Photography by Zachary Tang.
These days, talking about our bodies isn’t as taboo as it was anymore. Even in conservative Asian cultures such as ours, we’ve shifted towards franker discussions of our relationship with sexuality and self. In our ‘Intimates’ series, we’d like to kickstart open conversations about the wellness of our private parts—in both the physical and psychological sense.
In this piece, we explore the perspectives of a mother and daughter on femininity and self-love… through the art of vulva care.
“Mama, it’s okay if you don’t want to, but do you want to do an experimental article with me? The story will feature you… and our opinions on trying vulva care products together.”
Sitting in a restaurant with my family, I expect some resistance from my mum. Even though she’s down to talk to me about anything, she prefers to keep private discussions, well, private.
She breaks into a cheeky grin and says: “Why not?”
My mother and I talk about everything — and I really mean everything. I could only ask her to take part in this unusually intimate story over dinner because that’s far from strange in my household.
To put things into perspective, here are some of my family’s casual conversation topics: shaving, butt hair, and douching.
But simply talking about vaginas brings on the giggles, so holding discussions about vulva care products are bound to be awkward. Right?
I put that to the test by spending some quality time with my mum while trying out TWO L(I)PS products together.
The TWO L(I)PS Experiment
Even as someone who writes about fitness, wellness, and lifestyle for a living, I have to be honest — I’ve never really been that familiar with vulva care products until I got this assignment. Never have I given deep thought about treating the skin below the belt any different than the rest of my body.
As a fitness nut who’s always breaking a sweat though, I totally get it. The exterior areas of female genitals — the vaginal lips, the vaginal opening, inner thighs and the flesh over your pubic bone — are highly sensitive areas. Granted, the vagina is a “self-cleaning oven”, but the external bits (i.e. the vulva) do need to be kept clean and washed regularly.
There needs to be a delicate balance though. Neglect the area? A build-up of sweat, bacteria, dead skin can nestle in the folds of the vulva. Clean the area too much? It might strip your skin’s natural oils away or disrupt its pH balance. This can lead to dryness, skin irritation and other discomforts. In the cross-junction of maintaining this balance sits vulva care products that are formulated with an optimal pH range for skin on your vulva. Like TWO L(I)PS, for example.
TWO L(I)PS, as its name cheekily/cleverly suggests, has something to do with the female nether regions. The company touts itself as the “world’s first luxury intimate care range” and that’s evident from the array of products — balms, cleansers, scrubs, serums — meant solely to give vulvas a five-star skincare treatment.
I mean, just looking at the range of goods available on the TWO L(I)PS website was overwhelming enough. Who knew that our external genitals needed such TLC?
There’s a prebiotic range to feed the skin on your vulva the nutrients it needs while keeping pH values perfectly balanced (as all things should be). There’s a Vitamin C serum that brightens dull skin. There’s even an overnight repairing mask to leave on your intimates so your vulva can get nourished and restored while you rest.
Again, these are sensitive areas, so it was good to know that TWO L(I)PS products are gynaecologically and dermatologically tested and made free from sulphates and parabens. Honestly, that’s a load off me and my mum’s mind as we embarked on this intimate experiment together.
Everyone tells me I’m a carbon copy of my mother but I’m sure she disagrees. She was a lot less coarse and liberal in her twenties, she often says.
While we do have our fair share of ideological differences there is one unequivocal physical similarity: We both have vaginas.
I remember telling my mum I couldn’t wait for my periods to be permanently over. She was horrified, because “a woman blossoms with the arrival of menstruation and it’s a gift to be fertile”.
During her time, Asian society and culture dictated that a woman’s main priority is motherhood.
As we move away from that conservative mindset, starting a family is now met with more hesitance. With the increase in economic competitiveness, cost of living, and global warming, many women are (understandably) postponing motherhood.
Our pick of period products echoes our upbringing, too.
Like everyone else, I was introduced to pads and pantyliners, but I fell in love with the convenience of menstrual cups.
While some people shy away from internal sanitary products, the application or insertion of period products doesn’t matter to me — what’s important is that it works. Converting to a menstrual cup was a no-brainer because I no longer need to worry about period stains, constantly changing sanitary pads, or making sure the bathroom is stocked with pads.
