Yes, Summer’s Eve has Bad Marketing. Oh, and the Product is Not Good for You.

In light of all the on-point criticism of the ridiculous feminine hygiene ads and how they portray a woman’s relationship with her reproductive organs, I think we should point out a couple things.

First, douching is actually not good for you – it disrupts the balance of good versus not so good bacteria, which maintains a certain acidity level and in turn is key to a healthy vagina. Douching can destroy this careful equilibrium, causing an over-growth of the bad bacteria. This can lead to yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis; both of which are uncomfortable and cause symptoms that are more disruptive than the non-existent issues one thought they were getting rid of in the first place. More dangerously, douching can actually force unhealthy bacteria up into the uterus and ovaries, which if untreated can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). This, more disturbingly, can cause infertility issues. While this may be rare, why risk the possibility by doing something that is unnecessary at best, but very damaging at worst?

The Summer’s Eve website has an “education” section, which does point out that some regular discharge is normal and offers some good snippets about the importance of wearing 100% cotton underwear. However, in their advice about yeast infections, they include “don’t sit around in a wet bathing suit,” “eat berries and yogurt often,” “don’t wear tight-fitting, non-breathable clothes,” and “eat less sugar,” concluding the list with “use pH-balanced washes formulated for the vaginal area.” Up to that last point, the list was fairly on target. In fact, the list I’ve gotten from my gyno every year has read very much the same with the exception of that last line. In fact, their advice has always been along the lines of: “do not use washes formulated for the vaginal area, even if they say they are pH-balanced, because your body balances that pH like a pro on its own.” Summer’s Eve says their products have been dermatologist and gynecologist tested – not only would I be interested in what that test entailed, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the conclusion was along the lines of “this isn’t going to kill you, no, but…” Especially since the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as a body of physicians do not recommend douching. I am more inclined to trust them than a Summer’s Eve label.

Interestingly, the site does admit that the vagina is like a “self-cleaning oven.” So…why do I need this product again?

Women and their reproductive organs have thrived for thousands of years. Those reproductive organs have done a remarkably efficient job of cleaning themselves all those years without the “help” of douching projects. It doesn’t take a genius to deduce that these people are trying to tell women that their vagina is supposed to smell like a Laura Ashley store. It’s not. It should look and smell the way it has for centuries. Vaginas have spawned babies for generations without the help of branding and perfume, and it seems the marketing efforts could be better spent educating men and women that the vagina isn’t supposed to be the fertile ground of daisy chain making and delicate blossoms.

Also, referring to your vagina as your “friend down under” seems a bit creepy. It’s not something that has its own personality, its own social life, its own favorite foods and activities. Better to think of it as a part of you, which it is, and the foundation of your holistic health as a woman.

Bottom line – if something seems off down there, swabbing it to make it smell like a field of marigolds is not the right course of action. Seeing your gynecologist is.

p.s. follow me on Twitter here!

14 Comments

Filed under Defining Gender, Feminism, Health Education, Media, Public Health, Reproductive and Sexual Health, Women's Health

14 responses to “Yes, Summer’s Eve has Bad Marketing. Oh, and the Product is Not Good for You.

  1. Yes! All the things you said! A healthy vagina should smell like a healthy vagina — NOT like faux floral chemicals, pine air freshener or, hell, a tray of baking cookies (even though that sounds like it could be nice, it is NOT)!

  2. Caroline Garrod

    This is a great post, I really like it. The idea that there are still douching companies out there SHOCKS me!!

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  4. Hello there! This article couldn’t be written much better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I will forward this post to him. Fairly certain he’s going to have a very good read. Thank you for sharing!

  5. "Down There"

    Great article! Did it really say “self-cleaning oven”? Wow. Just. Wow.

  6. Annette

    I loved this article. I found it after searching for “Summers Eve” and BV. I will be 36 years old this year and up until a year ago, I had never had any vaginal infections. In the past year I have had BV 3 times. The only thing that changed about my hygiene practices was incorporating the “unscented” Summers Eve feminine wash…at the suggestion of a friend. I had a hunch that the SE was causing the BV somehow, but your article made me feel much more confident about my suspicion. Thanks!!!

  7. Natalie

    Do you have the same opinion about their deodorant sprays? I know enough to stay away from douching and cleansing washes, but I was wondering if the same applied to masking odors?

  8. Hi Natalie – while the washes are certainly the most problematic, I’m not a huge fan of the deodorant sprays, either – that’s primarily because of their messaging. I think health-wise, they pose less of a risk, but foreign compounds can still bother the reproductive tracts with the sprays, though significantly less so if you’re careful.

  9. hana

    you know it’s really F***k up how doctors are still recommending these products. btw, love this post.

  10. I often wonder if advertisers get away with “gynecologist tested” simply because it is not the same as “gynecologist reccomended” or if both claims are used deceptively.

  11. Heather

    I say TO Each ITS OWN! I agree, internally the vagina is self cleaning. Don’t confuse douching with cleansing washes. I wouldn’t tell anyone to douch, but I hope every women is washing(using soap and water to clean your external vaginal area). When washing your vaginal area using one of theses pH-balanced washes is better then using the same body wash you just used to clean your foot! Secoundly, Summer’s Eve make unsented washes also.

    • alex

      I was using summers eve just as a wash and got a bacterial infection from it. After going to my gynecologist she said plain and simple, throw it away. Any of there products, they will only cause you problems. The soap recommended is dove sensitive skin.

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  13. Great Information!! Also good hygiene can really decrease the odds of getting a yeast infection. Clean, dry skin and weight loss discourages yeast infections. Clean teeth and avoidance of sugary foods helps prevent oral yeast infections. The tips below can be really helpful to prevent genital yeast infection

    avoid douches
    always dry the genital area with a clean towel, after cleansing
    avoid scented hygiene products
    change tampons and pads often during your period
    wear cotton underwear and also pantyhose with a cotton crotch
    avoid tight underwear and clothes made of synthetic fibers
    avoid hot tubs
    change out of wet swimsuits and exercise clothes as soon as possible

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