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I tried a sheet mask for my vulva so you don’t have to

PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHARLES DELUVIO
WORDS BY ISABELLE SACKS

I mean, haven’t women been through enough?

Indulging in self-care has been a saving grace for many of us during iso, but slathering luxury skincare on my lady parts is a bit of a jump from a candlelit bath and a glass of wine. So, how did I get here? Basically, when I heard that the new frontier of wellness was sheet masks for our private parts, my curiosity outweighed my massive eye-roll and I knew I had to try it. 

Let me not mince words though – this product makes me furious on a lot of levels. When I say “I tried a sheet mask for my vulva so you don’t have to”, what I really mean is “I tried a sheet mask for my vulva so you can read about it for fun, but also please listen to me when I say that you absolutely do not need this product.”

So let’s get into it. Fig Femme is a new lifestyle brand by Balinese-Australian entrepreneur and influencer Lindy Rama-Ellis, launched with the aim to “normalise the conversations around woman’s intimate wellness and help foster a self-care culture that’s honest, nurturing and empowering”.

The Restore Mask, which they recommend you use two to three times a week, costs $25 a pop. I don’t know about you, but I don’t even think I’d spend $75 dollars a week on my face, let alone an organ that is literally self-cleaning.

The packaging and brand aesthetic is frankly gorgeous. The formula is fragrance-free, cruelty-free, vegan friendly and pH balanced especially for use on your vulva, and I would happily put all the ingredients on my face. So yeah, a part of me really wanted to like this. We absolutely should be talking about our vulvas more! We absolutely should be engaging in self-care!

When Lindy went on Seven News’ The Morning Show recently, she spoke about how being a mother influenced her decision to start the line. “I have three beautiful girls, and I don’t want them to ever feel ashamed or embarrassed about that part of their bodies. By bringing out these products, it gets women discussing and it doesn’t become so taboo,” she said. 

Where I have an issue is when the lines are blurred between addressing the real feminist issue of the stigmatisation and politicisation of female genitals and just straight up profiting off of it. 

As one Instagram user aptly commented, “You selling a product like this as a form of female empowerment is deeply concerning… It’s capitalising on women’s insecurities over their bodies to sell them stuff they don’t need.” Another user said, “I guess each to their own but it’s interesting that men would never feel the need to brighten and tighten their external genitalia, I hate that this could be one more area for women to be expected to upkeep to a certain standard.”

I wish I could say that this is entirely Gwyneth Paltrow’s fault – what with her jade eggs and vaginal steams – but it isn’t. The truth is, the entire beauty and wellness industry is built on weaponising our bodies against us, creating insecurities that we then feel obliged to address.

At a time when children as young as nine are seeking labiaplasty, when women are bleaching their vulvas to make them look “younger, lighter and smoother” and when 200 million women and girls have tragically been subjected to female genital mutilation, framing the exploitation of vulva insecurities as “empowering” is pretty questionable.

But what does this mask actually claim to do?

Fig Femme says some of the key benefits of the mask are that it “brightens”, “aids to increase elasticity and reduce wrinkles”, “delivers a plump youthful texture” and “aids in the prevention of abnormal vaginal odour”. There is a lot to unpack here.

First off, your vulva does not need anti-aging! Let me say it once again for the people in the back, your vulva is actually great as it is and doesn’t need to be brightened or made more youthful-looking! 

Also, vaginal odour is totally normal and not something that needs fixing. This is not the first product to try to con women into thinking that their nether-regions need help (I’m sure we all remember Femfresh), but I urge you to remember that our vaginas are self-cleaning organs that really don’t need to smell like roses or a tropical holiday. 

Medically speaking, if you actually have an “abnormal vaginal odour”, the lactobacillus ferment (a probiotic ingredient) that Fig Femme claims “reduces odour, irritation and vaginal itch caused by BV or thrush”, will not help! I beg of you, please go to the doctor. 

Even though this product doesn’t contain fragrance, some of the ingredients still have the potential to be irritating for our skin, which is particularly sensitive down there. I’d especially flag the inclusion of pineapple fruit extract (an AHA) and willowbark extract (a BHA).

My actual, real-life, 100 per cent authentic experience with this mask

Ok so yes, for the purposes of journalistic integrity, I did actually have to try this thing. 

When I say that this is a mask for your vulva, what I really mean is that it is mostly a mask for your lower abdomen. Picture the front half of your most high-waisted period underwear, except made of paper and with a little slit in the crotch area.

I wasn’t sure how messy it was going to be so I started on the bathroom floor and quickly realised that we’re in winter (i.e. not the time to be spending 10-20 minutes bottomless on tiles), so I promptly moved to my carpeted bedroom floor. I laid with my eyes closed, listening to Taylor Swift and contemplating the decisions that had brought me to that moment. 

The mask smells a little yeasty and a tiny bit floral (which will be coming from the rosa damascena flower water), and basically feels like you accidentally put a facial sheet mask on the wrong spot. 

I didn’t expect much in terms of getting a brighter, sparklier, perkier vulva after one use – and no surprises here, nothing happened. The area felt a little more hydrated and honestly a little itchy, which I think could have been from the chemical exfoliants. 

Overall, do I think this could be a fun thing for a hens night or a cheeky gals sleepover? Sure. Do I think this needs to be an essential part of your self-care routine? No, I do not.

Let me finish by once again reminding you that your vulva is beautiful. It does not need to be brightened, plumped or wrinkle-free. Let’s normalise talking about this topic without creating more insecurities and expectations about women’s bodies. And if you still want to try this mask after all of that, I’d suggest that you don’t do it directly following hair removal and that you patch test first.

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