Last week I ran into Target to pick up a zit popper for my hormonal acne. As I was wandering the cosmetic and personal care isles, I stumbled across a sign that said "Women's Health." A surge of excitement washed over me. For the last year, Ova Woman has been actively advocating for Target to have a Women's Health section. In an instant, however, my excitement was sucked back into my belly when I realized what was proudly on display under the sign. Vagina perfumes.
Directly under the "Women's Health" sign were THREE rows of body washes, wipes, douches and powders for vaginas. The bottles advertised a plethora of scents: delicate blossom, morning paradise, sheer floral, cotton breeze and island splash. I restrained my urge to bulldoze the products over with my tiny, but mighty hands. Was Target really equating scented vaginal sprays with health?
The major brand Target carries is Summer's Eve, which is owned by Fleet Laboratories. Fleet Laboratories is one of the original producers of the douche. Douching has been linked to many adverse health effects and since these facts have come to light, revenue from douching has dropped. Now, Summer's Eve has concocted a new product line that preys on the insecurities women feel about their vaginal scent.
Upon returning home from this discouraging shopping trip, I scoured medical journals to find studies or data supporting the use of special vaginal cleansers. I found no data backing up the need for these products. I also had the opportunity to interview Missy Saftner, a nurse midwife, about douching and vaginal washes. She emphasized in our conversation that these vaginal cleaning methods are unnecessary and can lead to irritation. The vagina is a self cleaning and regulating organ, and if there is a change in odor, you should see a practitioner rather than covering it up with scented products. Although we at Ova don't encourage looking to popular culture websites for health advice, Cosmopolitan, Essence and The Daily Mail all came to the same conclusion after interviewing medical practitioners.
Let's stop sending the message to women that their vaginas need to smell like roses. Target, this is an opportunity for you to change the narrative and stock your shelves with products that actually support women's health. You have a history of leading positive change in retail with your move to gender neutral toys and your support for African American hair care startups. If you have any questions about which women's health products to carry, we'd love to help you better support women. We are excited to see Target become a retail leader in women's health.