Given you can get acne on your vagina, it was only a matter of time before sheet masks for your vaginal area became a thing too. But like…ugh. Do we really need to be stressing about whether or not our vulvas are dewy, bright, and "detoxified"? Definitely not, according to the experts.
Earlier this week, Marie Claire reported on the WTF-worthy existence of vulva sheet masks — specifically, Two Lips Blackout Activated Charcoal Mask. The sheet mask comes with some pretty big claims (and it should, considering it's $25 a pop): infrared activated charcoal to "boost lymphatic drainage" and detoxify, chamomile to soothe, white licorice to brighten and even out skin tone, and aloe vera to help moisturize.
First of all, what is a vaginal sheet mask?
That's questionable (to say the least), according to the experts. "The vaginal area is a very sensitive area that does change over time," Lily Talakoub, a board-certified dermatologist in Virginia, tells Allure. Things like friction, hormones, and pregnancy can cause discoloration (you can even get wrinkles down there), but that certainly doesn't mean you need to adopt a vaginal skin-care routine.
"The best TLC for the business down there is to apply the least amount of stuff possible — less is more," Adeeti Gupta, a board-certified gynecologist and founder of Walk-In GYN Care in New York City, tells Allure.
On the moisturizing front, your anatomy pretty much takes care of itself, Talakoub says. "The area is naturally moist and stays damp because of it being covered all day," she explains. In fact, applying a moisturizing mask down there has the potential to cause some big problems: "Moisturizers are normally not recommended because damp areas that stay damp over a long period of time can build yeast and skin infections."
OK, so why do they even exist, then?
Good question. As far as sheet masks go, Two Lips has the makings of a good one, with the equivalent of half a bottle of serum in each one. It's the part about putting it on your vulva that could be a problem, however. "The skin on the vulva is thinner than the face, so it can get irritated from chemicals very quickly," Talakoub explains, adding that even natural oils and fragrances can be quite tricky.
While most of the ingredients in the Two Lips mask have a reputation for being non-irritating, Gupta flagged two — ethyl-ascorbic acid and dipotassium glycyrrhizate — which "could cause irritation in susceptible people."
"Since it's in a trapped area of the body with restricted airflow for the major part of the day, the skin on the vulva is even more susceptible to any toxic agents and pH changes — therefore, extreme caution is advisable," Gupta warns.
If I still want to try one out, what do I need to know?
Another concern of putting an activated charcoal mask on your vag, however, Gupta says, is the charcoal particles themselves. "I would definitely suggest washing it off completely and carefully so as to not leave any particles behind since they can act as a foreign material causing trouble down there," she explains. If you feel like your downstairs bits could use some extra TLC, Gupta recommends a gentle, natural moisturizer like coconut oil. However, if you simply must try a vaginal sheet mask, there are two things you should do to prevent any irritation in the super-sensitive area.
"First check for sensitivity by applying to a small area on your face or even the side of the vulva," Gupta says. If anything feels itchy or looks red after a few minutes, best not to proceed.
Secondly, after you're done masking, rinse the area really well, Gupta advises. "Be sure not to scrub the skin clean, just let it wash off with plain running water and use your hands — no scrubby sponges," she says. "Dab dry and then let the area be."
The bottom line
This is one treatment you should skip. "Using a product on the vulva can be risky," Talakoub says. "Allergic reactions are common given the thin lining of the skin, the decreased mucosal barrier, and the sensitivity of the area. Plus, dampening the area will increase risk of yeast infections," she says. "Just like douches, this is not a good idea."
On top of all that, it's important to keep in mind that beauty is supposed to be fun — you shouldn't feel shamed or pressured into doing treatments on your genitals, particularly ones that could negatively affect them.
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