In the next few years, we at Bloomi predict the world will see a revolution in the Intimate Care category. As more people are educated on the ingredients in their hygiene, menstrual and sexual wellness products, we’re confident they will make the switch to using only, or primarily, healthful products.
To help people on their journey, we’re launching Clean Intimacy, a monthly series where we provide education on toxic-free personal hygiene, sex and overall wellness products. To start, let’s take a look at why you — yes you! — should consider making the switch to clean intimate care and what doing so means and looks like.
Up to 98% of current intimate care products are unhealthy
In a study Bloomi conducted across intimate care washes, tampons, pads, sex toys, lubricants and other products, we found that up to 98 percent of these items contain at least one toxic ingredient, allergen or irritant. These components could be harmful for numerous individuals. For instance, the vulva and vagina skin is extremely permeable because the cells in these areas are more loosely arranged to allow substances to penetrate the skin. Thus, any ingredients in products used in this sensitive area can enter the bloodstream in a matter of seconds. Now consider that the average person with a vulva uses a wash on their genital area more than 16,000 times and goes through about 15,000 pads and tampons in their lifetime. Throughout the years, the cumulative exposure to unhealthy products adds up and can put users at increased risk of bacterial and yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, increased transmission of STIs and other adverse health outcomes.
Intimate care products are highly unregulated
So why are there so many harmful products on the market? Most people assume their intimate care products have been tested for safety. Sadly, cosmetic products (e.g. wipes, washes and moisturizers) have been highly unregulated since 1938, and most do not require safety testing. This means manufacturers can include harmful ingredients or additives and are not required to report any health complaints from their customers.
Items that are inserted into the genital area, such as tampons, condoms, menstrual cups and lubricants, are considered medical devices. Although one might think they would contain strict manufacturing and label requirements, products classified as medical devices do not need to disclose ingredients on their packaging. This means harmful additives may be included in your products without being listed and, in turn, can pose serious health risks.
Black and Latinx people with vulvas are more prone to vaginal infections from toxic ingredients.
Another important consideration is your ethnic background. Studies have shown that Latinx and Black people with vulvas are more prone to vaginal infections than their non-Latinx white counterparts. Black and Latinx communities are genetically more susceptible to bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections and other sexual health infections because they have a different vaginal microbiome makeup that creates a naturally higher pH level. It is thus easier to create pH imbalance among these individuals when they are exposed to products with toxic and irritating ingredients, also putting them at greater risk of infections.
Why are these harmful ingredients used?
In order to meet consumer demands, major manufacturers elect to use ingredients to make their products smell good and last longer on store shelves. Some examples of harmful preservatives used to increase product shelf life that should be avoided include butylparaben, methylchloroisothiazolinone and octoxynol 9. Similarly, people should steer clear of scented products altogether, as fragrances often carry carcinogens and other toxic, unreported ingredients created in a lab. Sometimes a product will be labeled “unscented,” which means it does not have a noticeable scent. However, in many cases these items actually contain masking fragrances to hide unpleasant smells from the other ingredients. Unscented is different from fragrance-free.
There are also some ingredients that irritate the vulva skin, known as vulvar allergens, but are included in products and toys to make them appear more desirable (e.g. creamy consistency, different colors, etc.). Some common vulvar allergens include dyes, fragrances, glycerin and propylene glycol. Avoid products with any of these ingredients.
What can you do?
If you check your intimate care products at home today and feel confused, you are not alone. In fact, 75 percent of people with vulvas say they feel confused about ingredients on the labels of their intimate care products. Use the tips provided in this article to help educate yourself and begin to detox your current products and introduce healthier options. At Bloomi, we’ve done the homework for you and identified toxic ingredients you should avoid in intimate care products on our Banned List.
If your products do not list ingredients, we recommend going onto the manufacturer’s website. If you’re still unable to verify, discontinue use and replace with clean intimate care products. Although some of these items may be harder to find, or may be a bit pricier, your health is definitely worth it.