Who knew there were seasonal vaginas? I sure didn’t, but according to a recent article in Teen Vogue, women must stay vigilant this summer to avoid “drier” vaginas, a “vaginal panic attack,” wet bikini bottoms, and to use bug spray on their underwear to prevent getting a bug bite on their vulva.
That’s when obstetrician-gynecologist Jen Gunter spoke up. She specializes in vulvovaginal disorders and would recognize a healthy summer vagina when she saw one. Only, she says the advice in the article would likely harm those parts rather than keep them safe.
She says the article was “based on this basic lack of understanding about vaginal physiology.”
Outraged at the lack of science in the piece, Gunter got to work debunking each myth and piece of bad advice.
She says other doctors have a lot to learn, too.
“It’s amazing to me how many physicians get it wrong,” she says. “Medicine is complex. As we know more and more, it’s not possible for everybody to keep up with everything. I’m trying to get that information out to other doctors, too.”
The Teen Vogue piece is only one of many problematic articles about her specialty.
The stream of bad advice frustrates Gunter as she watches misinformation spread in spite of science. “It makes me want to bang my head against a wall,” she says. “You think, ‘How many times do we have to say this to get the message through?’”
She’s particularly concerned for young women who may read articles like this and unquestioningly take its advice.
These unscientific tips also carry a nefarious side effect. “It’s pushing a patriarchal message that vaginas and vulvas need to be tamed for some reason,” she says. “I see women every day who have used multiple products from drug stores – none of which have helped them, and some of which are actually causing their symptoms.”
“When people overclean, they get irritation and damage,” she explains. “You want to be non-interventional as possible. Overcleaning can lead to skin breakdown and scratching, which does introduce yeast into the skin.”
Gunter says this could also lead to atopic dermatitis or lichen simplex chronicus, the sensations of which she likened to variations of eczema.
Gunter says it’s best to treat summer vaginas like beach bodies. If your body is on a beach, it is now a beach body.