What You Should Know About ‘Vulva Masks’ Before You Try Them2020-03-12
- “Vulva masks” have emerged as a trend, with manufacturers saying they can be used to brighten and hydrate the vaginal area.
- One expert, however, tells Healthline he has concerns about allergic reactions from the masks.
- He’s also concerned women may use the masks to treat vaginal health issues instead of going to a doctor for care.
If you frequently pamper your face with sheet masks, you may be curious about a similar new trend for your vulva.
Enter the “vulva mask,” a sheet mask for your vulva that’s marketed as an aid to soothe the area following hair removal as well as brighten or hydrate the region or serve as a preparation for a date.
However, before you indulge your nether regions, you want to hear what Dr. Ryan Sobel, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Jefferson University in Philadelphia, has to say.
“First of all, the vagina shouldn’t need any additional quote-unquote pampering or care,” said Sobel, who’s also a physician at the Jefferson Vulvovaginal Health Center.
“If there is an issue — you’re having discomfort, you’re having pain, you’re having a discharge, you’re having an odor — that usually indicates that there may be something abnormal going on. There may be an infection, or there may be a reaction to something you’re exposed to. You should seek care.”
If you think a mask will fix any issues you’re having, Sobel recommends consulting with a healthcare provider who can professionally assess what’s going on.
If you’re determined to peel back a mask to reveal a “marvelous muff,” as one package describes, there are risks.
“My warning would be: Beware of potential harm, and think hard about why you want to use this,” Sobel told Healthline.
Allergic reactions are a concern
The more ingredients there is in any given product, Sobel says, the higher the risk of a reaction.
Those symptoms include itching, burning, or redness.
Two Lips’ Blackout, an activated charcoal vulva mask, boasts it’s “gynaecologically and dermatologically tested.” It contains a list of ingredients that include elderberry, Indian cress, organic cornflower, and organic white licorice.
“Just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have allergic properties,” Sobel said. “Anybody can be allergic to any given thing. We see lots of patients with infections or contact dermatitis to some commercially available product that they’ve used.”
Soap, panty liners, laundry detergents, lubricants for intercourse: Sobel has seen women have allergic reactions to all these things and more, even if they’ve been using the products for some time.
“Hopefully these companies do some extensive testing, but this isn’t regulated and there’s no proof that some of these chemicals are not harmful in and of themselves,” he added.
Masks aren’t treatments
Sobel says issues you’re having with the vulva area shouldn’t be treated with a mask.
“My other concern would be that people are using them as a treatment for an underlying issue,” he explained. “If they are having irritation, they are having a rash or breaks of the skin, and they’re using this [mask] to alleviate their discomfort rather than getting appropriate medical care.”
If you know that you’re sensitive in general to products like hand sanitizers, hand creams, or moisturizers, “I would definitely stay away from this kind of stuff,” he advised.
If you have any open sores, cuts, or lesions in that area already, a mask isn’t a good option.
“Once the skin is broken, it’s much easier for the chemicals to get into there and cause more of a reaction,” Sobel explained.
A need to beautify?
Mask messaging seems to suggest that a brightened or hydrated vulva is a “better” vulva.
“Is this a trend? Is there a need in the market for this? Is this an additional pressure that is being placed on women for one more area that needs beautification?” Sobel asked.
“It’s just creating another potential set of psychological, emotional, and potentially physical issues that women are forced to deal with,” he said.
Sobel recommends that anytime you try a new product in the vagina area, test sensitivity elsewhere first. The inner part of your upper arm is a good testing ground.
“Where your bicep and tricep are, that skin is a little bit thinner,” he said. “Test the product there for 3 days and move down to the labia majora — the bigger outer lips — because that’s a little bit thicker skin.”
Test a small spot on the labia majora for 3 days, then for another 3 days test a small dime-sized spot in the area the product is designed to be used for.
“If you’re not having any redness, irritation, rashes, any discomfort after 3 days, although it’s not a guarantee, you’re likely to be able to tolerate that product without any issues,” he said.
But Sobel stresses that masks designed for the genitals aren’t a good idea for women.
“Are they doing any penile or scrotal wraps?” he countered. “From an ethical and psychological perspective, it’s worrisome.”
A mask company defends its product
Two Lips officials didn’t respond to Healthline’s request for comment, but Shawna Watterson and Hannah Rose, co-creators of Muff Masque, told Healthline about their development process.
“The vulva skin is sensitive, and we knew the importance of nurturing it before going into research and development,” Rose explained.
“We worked with both a general practitioner and a holistic beauty guru to identify quality, botanical ingredients that would soothe and relieve common issues like razor burn and ingrown hairs, without posing a threat to vaginal health,” she said.
They say they sought out a manufacturer who had “extensive experience” creating vagina lotions and serums.
“[We] tapped her in-house chemist to recommend additional organic ingredients,” Rose said. “We endlessly tested on ourselves and groups of girlfriends, went through 10 manufacturing iterations, and personally changed the product five times.”
The Muff Masque is meant to celebrate women, Watterson says, and should be viewed as a treat, not a necessity.
“Overall, the beauty industry can set some pretty unrealistic standards for women. We think anything that can help women feel a little more confident in their own, authentic way is a good thing,” Watterson said.
“We created Muff Masque to empower women to be themselves and maintain any style of muff they find most beautiful — not what society tells them is beautiful,” she added.
Just as you would for a sheet mask for your face, Watterson and Rose recommended that you always check the ingredients for potential allergies.
They note the sheet mask is for external use only and not to be placed inside the vagina.
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