My mum, however, remains unconvinced about shoving anything up there, so she’s sticking to pads. Until menopause hits, that is.
- Hair removal
Regarding hair on intimate areas, I only tried shaving because my mum taught me to.
Her traditional mindset makes itself visible when she tells me she feels weird showing her private parts to strangers.
I’m much more liberal about the feminine area because I don’t think there’s anything pure or holy about it.
For me, it’s just another part of my body. But as a “no sex before marriage” and “I married my first boyfriend” kind of lady, my mum believes you should shelter your private parts as they should only be seen by your partner.
Even though both of us don’t use other hair removal methods, my reason for sticking with shaving is more practical — it’s the most painless, convenient, and cost-effective option.
- Vulva care
To be honest, my mum and I don’t do anything special for our vulvas. The only thing my mum does is use a feminine wash now and then. Me? I’m too lazy.
In my defence, I believe hygiene is the most important thing when it comes to vulva care so I keep my nether regions clean by wiping from front to back, ensuring they’re dry after exercise, and opting for cotton undergarments whenever possible.
Yes, that’s pretty much the extent of our glamourous vulva care routines.
As a busy mother of three, my mum has never really prioritised self-care. I, on the other hand, am all about that self-care life. I attend yoga classes every day, head down to the pool to journal every morning, and allocate some time to read before bed.
Many people in the older generation see self-care as indulgent and unnecessary, while those in the younger generation believe it’s vital to honour our bodies and take care of our mental health.
Despite this disparity in how we define taking care of ourselves, my mother and I have never tried any vulva care products.
We changed that by spending a relaxing Sunday evening giving TWO L(I)PS products a try together.
We started with Blackout, the Activated Charcoal Mask, where my mum and I ended up in positions for prime birthing while we peered over our bellies to look at each other.
Although the new experience put us in awkward positions that made us stare at each other’s vulvas, we did enjoy the hilariously intimate activity. We both love the smell and feel of the mask, and how refreshed we felt after using it.
For the rest of our bodies, we love the skin-soothing effect from Ice, the lightweight Calming Rescue Cream, and the hydrating whipped butter texture of Juice, the Prebiotic Body Balm.
Both products earn bonus points because they are made for use on the face and body (and not just the vulva) which simplifies our self-care routine.
I suppose it’s impossible to keep clean 24/7 because of (a) my active lifestyle and (b) Singapore’s hot and humid weather. But the difference in hygiene between the days before TWO L(I)PS arrived and after is positively palpable — I now realise how important vulva cleansers are in a woman’s arsenal of self-care products. Goodbye to rashes and weird bumps around my intimate area. Take it from me: give some love, care and attention to your privates even if you’re not feeling any discomfort down there.
After a week of chatting about intimacy while trying out vulva care products together, honestly, I’ve never felt more comfortable and open with my mum.
Also, who knew that using vulva care products would feel so lush?
Just one week of being on top of our hygiene and vulva care left our nether regions feeling fresh and smooth, without any sticky residue. Our vulvas have never felt better. It looks like vulva care will be a normal part of our daily routines now — a healthy habit that should transcend any generational misgivings.
Although it’s no surprise that my mum and I see femininity and intimacy from different perspectives, it was enlightening to see how her generation’s conservative upbringing and environment created this dichotomy in how we treat our private parts.
Self-care and self-expression might not be familiar concepts for her and the rest of her generation — a generation that didn’t have the freedom, time or exposure to such notions. Though my mum found it strange that luxury intimate skincare products exist, she’s glad that women today have the opportunity to indulge in things like masks and serums made specifically for vulvas.
Opening the floor for vulva care discussions is empowering and change-making because many women have burning questions that go unanswered. If chatting about intimacy isn’t seen as taboo, women everywhere would be able to attend to their vulvas with more care and confidence.
I’ve never been afraid to bring up sensitive topics when I’m with my mum, but now both of us recognise the behavioural norms that dictate our respective generations. Which makes communicating our different perspectives a lot easier.
Plus, we’ve literally stared at each other’s vulvas, so we don’t know what the word awkward means anymore.