Instagram’s most popular beauty blogger, Huda Kattan, has come under criticism after her team published a blog post titled “Why Your Vagina Gets Dark And How To Lighten It.” The post recommends the use of prescription brightening creams or chemical peels with ingredients like hydroquinone and tranexamic acid, as well as DIY treatments with lemon juice, to “lighten your lady parts.” Since its original publication in April, many people have criticized the respected blog for suggesting that this is even necessary — vaginas come in a variety of shapes and colors, all of which are totally normal — while others point to how harmful using skin lightening cream for private areas can be.
The brand has since updated the post to address concerns over the controversial topic. “Our goal is to give details for those who may wish to, by sharing expert advice from a leading dermatologist. We’ve seen a lot of harmful DIYs on the internet, so we hope this post provides the best information on the topic and offers safe ways for people to do this, should they wish to,” they write.
The biggest problem with this post, though, is that the language used throughout could cause confusion. The Huda Beauty team often refers to the skin “down there,” which is vague, or the vagina itself. Not to get all scientific, but the vagina is actually the internal muscular canal, whereas the vulva is the term used to describe the external female genitalia. The labia, which we assume they are referring to in this post, are the rounded folds of skin, or the lips. Considering studies show that over 50 percent of women are unable to correctly identify the vagina, this is cause for concern.
“The tissue in the vagina is very different from the skin on the labia,” says Lakeisha Richardson, MD, OB/GYN in Greenville, MS. “The vagina is a very sensitive area and using harsh chemicals near or in the vagina can be very dangerous.” Because these products are not designed for use in the vaginal area, nor do they have standardized instructions for use, she warns that by applying them there you risk discomfort, burning, peeling, scarring, and complications with intercourse.
“Harsh chemicals can destroy the vaginal mucosa, causing severe pain,” Dr. Richardson explains. “Also, the vaginal mucosa is capable of absorbing chemicals into the blood stream, which could be deadly depending on the substances.” If you experience any irritation after using bleaching creams, chemical peels or DIY skin-lightening treatments on the area, rinse immediately and seek medical attention as soon as possible.