When you hear the word ‘Vagisil’ chances are you think of their over-the-counter cream that is recommended for external irritation. The brand has come a long way since their conception in the ’70s. They also stock products for ‘odour protection’ (whatever that is) and dryness relief. However when the brand announced a new line specifically designed for teens, backlash swiftly followed.
The cutesy OMV! (a play on the abbreviation OMG!) line is made up of personal wipes, a wash and a serum that are vanilla-and-clementine-scented. Furthermore the website and social media posts promoting it contain teenage friendly catch phrases and buzzwords too. (Why not “level-up” your teen’s “self-care routine” and enhance their “glow-up”?)
The focus on “freshness” promotes the dangerous idea that vulvas and vaginas are ‘dirty’ and should smell a certain way. Although the line is set to be sold in the US, here’s why we across the globe should care.
Doctors are leading the response to Vagisil
It’s important to note that OB/GYNs are leading this response. Jen Gunter and Jocelyn Fitzgerald were the first to raise awareness of this new line. They highlight multiple issues; the line make teens ashamed of their bodies and could cause irritation and allergic reaction if used internally. The biggest takeaway from their responses? They worry teens won’t seek medical help for issues such as yeast infections that should not be treated with Vagisil.
It is worrying that the brand seems to think ‘vulva’ and ‘vagina’ can be used interchangeably. Doctors like Gunter work tirelessly to combat misinformation surrounding the vagina.
It’s part of a much larger problem
Unfortunately this line is merely a drop in the ocean, the feminine hygiene industry is booming. Simply browse aisles at supermarkets or online to see washes, wipes, sprays that share one aim: create an insecurity to make profit. Of course this isn’t just unique to the feminine hygiene industry, other industries have long used this as strategy.
What makes this particular industry so heinous is the fact that it thrives by peddling shame and misinformation. The simple fact is these products exist because we are told that vaginas are dirty. This obsession with cleanliness and freshness is wrongly conflated with good vaginal health. It eerily resembles the harmful language associated with purity culture too.
Nobody is immune to this messaging
Whilst the line is aimed at teenagers, it drew attention from many who have shared their own stories. In 2018, the University of Guelph found that people who use these products are up to three times more likely to get a vaginal infection. It also showed that some would turn to another product to address the issue, thus creating a vicious cycle. Something these brands are banking on.
Regardless of whether this new line is only sold in one particularly country, the harmful messaging is universal.