Until 2020, the internet’s obsession with vagina-scented products was restricted to used underwear on Snifffr and All Things Worn. Well, until Gwyneth Paltrow went live with her vagina-scented candle on Goop and Erykah Badu started her own line of incense sticks—made with the ashes of her own underwear.
Things went a bit haywire after that. ‘Vagina’ became the hottest scent of 2020, with candles and incense sticks flying off shelves in under 24 hours of re-stocking. And just when we thought the trend was left back in 2020 with all of the other misfortunes, the online fetish community picked it up and contextualised it to suit needs over the pandemic.
“Imagine browsing the aisles at a store and enjoying my scent. I’ll make your mask-wearing more enjoyable,” reads Cat’s listing on Snifffr. In an interview with Vice, Cat admits to have been selling the mask for almost a year. “I think people like them because they’re able to enjoy a fetish outside of their home. It’s like a little secret only they know and this makes it risky and fun,” she said. “It’s personally thrilling to me knowing that a mask I’ve had in my panties is now being worn on someone’s face and they’re enjoying it.”
Another seller, Sidney77, who primarily deals over Reddit, admits to having started selling the masks a few weeks after its mandate. “I wanted to offer something new and exciting and I enjoy making people happy in tough times,” she told Vice. “The masks blend well in the panty fetish scene. It’s naughty!”. She claims to have sold 10 to 20 masks till date for a sum of $25 for the first purchase and $5 per mask for ensuing purchases.
Public play is one of the major kinks these pandemic-induced fetish items cater to. “The allure is that they can share something very private and intimate with me right out in the open, in public,” Sidney77 added. “They get to walk around with a dirty little secret.”
Disposable, surgical three-ply masks are the best in the market for holding smells. And these incognito cousins of used underwear can be further…customised. Ranging from ways to places they are worn before reaching the customer, and the ‘add on’ options are endless. Although masks stuffed into thongs are the most popular, alternatives include stuffing them into shoes and bras, rubbing onto faces or a combination of all of the above. Add-ons under Goddess Bailey’s listing on ManyVids, for example, includes a sexy note signed by her for $10, autographed pictures of her wearing the face mask for $20 and stuffing them into her thongs after a squirting session for $25, all “sealed with a Louboutin red kiss.”
Some of these sellers also admit to getting a little (more) creative, by leaving behind what they term ‘evidence’ of the ‘aroma’. These souvenirs range between deliberate stains to questionably-desirable matter left on the inside of the masks upon request. Though most of this action is pulled off on surgical masks, buyers also invest in cloth ones of different patterns and designs.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room: is it safe? Does the fact that the trend encourages more people to wear masks outweigh risks of transmission by itself? To date, there are no published reports of transmission of the virus through sexual fluids and fecal matter. However, add-ons like “a Louboutin red kiss” featured on the inside of the mask are worrying. And given the fact that the virus can survive up to seven days on surgical masks, discretion is advised before “walking around with a dirty little secret.”
The vagina-scented face mask, among others, are a nod to the 2021 parent trend of scented face masks. You can either invest in a pack of pre-scented masks or opt for scented stickers and sprays to stay on top of this trend. Though they are much rarer to come by, you can keep smelling like a fresh mint wherever you go. These products can either be considered a replacement for its vagina-scented counterparts or an initiation into smothering your face with a scent for a truly euphoric experience—all depending on the tinted, fogged-up glasses you look at it with.
The wellness industry is thriving, for better or for worse, and with it, various vaginal products are appearing on the market. While some products are used to ease menstrual pain or increase sexual healing through pleasure, others are sold purely for the purpose of ‘finessing’ our genitals. Why is this trend happening now and how much of a problem is it?
Of course, this is not the first time that women are being targeted with false and unnecessary health advice. Gwyneth Paltrow, also known as the mastermind behind GOOP, recommended vagina steaming in order to balance hormone levels and cleanse the uterus, which gynaecologists strongly advise against.
A few years ago a new trend appeared that advised women to peel a full cucumber and penetrate themselves with it—not for the purpose of pleasure, but to ‘reduce odour’ and add ‘moisture’. Health professionals were quick to point out that this practice can actually lead to a number of diseases. In other words, your vagina does not need a ‘cleanse’, and unless a medical professional examined you and told you otherwise, basic hygiene should be enough.
