This article originally appeared on VICE US.
The idea that vaginas need to be detoxed by some external force is as persistent as it is wrong. Doctors, journalists, and sexual health experts have repeatedly debunked the vaginal detox racket, essentially screaming from the hilltops that the vagina is a “self-cleaning oven,” meaning there are natural, biological mechanisms to keep it pH balanced and and in tip-top condition and healthy. But companies that prey on the insecurities of vagina-owners continue to peddle douches, vaginal steaming, “purifying” (and porous, aka bacteria-friendly) crystal and jade dildos, scented washes for people to use... all in the pursuit of a “tolerable” vagina, I guess. But one of the sketchiest entries into the vaginal “health” canon has just been banned in Canada as a result of a CBC Marketplace investigation. The makers of Goddess Vaginal Detox Pearls were banned from selling their products by Health Canada, the country’s public health department, after making particularly noxious claims about their ability to help users heal from sexual trauma, among other health-related “benefits.”
Vaginal detox pearls, small herbal balls inserted into the vagina with an applicator and removed up to 48 hours later, are insidious because they’re presented as a holistic, natural solution. Dr. Jen Gunter, noted evangeliser of keeping all this trash out of your vagina, called out the logic behind vaginal detoxing in this fashion in an interview with CBC: “You don't need to detox … anything at all. There's nothing in your reproductive tract that needs to be detoxed. Your whole body, you've got liver and kidneys — they take care of that." Gunter also called the claim that Goddess Vaginal Detox Pearls could “cleanse” past sexual trauma “predatory,” “offensive,” and “harmful,” which sounds about right. “The idea that there is any kind of remnant in your vagina from sexual trauma is simply not true,” she said. The pearls also contain borneol, an ingredient utilized in some traditional Chinese medicine practices and flagged by Health Canada as toxic back in 2002. Exposure to borneol may cause skin and eye irritation, nausea and dizziness in small doses, and restlessness, irritability, and seizures in larger amounts, according to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.
It’s great that Canadian consumers won’t have to deal with the toxicity of this particular product anymore. But the mere existence of the vaginal detox market makes it clear that there’s still an overarching ignorance when it comes to gynecological health that’s a lot more difficult to address. Basically, a good rule of thumb is if a product is marketed to make vaginas smell, taste (ugh), or look cleaner or better, proceed with extreme caution. Barring some kind of medical condition like an STI, a fungal overgrowth, or a bacterial infection, everything necessary for maintaining vaginal health is already available in-house, no accessories required.
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