Dr. Jen Gunter

What you shouldn’t put in your vagina: 2017’s greatest hits

It seemed as if the medical Internets of 2017 was as the mercy of a random vagina-woo generator. No sooner had I written an impassioned plea about why substance X shouldn’t go into the vagina I was getting tweets and Facebook messages about object Y.

I blame Gwyneth Paltrow. I mean why not, but if we are going to strive for accuracy (which I always do) it does seem that GP birthed this vaginal lunacy trend by treating us to vaginal jade eggs in January of 2017. While GP breathlessly claimed that when she finds “something that works” she wants to share it she couldn’t answer any question about the “practice” of jade eggs when Jimmy Kimmel inquired. Imagine claiming that bringing good health to people is your mission, your full-time job no less, and then when you are asked a question about something you have both endorsed and sold you answer with a big who-the-fuck-knows, a simpering smile and a juvenile giggle?

In total I warned you not to put seven things in the vagina (I know, it does seem like more), so here is a recap in order of least destructive to most damaging.

7) Scandinavian vaginal highlighter

This is clearly meant for the vulva, but vaginas apparently move more product than vulvas and when you make a cream that is all about shaming women about normal external genitalia you probably don’t fucking much care about anatomical accuracy. A cream meant to lighten the labia is aimed squarely at women who have been told they are “too gross” by assholes they may have dated or who have inferred their vulvas are somehow lacking from the terrible messages spewed by Instagram “celebrities” and the magazines and celebrity sites only to eager to spout the latest 10-step Kardashian vagina prep routine. As this product claims it can brighten the appearance of the skin is could have a depigmentation agent which has a real potential to cause irritation. Stay clear. Your vulva is perfect as is.

6) Vaginal cucumber scrub

Yes, peeling a cucumber and rooting up around in there to do something quasi medicinal and impart some kind of natural but artificial freshness to the vagina. Aside from the mental wear and tear of the harmful your-vagina-is-dirty trope, the biggest risk with a peeled cucumber is an abrasion or a bit that breaks off and becomes fertilizer for pathogenic (bad) bacteria. The possibility of self-inoculation with a plant mold or soil bacteria is also real.

A healthy vaginal should smell like a healthy vagina not a cucumber. If you find the idea of a vegetable in or around your vagina intriguing they do make vibrators…

5) Vicks VapoRub

I know, nothing says the smell of a healthy vaginal more than the aroma of a sick-bed! Ah, that special blend of camphor, eucalyptus oil, methol, cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, thymol and turpentine oil. Let’s get real for a minute. Thinking a vagina should smell like this is seriously fucked up. There, I said it.

Keep in mind that many of these ingredients are irritants and sensitizers and are most definitely NOT for mucosal surfaces. I think the irritation alone would prevent anyone from actually using it. Here’s hoping no one ever tries.

4) Vaginal glitter

Yes, some woman who has no medical training sells cosmetic grade glitter to put in your vagina. This is plastic. Small little bits of plastic. Can bacteria adhere to it? Who knows? Could it injure the vaginal walls? Who knows? If you get an abrasion could it become a nasty granuloma (inflammatory reaction to imbedded foreign material)? Probably! I’ve seen many vaginal granulomas from bits of plastic and other materials left behind. But hey, a lady with no medical training says you should use it.

Vaginas don’t need glitter because they ARE the party. I want a shirt that says that.

3) Jade Eggs

I know, they’re not #1 on the 2017 Gunter vaginal-toxicity scale. Sad face. However, they are still porous as they will have micro-fractures where bacteria can hide and an adequate and safe cleaning method has yet to be studied. In addition, the acidic pH of the vagina (around 4.2) could etch the surface over time leaving more nooks and crannies for bacteria!

Bacteria and the risk of toxic shock syndrome aside there is the jade eggthusiast’s recommendation to wear them at night (just stupid as pelvic floor weights require you to be awake to engage your pelvic floor muscles), the idea that jade can balance hormones (i.e. they are able to perform magic), and the bragging about wearing them around all day, which displays a stunning level of ignorance about the pelvic floor.

2) Makeup sponges

A reporter tried to make using makeup sponges as a “tampon hack” a legitimate thing. I called her on it as women are actually doing this and it is sending them to the emergency department. I had a friend who is an emergency room (ER) doctor take a short informal survey and many of her colleagues have seen women with retained makeup sponges in the vagina. Vaginally retained makeup sponges also ended up on the list of what sent people to the ER courtesy of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s database. Keep in mind these sponges are made of the same polyester foam that was used to make Rely tampons, the tampons that had the greatest association with menstrual toxic shock syndrome (mTSS). Using a key ingredient from the tampons that were pulled from the market for mTSS as a tampon just seems like a really, really, really bad idea.

1) Wasp Galls

These are balls of bark, wasp excreta, and wasp saliva that once nurtured wasp larvae and someone on GYNO Etsy wants you to grind them up and put them in your vagina. Do I have to write any more or are you cringing enough?

These have tannic acid and gallic acid which are likely to irritate and damage the mucous in the vagina as well as the vaginal lining leading to erosions. They may also have unknown debris (NOT A REASSURING INGREDIENT) and who knows what kind of bacteria or fungus they could contain that might be just fine for baby wasps but not for vaginas.

I hope 2017 brought us peak vaginal woo, but in case it hasn’t rest assured I will be smacking down whatever vaginal mayhem 2018 brings.