Word to the wise: when Dr. Jen Gunter comes after your company’s junk science, listen to her.
The Canadian gynecologist known for debunking Gwenyth Paltrow’s Goop is now taking on Vagisil, calling out the brand’s new line of products for teens as “predatory” for profiting off of young people’s insecurities about how their vulvas smell.
In series of tweets, starting on Feb. 4, Gunter took aim at pressuring Vagisil to pull its brand OMV!, which markets three confetti-decorated products to cisgender teenage girls. They’re meant to tackle so-called “period funk” and help young people with vulvas do an “intimate care glow-up.” Because apparently that’s something vulvas need.
As Gunter and gynecologists have told the public, many “feminine hygiene” products should go nowhere near vaginas; there’s no need to use anything for these internal body parts, even water.
They’re backed by research: A 2018 University of Guelph study found that people who used these products were up three times more likely to get a vaginal infection. Some respondents would then try to address their health problem with another product, leading to a vicious cycle.
As researcher Kieran O’Doherty told CTV News, vaginal ecosystems that have been disrupted may lead to someone developing a pelvic disease, cervical cancer, pregnancy problems, infertility, and various infections.
Check out: How to keep your vagina healthy. Story continues after the slideshow.
Vulvas, which are often inaccurately referred to as vaginas, need at most a light wash with a mild, perfume-free cleanser.
“It’s a vulva, not a creamsicle”
“Your vulva skin is more sensitive to irritation, and fragrance is a very common trigger for irritation,” Gunter previously told HuffPost UK.
Of the three products OMV! offers, its cleanser and sweat wipes smell like “vanilla-clementine,” according to its website. The product line’s Instagram posts describe the fragrance as a “creamsicle scent that’s sweet and citrusy.”
In case people needed it spelled out, Gunter spoke plainly, in one of her tweets, about the frozen dessert comparison:
She also didn’t mince words when explaining the risks that may occur should young people use the products according to their labels.
Why companies are selling “cigarettes for the vagina” to. teens
Without naming Gunter, Vagisil addressed the valid criticism of their OMV! products with a statement that claimed they did not intend to shame how young people’s vulvas or vaginas smell or look.
However, many responses took issue with the company’s decision to silence dissenting voices by closing comments on OMV!’s Instagram account and called them out for not acting with cisgender girls’ health in mind.
“The Vagina Bible” author and women’s health advocate has long called out the patriarchal messaging that cisgender girls and teens who menstruate get from companies that profit from products related to body shame.
Gunter and other medical professionals won’t stop urging retailers to drop wellness products that could potentially hurt youth.
But at least the furor has had some positive outcomes: Parents told Gunter that her Vagisil callouts led them to have candid conversations with their teenagers about their bodies and disinformation.
After all, as Gunter told HuffPost UK, cisgender boys aren’t targeted by companies like Vagisil for how funky their private parts are.
“When they have these smells — these piña colada or tropical smells or whatever the hell smell they’re trying to place on your body part— it’s perpetuating the idea that there’s a problem with your normal, human smell,” she said. “Because, what, scrotum smells like puppy paws? It doesn’t.”
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