Canadian gynecologist and author of The Vagina Bible Jen Gunter called out Vagisil for its OMV! line of products marketed to teenage girls. On Feb. 4, the doctor with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers tweeted, "Hey @vagisil going to call you out here for this predatory line of products aimed at teen girls. Why do you think teen vulvas need special cleaning? To be prepped for men? Because they are dirty. Anxiously awaiting your answer as are all my followers."
Gunther expressed, in no uncertain terms, concern and outrage about the safety of the product. "Do you REALLY want teens to [put] this swill in their vaginas?" she tweeted. "You are literally marketing it as vaginal health. This will damage lactobacilli and mucus and increase the risk of STIs of exposed."
On its website, Vagisil describes OMV! as a line that's "all about your glow up ... so period funk and bikini itch don’t get in your way." The line features a wash, wipes, and serum for teens "to help make life a little easier, fresher and smoother with a bit of confetti thrown in for fun." The associated Instagram account is a mix of empowerment buzzwords and images — a colorful portrait of Kamala Harris and inspirational mantras — alongside images of the various products described in the familiar language of "feminine hygiene products." ("Cleanse." "Freshness.")
Dr. Gunter has called out similar messaging in the past. In a 2019 post on her website, Gunter was critical of some of GOOP's "vaginal health" products and practices, including vaginal steaming and so-called "yoni eggs," decrying not only their associated health risks but patriarchal marketing and origins. "GOOP has no issues weaponizing fears about femininity for profit," she wrote. "They use words like 'pure,' 'clean,' and 'natural' — the same language as the patriarchy — to market supposedly better than conventional (but not really), yet definitely more expensive products as taking charge of your health."
When Kourtney Kardashian's Poosh brand posted a round-up of its favorite "non-toxic vaginal washes" the same year, Gunter tweeted out, "How about follow none of this advice. Your vagina is naturally fresh, anyone who says otherwise is representing the patriarchy. Feminine washes are a scam. I'm the expert." She later added, "Using baby names to describe the vulva and vagina tells me that @pooshdotcom are aiming for the pre teen, teen and young adult market. Their vaginas and vulvas are terrific, that is the only message they need to hear!"
Without naming Gunter specifically, Vagisil responded to "comments" about the OMV! line on Feb. 5. "In response to today's comments about OMV!, we want to reiterate the fact that we are in no way shaming women or their vulvas/vaginas for how they look, smell, or anything else," the brand tweeted above a fuller, three-part explanation. "We are here to support women when their personal preference is to use a wash, wipes, or any of our products."
"The line was created by our skincare experts, together with teens and their moms, because young women are athletes and active in so many ways, and shared with us that they get sweaty, worry about period hygiene and odors, and want their own cleansing products with scents they enjoy themselves," the statement on Twitter read in part. "Vagisil is here to provide safe, gentle external cleansing products that are gynecologist-tested."
But Gunter remains undeterred, and has remained steadfast (and prolifically vocal) in her criticism of the company and the line in the following days on Twitter and various media outlets, including HuffPost and Today. In addition to a barrage of criticism of the product itself as well as its marketing and inaccurate use of anatomical terminology (conflating "vulva" and "vagina") she has urged retailers like Target, Walmart, and CVS not to carry OMV! products in their stores, likening them to "cigarettes for the vagina."
"I am going to make it my mission to get you to pull this product line @vagisil," she tweeted. "Underestimate me at your peril."