Updated: Mar 25, 2021
According to data collected from around the world, roughly half of the world’s population is female. That is about 50% of the human population or one in every two people that exist on the planet who are women.
With so many women and the vast availability of knowledge, information, and technology, you would think that finding information about basic questions that half of the population has regarding general hygiene, anatomy, and biological functions would be readily available and easily accessible.
Unfortunately, for some reason, this is not the case. Even in 2021, many women are still not familiar with their own personal anatomy and physiology, which has led to a massive amount of misinformation and dangerous and harmful practices. Societal norms, global and social media, and million-dollar marketing strategies have taken advantage of this misinformation and perpetuated false and misleading standards about women and their bodies.
You might be wondering, “How does any of this apply to a soap making blog?” and that is a great question to be asking! One of the most controversial topics that we see in our online soap making groups and soap making forums is about “yoni soaps”. These are soaps that are (supposedly) formulated to "clean your yoni" and are being marketed as a cure for "smelly yonis", cramps, and low libidos.
What exactly is a yoni? Yoni is a Sanskrit word that has been interpreted to literally mean the “womb” and the female organs of generation. In modern-day translations, it refers to female sexual organs such as the vagina, vulva, or uterus.
In addition to yoni, you may also use or have heard other terms like vagina, cooter, vajayjay, pussy, hoohaw, vag, ladybox, and more. What most women refer to as their vagina, is not actually the vagina, but rather the vulva. Vulva is the correct term that refers to all of the external organs, including the mons pubis (pubic mound), the labia majora and minora (vaginal lips), the clitoris (so important), the external openings of the urethra (where urine comes out), and the vagina. The vagina is the muscular canal that connects the uterus to the vulva. The vagina is a commonly used organ during sexual intercourse and the connecting canal for menstrual fluid and childbirth. The vagina is a single internal organ, whereas the vulva is the all-encompassing term that includes the external organs and the vagina.
Our vulvas and vaginas can be unique in appearance, shape, smell, and taste. They perform a variety of different functions that support our daily life and reproduction.
Our vaginas are also home to billions of bacteria, known as our vaginal flora, which are dominated by lactobacillus bacteria. These lactobacilli help to keep the vagina healthy by producing lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and other substances that inhibit the growth of yeast and other unwanted organisms. The mildly acidic environment and substances produced by the vaginal flora help fight against urogenital infections and are part of healthy vaginal ecosystem.
The precise composition of the vaginal flora changes on a daily, sometimes even hourly, basis. Changes in the composition can also lead to changes in smell. Contrary to what many people will have you believe; this change is completely normal! Vaginas were not created to smell like roses and our unique and individual smells and tastes are completely natural- no matter what anyone else tries to tell or sell you.
An individual's natural aroma can vary based on things like menstrual cycles, sexual intercourse, hygiene, workouts, diets, medication, clothing types, pregnancy, and so much more. In addition to these things, there is also vaginal and cervical discharge (which changes based on your menstrual cycle, in addition to the positioning of your cervix) and a huge collection of sweat glands and lymph nodes in the groin area. When you combine all of these things together in a warm, dark place, it is no wonder that vaginas aren’t odorless! (Of course, there are certain odors we want to look out for that may indicate a medical concern like bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections, and STDs, so really take the time to explore and learn more about your own body and seek medical help when warranted. If you experience foul or fishy smells, please contact a medical professional)
Yoni soaps are becoming more popular than ever because of the lack of knowledge about women's health and misinformation provided by popular media networks and the rise in social media. Certain manufacturers and handcrafted soap makers are making false and unfounded medical claims about their “yoni soaps”, including claims that these yoni bars will help permanently get rid of natural vaginal odors, balance the bacteria and pH, cure menstrual cramps, increase your sex drive, and so much more. These sellers and the media imply that natural vaginal odors need to be immediately removed or covered up, and that if your vagina has any type of natural odor, it must be dirty, unhealthy, unclean, and is undesirable, all of which couldn’t be further from the truth, as you just learned.
If you Google “yoni soaps”, most of the results that are shown contain incredibly misleading information and false medical claims. Even scarier, some of these websites recommend that their yoni soaps be used both internally and externally. We want to be very clear- soap should never be used internally! Here are a few of the top Google search results for “yoni soap” and their descriptions:
JuicyKittyCo markets their rosebud-filled yoni soap as having “anti-bacterial properties that help prevent all bacteria and infections including BV, yeast infection and bad odors” and claim that they “balance vaginal pH”
Tropical Organicz contains large pieces of dried roses and claim their Empress Yoni Soap will “detox, balance your natural PH, cleanse and tighten your yoni, eliminate and prevent unwanted bacteria causing BV, yeast and urinary infections, reduce itching and Inflammation, natural antibiotic, natural skin brightener, help with painful long or heavy menstrual cycles”
Yancy Milan claims that their slippery yoni soap will “increase sex drive and boost libido with improved sensation,” “restore vaginal health and natural PH balance,” "aids in fighting bacteria”, and “helps with menstrual cramps”
SoapsForYourYoni claims their products help with “vaginal cleansing, private itching, odor, anti-bacterial, vaginal tightening, (abnormal) leucorrhea, promote proper hormone function and balance the vaginal PH.”
