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Everyone deserves to live in a healthy and safe environment. That environment includes where you live, work, play, and pray. We reject and actively push back against racist rhetoric, actions, policies and institutional oppression that leads to state-sanctioned brutality, gun violence, and harm that again and again assaults communities of color. We are committed to working for justice and equity, and are in solidarity with social, racial, and environmental justice organizations to build community, understanding and honest dialogue to address the root causes of violence, harm and hate.

Intimate Care Products

Toxic ingredients & harmful marketing

Intimate Care Products and Your Health

Popular intimate care products often market their wipes, washes, sprays, and more as “must-haves” for both health and self-image. They capitalize on the blatant and absurd underlying message that vaginas are dirty and in need of cleansing. What’s worse: with names like “Island Splash” these products may sound refreshing, but they often contain hidden harmful ingredients.

We hope the resources on this page will encourage conversations around why we choose to use — or not use — products like wipes, washes, douches, powders and sprays. And will move you to TAKE ACTION by adding your voice to the growing number of concerned people who are telling manufacturers of intimate care products that harmful ingredients and toxic marketing are unacceptable!

WATCH: Vaginal Health Panel

Conversation with Dr. Ami Zota of George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health; M. Isabelle Chaudry of National Women’s Health Network; Dr. Astrid Williams of Black Women for Wellness; and Dr. Ebere Azumah of Love Your Menses on toxic ingredients, harmful and racist marketing, and the impacts intimate care products have on our vaginas and our health.

The Problem

Makers of intimate care products often market their products as a ‘must-have’ for both health and self-image. The chemicals used in their wipes products, however, belie marketing messages that tell people they need wipes in order to feel fresh, clean and confident. Wipes, washes, douches, sprays and powders can contain ingredients that put people’s health at risk, including:

  • Vaginal Wipes: Hazardous ingredients may include methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, parabens, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, Triclosan and unknown fragrance chemicals. Exposure concerns include cancer and endocrine disruption. Studies link wipe use to allergic rash.
  • Vaginal Washes: Hazardous ingredients may include unknown fragrance chemicals, parabens, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, DMDM hydantoin, D&C Red No.33, Ext D&C Violet #2, and FD&C Yellow #5. Exposure concerns include endocrine disruption, allergic rash, and asthma.
  • Douches: Hazardous ingredients may include unknown fragrance chemicals and the spermicide octoxynol-9. Studies link douche use to bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, low-birth weight, preterm birth, HIV transmission, sexually transmitted diseases, ectopic pregnancy, chronic yeast infections, and infertility.
  • Vaginal Deodorants (sprays, powders & suppositories): Hazardous ingredients may include unknown fragrance chemicals, parabens, asbestos-contaminated talc, and benzethonium chloride. Exposure concerns include reproductive harm, cancer, endocrine disruption and allergic rash.

Women of color are disproportionately impacted by the harmful and unwanted chemicals in intimate care products. Data compiled by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicate that on average Black and Latinx women use intimate care products at higher rates than white women. Companies continue to market products like washes, wipes, douches, powders and sprays more aggressively to women of color, putting their health at heightened risk of toxic exposures and adverse long-term health impacts.

Bottom line: However we choose to take care of bodies, products should never put our health at risk. Product manufacturers must take responsibility for making products as safe as possible now, for people who use them.

For additional information on period care products like tampons, pads, menstrual cups and period underwear, see our period health resources here.

WORKSHOP OPPORTUNITY! JOIN US for Our Stories, Our Flow — a virtual conversation about menstruation that centers and de-stigmatizes the way we talk about, understand & experience safe, healthy periods! Learn more!

Summer's Eve Removes 10 Toxic Ingredients!

For years, WVE supporters have raised their voices through our #SummersDeceive campaign that has included online action and call-in days, participation in protests outside the company’s headquarters, and have signed on to our letter from scientists to the company.

We are pleased to report these efforts have paid off! Because you demanded it, Summer’s Eve has removed 10 toxic ingredients from their products. This is definitely something to celebrate, but the makers of Summer’s Eve still have work to do in addressing harmful practices that can jeopardize our health. LEARN MORE!

