Here'S The Deal With Putting Sheet Masks On Your Vagina
ICYMI: The latest trend in beauty is the sheet mask. The skin-care innovation has taken over the Internet—warranting chatter from everyone from Allure to the New York Times (and us, of course). The idea is simple: Slap a sheet mask on your face, and let it do its skin-refreshing thing. But Refinery29 writer Alix Tunell takes her skincare regimen a step further, regularly putting a sheet mask on her vulva to prevent irritation after shaving and waxing. She says she treats herself to a luxurious vulva sheet mask session after grooming every now and then, and she suggests you do the same. But like, should you?
"I think it's a very creative approach [to handling post-grooming irritation]," Julia Zhu, M.D., medical director of Wall Street Dermatology, tells SELF. Zhu explains that while sheet masks are typically designed for the face, many of them can be used elsewhere—as long as some precautionary measures are taken.
You see, not all sheet masks are created equal. Many are designed to hydrate, moisturize, and soothe—which could be safe for your vulva, too. Products with the words “soothing,” “calming,” or “hydrating,” are most likely to be ok, Shah says. But when it comes to masks that promise to brighten your skin or prevent aging, you'll want to exercise caution. "A lot of these sheet masks have very harsh ingredients in them," Sejah Shah, M.D., dermatologist at SmarterSkin, tells SELF. Shah recommends avoiding the acids and retinoids found in anti-aging and brightening masks—like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, etinol, retinal, tretinoin, isotretinoin, and alitretinoin—because these can irritate the sensitive skin on the vulva. And Zhu suggests staying away from fragrances, because they can irritate the sensitive vulva.
That said, you should also take care to put the sheet mask only on your vulva—the external part of your genitalia. Once you venture into vagina (internal) territory, you're asking for trouble, Shah says. "The vagina has a very delicate pH balance," Shah says. And putting a sheet mask where it doesn't belong could disrupt that balance. This can set you up for things like infection and irritation—and no one wants that. "My advice would be: If you're really gonna do it, focus on the mound area—also known as the mons pubis," Shah says. This is the part of fatty tissue lying over your pubic bones. (Here's a link to a diagram to help you understand the anatomy of your downstairs area, just in case you were wondering.)
So yes, Tunnell was right: You can put a sheet mask on your vulva. Shah and Zhu both confirm that this could be a good way to moisturize skin after hair removal—as long as you heed their warnings, of course. And for those of you who aren't ready to jump on the vulva sheet masking train just yet, Shah says you have plenty of other options for soothing irritation after grooming. She recommends aloe, moisturizer containing niacinamide or ceramide, or a little over-the-counter hydrocortisone. "There's no need to go overboard," she says.