Many of these yoni soaps are sold with ingredients and additives that are not safe for feminine use (or even use in any soaps!). In the examples above, multiple formulas included synthetic dyes, colorants, irritants, essential oils, large chunks of dried florals and herbs, fragrances, and other known potential irritants. These additives can cause redness, irritation, inflammation, itching, photosensitivity, changes to the pH, and more.
Unfortunately, these are just a few of the first examples that showed up in my search results, but there are thousands of other “yoni soap” sellers out there that perpetuate the same false and misleading information, provide medical claims that are not proven or backed by any medical science, and each of these listings and products is sold against the law in the United States (they do not follow FDA regulations). No bar of soap is going to cure menstrual cramps, tighten your vagina, balance your hormones, or cure your bacterial and fungal disease. Additionally, no soap should be used internally- they are created for external use only.
This is blatant misinformation and it is against the law to make medical claims that have not been tested and found to be efficient. At this time, there are no current or available resources or efficacy-backed data on using yoni bars by independent sources which can give credibility to a product. Even though most informed and educated soap makers know that this information is false and breaks federal laws and regulations, many consumers do not. These unknowing customers purchase the products hoping the medical claims will come true and the misinformation train continues.
Contrary to what many have been told or may believe, the vagina is a self-cleaning and self-regulating organ. No additional products, soaps, detergents, or douches, are required to ensure optimal health and cleanliness. In fact, the use of products like douches has been reported to increase the risk of birth complications, cervical cancer, vaginal irritation and pain, increased risk of bacterial, fungal, and sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and so much more. So, if you aren’t supposed to use a highly fragranced soap filled with dried rosebuds, leaves, and essential oils to clean your yoni, what are you supposed to use? Because of the delicate ecosystem and self-cleaning nature of the vulva and vagina, warm water is the recommended method of cleaning by most medical professionals. For those who wish to clean the vulva (external) with an added cleanser, although not medically necessary, both dermatologists and gynecologists recommend using plain, fragrance-free, dye-free soap.
There is a delicate balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria and an imbalance can occur if the vaginal pH is not acidic enough. The vagina pH should be somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5 for a healthy level of vaginal acidity. If the vagina is not acidic enough due to a shortage of lactobacilli, then fungi and “bad” bacteria are able to reproduce more than they usually would. Using products that are not intended for use on the vulva, incorrect cleansing practices, excessive cleaning or douching, and more can create an imbalance and increase the risk of infection. For this very reason, fragrances, dyes, colorants, and other irritating additives should be completely avoided if formulating soaps for feminine use. If you elect to use or formulate a cleanser, it should be comprised of ingredients that are pH-balanced and hypoallergenic, and preferably dermatologist- and gynecologist-tested or recommended.
We all want to feel, look, and smell our best, even around our lady bits, but this should not be done in a manner that is unsafe or with the hopes of achieving impossible and false medical claims. We don’t need to be sold, or even worse, be the sellers of expensive and dangerous yoni soaps. We also don’t need to be embarrassed, ashamed, or insecure about not having an odorless vagina- which is totally normal! Almost half of the human beings that exist on the planet have vaginas and instead of feeling shame and guilt over their natural and amazing appearance, aroma, and taste, let’s make informed decisions about our health, personal hygiene, and sexual well-being. I hope that this article has provided our readers with more information that allows them to make an informed decision about what products to use, formulate, and sell (or not use, formulate, or sell), and how you can make a stand for women’s education, health, and sexual wellness.
Disclaimer: This article was written with interviews and questions answered by nurses, doctors, and cosmetic chemists of different ethnicities, races, religions, and cultural backgrounds. The information contained is not meant to dishonor or address cultural, ethnic, or religious beliefs. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only.
Additional learning resources for vaginal health and women's hygiene: Book: Vaginas: An Owner's Manual by Dr. Carol Livoti Book: She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period. by Sherry Ross NHS: Keeping Your Vagina Clean and Healthy Cleveland Clinic: Vulvar Care Interview with Dr. Kiarra King: "Is Your Yoni Routine Safe" Mayo Clinic: "You don't need fancy products for good feminine hygiene"
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