Stacy Lyon, founder of the natural, feminine “intimate cleanser” product line Healthy Hoo Hoo, had never heard of parabens prior to 2001 when she had an intimate discussion with a roommate from college who had just undergone a double mastectomy. “She told me they found parabens in her breast cancer tissue biopsy and that spurred her to swap-out all of her health and beauty products to ones that did not contain this nasty preservative,” Lyon said in an interview. “She giggled that the only product she had yet to replace was her feminine cleanser! Yes, I’m a fixer friend.”
Lyon consulted with a naturopath, a gynecologist and searched the internet for information about optimal feminine care. She quickly discovered that most intimate cleansers and body washes on the market contain harsh detergents, dyes, parabens and synthetic fragrances.
“Toxins [like parabens] love to nest in fat deposits, and women store fat around their reproductive organs,” she said.
According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology in 2012, 99 percent of breast tissues sampled of women with primary breast cancer were found to contain parabens. Parabens, chemical preservatives, can be found in numerous personal care items, including deodorants and antiperspirants, lotions, make-up, shampoos, conditioners and shaving gel, among other.
“It just makes sense not to put these chemicals near our most precious parts,” said Lyon.
Many women are self-conscious about the odor of their nether regions and try to mask it with chemical perfumes. Others over-cleanse themselves, which can actually lead to infections and seriously unpleasant odor.
“These chemicals not only upset a woman’s natural balance but also open the door for unwanted bacteria and other discomforts,” Lyon said. “When high pH cleansing products are used on mucosal tissues, it removes the acidic mucus mantel that protects the vagina from bacterial invasions, which in turn, may lead to vaginitis or yeast infections,”
In this case, pH measures the acidity of a body fluid, which depends on the organ or system; the lower the number, the more acidic it is. As a comparison, urine has a pH of 6.0; gastric acid, 1 and blood has a pH between 7.34 and 7.45. Women of reproductive age have vaginal secretions with a pH of 3.5-4.5.
“We need to maintain this protective acid mantel to ward-off bacterial imbalances,” she said. She explained that very little can survive in an acidic environment.
Using a bar of soap, which typically has pH properties ranging from 7-10, can remove that protective barrier, even natural, handmade options. The Healthy Hoo Hoo gentle feminine wash is pH balanced to complement a healthy ecosystem. One of its ingredients—pomegranate extract—naturally fights fungus, including the persistent yeast infection Candida.
Chronic Candida albicans usually results from a history of prolonged/repeated use of antibiotics, steroidal medications, high-sugar diets or alcohol. Every woman is different; some notice very few changes below the waist, while others immediately react to diet, stress, fragrance, hormones, thongs, douching and even sperm. Key signs that your lady bits are out of balance are a noticeable odor, itchiness, abnormal discharge and painful sex.
Promoting vaginal flora, the bacteria that promotes a healthy environment, can be done two ways. One way is to introduce beneficial lactobacillus flora by consuming yogurt or taking probiotics. The other is simply not to destroy a healthy ecosystem in which the flora thrives by avoiding over cleansing with alkaline cleansers, which most soaps and body washes are.
“It’s funny that I both sell feminine cleansing products and, at the same time, preach that the ‘vagina is a self-cleaning oven’ and to leave it alone!” said Lyon. She says the reason for this is that the vulva and the vagina are made up of two different types of tissue.
The vulva, which lies outside the body, is skin, while the vagina is mucosal, much like the lining of the nasal cavity, Lyons explained. This is why we wash our faces but don’t scrub the inside of our noses. She recommends washing the “outside bits” of the labia but leaving the “inside bits” of the vagina opening alone. A woman’s vagina and its surrounding skin are some of the most absorbent parts of her body.
Healthy Hoo Hoo offers a comprehensive line of feminine care products, including wipes for on the go, a foaming cleanser and a gentle feminine wash, dubbed a “shampoo for your hoohoo.” Lyons uses the foamer, which quickly rinses, every time she showers. I have also used the foamer to shave the bikini line area and was very happy with the results—smooth, non-irritated skin.
Lyons cautions women to go light on the wipes to prevent over-cleansing, but the versatile products can be used for more than just washing vaginas. They have been used as baby wipes, to clean cuts and to remove makeup—I love this because it’s so hard to find makeup removers that don’t burn the eyes and irritate the skin!
“Our products smell simply like the ingredients used to make it. Neither masking scents nor fragrance have been added,” said Lyon. “We’re big believers in living a healthy lifestyle, which promotes a balanced “sweet” smelling vaginal discharge.”