 
ARTICLES & CONVERSATIONS

WVE Staff Shares: Candid Conversations on Intimate Care Products

“The first question my doctor asked me was ‘Te estas lavando la vagina con jabon?’ (‘Are you washing your vagina with soap?’). I wasn’t, and we concluded that the discharge was just a normal thing for my body, and she recommended I use panty liners if I didn’t want my underwear to get dirty…” Read more.

Itching, burning, pain, infections? You are not alone.

Not only is research on the causes of vaginitis scant, the treatments available are truly inadequate, often only successful for the short term – and way too many people have recurring symptoms month after month. Read more.

Concerned about toxic chemicals in Summer's Eve products

How are Menstrual and Intimate Care Products Regulated?

Menstrual and intimate care products are used on and in some of the most sensitive body tissue, yet there is very little regulation over the safety of these products, and in many cases corporations are not even required to tell you what ingredients are used in these products. Learn more.

Talc and links to ovarian cancer

Black Lives Should Matter in the Medicine Cabinet, Too

Targeting Black communities with predatory marketing for products linked to cancer is not a sign that Johnson & Johnson cares about the Black community. If it did, the company would commit to addressing the harm of their products. Read more.

Rally at Prestige Brands Headquarters

Because of You, Summer’s Eve Removed Ten Toxic Ingredients!

VICTORY! Summer’s Eve has removed 10 toxic ingredients from their products. Unfortunately, underlying concerns with intimate care products continue to put our health at risk. Learn more.

We Need to Talk About the Term ‘Feminine Hygiene’

Using language that infers that only women and girls have periods can be incredibly dangerous because it excludes the voices of many people who menstruate from important decisions and conversations about their health. Learn more.

New Podcast Focuses on Feminists Taking on Toxics!

Pilot episode centers on toxic chemicals in menstrual & intimate care products — includes interviews with WVE’s Director of Science and Research, Alex Scranton, and Deputy Director, Jamie McConnell. Hosts Sally and Anna give a brief history of how these products have been developed and marketed. Learn more.

Which Companies Continue to Sell Talc-Based Baby Powders?

In 2017, WVE identified 28 baby powder products that contained talc. In 2020 we went back to those 28 products to find out what had changed. In short, a lot. Learn more.

TIMELINE OF INTIMATE
CARE PRODUCTS
Douches were first marketed as a type of contraceptive to use after sex. When that was debunked, companies instead amped up their messaging myths of cleanliness, health, and hygiene, and introduced a whole host of new products that corporations pushed on people as “necessary” for vaginal health.
Learn more in this timeline of some of the industry’s “douchiest” practices and products.
References:
– https://www.womensvoices.org/take-action-with-womens-voices/green-cleaning-parties/green-cleaning-recipes/
– https://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book-excerpts/health-article/a-brief-history-of-birth-control/
– https://www.si.edu/spotlight/health-hygiene-and-beauty/feminine-hygiene-products
– https://timeline.com/sexist-history-douching-bcc39f3d216c#:~:text=French%20obstetrician%20Maurice%20%C3%89guisier%20released,
the%20household%20disinfectant%20to%20douche.
– https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-1998-07-16/pdf/98-18879.pdf
– https://invivo.pharmaintelligence.informa.com/PS017638/TOPICAL-ANTIFUNGALS-RxTOOTC-SWITCH-FOR-
CANDIDIASIS-RECOMMENDED-BY-FDA-ADVISORY-COMITTEE-LABELING-SHOULD-FLAG-FIRSTTIMERS-
CHRONIC-INFECTIONS
 

Additional Resources

Menstrual Care and Personal Care Products
PERIOD HEALTH – Detox the Box
What’s in Period Products? Timeline of Chemical Testing
Nanosilver in Period Care Products
Quats and Other Chemicals of Concern in Antibacterial Sex Toy Cleaners
Menstrual Equity – What does Menstrual Equity Mean to you?
Johnson & Johnson’s Toxic Talc – TAKE ACTION!
Always Pads Testing Results
2018 Tampon Testing Results
Slippery Slope: Potential Hazards of Lubricants for Women

Policy
Menstrual Products Right to Know Act (HR 2268)
Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act (HR 4296)
Menstrual Equity for All Act
Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Safety Act
Tampon Tax Litigation Actions
Opposition: California’s AB 1989

EXPLORE MORE ISSUES >>

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