazarian continues, "Although the risk of absorption of chemicals and toxicity isn't a major issue, since it's not being applied to the mucosa or inside the vaginal area, it's somewhat similar to applying the products to your armpits: The skin is thin, delicate, sensitive to ingredients, and typically experiences mild chafing from sweat and rubbing that make it more easily irritated from application of topicals. The area of the groin and vulva also harbors natural colonization of bacteria—disrupting this balance, and the natural pH of the area risks skin breakdown and infection." She adds, "Avoid retinol, glycolic acid, lactic acid, and anything scented or perfumed. There are exceptions where medications may need to be applied to the vaginal area to treat certain skin conditions—but your dermatologist will explain how to use them to minimize the risk of irritation and offer safe options for short periods. Ingredients that calm and improve the skin barrier, such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and heparan sulfate are a better option. Products such as Vaseline, Aquaphor, and petrolatum are also somewhat safe to apply to the outer tissue and offer a much lesser risk or irritation."
The dissonance in their answers leads me to believe that if you are thoughtful, careful, and well-informed about applying products to the external skin on your vagina, you'll most likely be fine. But I realized I wasn't entirely willing to take the risk and the peels, serums, and moisturizers I was applying were not entirely free from irritation. So rather than continue using my regular skincare products as my new vagina-care products, I invested in a few options made specifically for the area—tested by dermatologists, approved by gynecologists. Below, find my favorites.
Made without parabens and with green tea, mango, and chamomile extracts, Queen V's gentle pH-balanced cleanser keeps everything hydrated and feeling good. I use it in the shower post-face wash.
Then, depending on what's going on with my skin, I apply a few different products. The first of which is Fur's Ingrown Concentrate. It's a dermatologically tested fractionated coconut oil with grape seed, jojoba seed, and almond oils for hydration and tea tree leaf, lavender, and clary sage oils to nip ingrown hairs in the bud. I apply it whenever I feel I need it, using the brand's finger mitt to exfoliate and focus on individual ingrown hairs.
On other days, I'll go for an exfoliating gel—this one is super lightweight, gentle, and entirely alcohol-free. It's a blend of berry extracts and antioxidants to nourish your skin while it clears and prevents bumps.
This one's more of an anti-aging formula, so I'll use it when ingrown hairs aren't an issue, but I'd like a little lift and hydration. It smooths, firms, and soothes thanks to ingredients like elderflower extract, sea buckthorn, and vitamin E. Then, organic licorice root extract is included for added anti-inflammatory properties.
To follow that up, I use this super-luxurious hydrating cream (the radiance it delivers is shocking, honestly). It does a ton of really incredible things for your skin: uses salicylic acid to alleviate red bumps and prevent ingrown hairs, offers bilberry fruit extract to reduce redness, and packages it all together in a perfectly pampering cream that practically melts into your skin. It's perfect post-waxing (or -laser) to keep things soft, smooth, and clear.
This may very well be my favorite product of the bunch as it works, of course, but it also smells like coconuts (and I'm a sucker for a vacation theme). DeoDoc specially formulates this product to soothe, calm, and moisturize your skin after shaving—and even though I don't shave, it's utterly wonderful. It reduces itching, red spots, and offers a silky-soft result.
SweetSpot's new pH-balanced pads gently exfoliate courtesy of a blend of glycolic acid, papaya, and pineapple enzymes—and brighten at the same time. Willowbark extract helps to reduce dark spots, evening out your skin tone, and aloe vera soothes any lingering irritation. Plus, they're entirely vegan. I use these in between at-home facials for some added exfoliation or brightening in a pinch.