Recently, there has been a worrying increase in various products being sold for the purpose of ‘beautifying’ the genitalia. There are now serums, charcoal masks, various scented perfumes and even highlighters to make your beautiful vagina even more… well beautiful, and this market keeps on growing despite medical professionals’ disapproval of it. Not only are these products unnecessary, but they also promote a false idea that our genitals need to appear a certain way, which can create insecurities for women while also capitalising on them.
TWO L(I)PS is a skincare company dedicated entirely to the vulva, which specialises in selling products such as activated charcoal masks for $28 and brightening serums for $150. While all products are dermatologically tested, their necessity should be put under question. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good charcoal mask, but only for my face—never have I considered applying one to my vulva.
The charcoal masks are said to “soothe, detoxify, brighten and moisturize the vulva,” and were in fact so popular that the company sold out of them two months after their initial launch (they are now back in stock). One of the brand’s serums, priced at $120, is made out of the skin whitening agent Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-36, and comes with the instruction to apply SPF 30 sunscreen the following days. Make your own judgement, but it sounds quite concerning to me that sunscreen would be needed in that area after using a serum.
Another company, The Perfect V, explains on its website that its products are “always for beauty’s sake. It is pure, indulgent pampering and love for your ‘V’. It is a multi-tasking luxury skincare formulated to rejuvenate, enhance and beautify the ‘V’.” Notice how the company never refers to the vulva or vagina by its name—instead, it is just the ‘V’, and if you buy their products, you can beautify your ‘V’ to become the perfect ‘V’!
It is certainly confusing that a company created by adults for adults won’t refer to genitalia by its real name, and should be taken as a warning sign. Perhaps it comes from the stigma surrounding women’s genitalia, but this only makes it all the more ironic that a brand entirely dedicated to selling products for our vulvas can’t even acknowledge that it is in fact called a vulva.
Among the products being sold by The Perfect V, which all claim to be both dermatologically and gynaecologically tested, there is a special $43 highlighting cream that promises to ‘illuminate’ your vulva and make it shimmer. This product can be compared to a highlighter you may apply to your face during your make up routine, only, in this case, it is meant for your vulva.
Everyone should be free to do whatever they want with their own bodies, so if you want to illuminate your vulva, please feel free to do so. My aim isn’t to judge customers, but more to highlight a bigger problem: the stigmatisation of the appearance of female genitalia. This is an increasing issue, and cosmetic surgeries, such as labiaplasty, have seen a 400 per cent increase in the last 15 years.
The stigma doesn’t just stop at the appearance of the vulva itself—it also touches upon other aspects, such as the vagina’s natural scent, its moisture or lack of such, or its pubic hair. One of The Perfect V’s best selling products is a beauty mist described as both “a natural skin conditioner and deodorizer,” that supposedly moisturises your skin and leaves your vulva smelling of roses. Another company called V Magic sells lipstick for your vagina, which supposedly moisturises and deodorises your vagina, too.
Similarly, the ‘Clit Spritz’ is a product sold by The Tonic, a wellness company specialising in CBD products. The ‘Clit Spritz’ is described as a “sexily-silky, gorgeously-scented oil designed to stimulate, lubricate and rejuvenate your lady bits.” Using the expression ‘lady bits’ once again stigmatises genitals. It is important to note that the company is selling the ‘Clit Spritz’ as a lubricant—a product that is both necessary and great—but the product’s description is vague and implies that your clitoris needs a ‘gorgeous scent’, which it doesn’t.
Not only are some of these products beyond ridiculous, but many medical professionals advise against applying and using them as they can affect a healthy PH balance and lead to infection. Vaginas can naturally clean and moisturise themselves, so unless your doctor told you to use a specific product, you don’t need one.
That is not to say all products are useless—the company Fur, for example, sells a concentrate to help eradicate ingrown hairs while soothing irritation. Many wellness companies do focus on creating products that help, while others focus on beautifying your genitals. It is up to you to decide which product suits you best, but perhaps try to do some research on each product before buying any.