Two sisters, Dr. Hedieh and Hasti Asadi, were struggling to find a way to freshen up without offending their vaginal environment. Easily upset (but still susceptible to sweat), they wanted a product to keep the vulva clean - something gentle and balanced that looked unobtrusive (and chic) in the shower - while helping to challenge the stigmas surrounding the 'feminine care' category. Knowing so many of us feel self-conscious and shy about intimate odour, they worked with a gynaecological team to develop a range of luxurious washes and wipes that would cleanse and deodorise quickly and gently. 

You wouldn't wash your face with shower gel? So why do we show such a lack of respect for our vulvas? Yes, the concept of 'intimate wash' may seem counterproductive (the vagina is self-cleansing, after all) but, while we're striving to mitigate shame and encourage acceptance about how our body behaves, we can't flick a switch overnight. We spoke to the founders of {DeoDoc} about the ways they're shaking up the 'fem care' realm, and why we need to pay the vulva specialist attention...

{Cult Beauty} For those who aren't familiar with your backgrounds, can your talk us through the brand’s beginnings? What drove you to develop DeoDoc?

{Dr. Hedieh Asadi} We’ve worked in women’s healthcare for years and have witnessed firsthand the misconceptions, and lack of information that too many women have about their own anatomy - specifically how to care for their vaginas and vulvas. This is the most delicate skin on our female bodies yet, a lot of us understand more about contour than how to look after the skin of the intimate area.

Founded in Sweden in 2014 by myself – Dr Hedieh Asadi – and my sister Hasti, we teamed up with a professor of ob/gyn (Professor Gunvor Ekman Ordeberg) with more than 45 years of clinical experience in Women’s Health. I resigned from my dream job as a surgeon resident, while my younger sister Hasti earned her degree from Stockholm's prestigious business school, declining several glittering positions to pursue the launch of {DeoDoc}. 

Our unique expertise is our greatest strength. We started {DeoDoc} to make the products that we wanted - and to cater to our patients' needs: intimate cleansers, wipes and deodorants we would use, that were pH-balanced, free from harmful allergens and suited to the sensitive area: our mantra is “by women doctors for women everywhere"! 

And of course, the other (important!) aspect is that everything within this industry seemed stuck in 1983. There have hundreds of crèmes for the eyes but, when it came to our bodies' most sensitive skin? There was practically zilch. We wanted to change the perceptions of feminine care and the female anatomy - our vulvas deserve better! 

{CB} The vagina’s eco-system is notoriously easy to offend yet lots of us are relatively clueless when it comes to our vulval and vaginal health. Can you share any facts that you wish you’d known sooner?

{HA} Well, there is so much to say and there are so many myths to debunk. Often the entire intimate female anatomy is wrongly referred to as the vagina. Actually, your vagina is the internal canal that leads up to the cervix. Everything else — the outer labia (lips) where your pubic hair grows and the inner labia (the part your clothing does not touch) — is your vulva.

The same sweat glands that exist in your armpits (apocrine sweat glands) also exist on the vulva. They are present wherever there are hair follicles, and the sweat empties into the hair follicles. This is why there may be a slight odour in the intimate area that has nothing to do with an infection.

The vulva (outer and inner labia) should be washed. Those hair follicles holding the sweat gland excretions need proper cleansing because additional odour-causing bacteria can thrive and build up in a warm, moist, tightly-covered-with-clothing environment. Urine is a contributor to this mix.

Our vulva has a delicate eco-system with a specific pH that should not be disrupted. Any washes used on the vulva should have a pH of 5 - regular cleansers are often too alkaline (and packed with non-hypoallergenic fragrance and unsuitable ingredients), which disrupts the pH and can cause irritation, discomfort and possibly infection. 

Inside of the vagina we have a pH of 3.5 – a very acidic environment. Just like the vulva, the vagina also has a very delicate eco-system. No soaps or body washes or douches should ever be used inside your vagina (vaginal canal) as the vagina is self-cleansing. Vaginas naturally produce discharge as a completely normal housekeeping function. When you use an appropriate cleanser on your vulva, excess discharge is rinsed away so you never disrupt the natural internal pH or wash away any good-for-you bacteria.

{CB} Some women might balk at the idea of specialist cleansers – what made you feel that an {Intimate Wash} was required?

{HA} This is also one of the reasons why we started {DeoDoc}. We got fed up with all the nonsense and wrong information about the female anatomy and also all the (unsuitable) products on the market. We felt it was our responsibility as doctors to do something about this.

One of the reasons for resistance to specialist cleansers is a lack of understanding around the female anatomy. We have a vagina and a vulva - the former is self-cleansing but the vulva isn't. For the reasons I've talked about earlier on in the post, it needs to be treated with kindness - the cleanser you choose must be free from allergens, normal perfumes and have a pH of 5.

{CB} There’s still so much shame and embarrassment about women’s bodies – we’re often made to feel our genitalia is ‘dirty’. What can we do to encourage acceptance and help to dismantle the stigma surrounding fem care? 

{HA} First of all, it helps women to know they aren’t alone in their concerns and many others have similar questions. We were the pioneers in this field taking honestly about vaginal and vulval care. We openly talk about the problems we ourselves had, and by this we break taboos.

We are true believers in the power of education to destigmatise the talk around our own bodies and want women to have the facts about their own anatomy. We want the days of referring to the vulva and vagina euphemistically as 'down there' to be over!

{CB} Let’s talk about discharge… even the word makes a lot of us wince but it’s totally normal. It can also reveal a great deal about what’s ‘going on’ with our bodies. How does it change through our cycle – and how can we tell our vagina’s unhappy?

{HA} The vagina is self-cleansing. The discharge vaginas naturally produce is the result of the self-cleansing. Normal discharge is often white, grainy and has a light sour smell (remember the vagina has a pH of 3.5 which is a very acidic environment - this is where the sour smell comes from). During ovulation the discharge can be more clear and sticky, and during pregnancy and teenage years there can be lots more of it – this is totally normal.

The key rule is though – if your discharge changes colour, character or odour – you have to contact your doctor.

{CB} Aside from for hygiene reasons, are there any other benefits to using DeoDoc? What’s the feedback been like?

{HA} Our products are formulated to promote and support your correct pH balance and to help prevent possible irritation and infection. {DeoDoc} was created by women doctors for women everywhere and for women of every age. Our clients range from young adult women to a woman over 80 years old who wrote to us last week.

The feedback we receive from our consumers is the reason we passionately keep developing new products and expanding worldwide. Women all over the world have many concerns and are thankful that someone is finally creating products with thoughtful, safe formulations that meet their needs.

{CB} And lastly, what’s next for DeoDoc? Do you have further products in the pipeline?

{HA} We are so excited for our launch together with Cult Beauty as our exclusive partner in the UK. We are pre-launching an {Intimate Oil Wash} with all natural oils. Many women experience dry and sensitive skin in the intimate area and this wash is not only very gentle, but also nourishes and moisturises the intimate skin. We product develop constantly and more products will be revealed in the near future.

We are on a mission. Besides creating good products for intimate hygiene, we also want to educate and empower women to know more about their own female anatomy and how to properly take care of their vaginas and vulvas. 

Thank you so much Hedieh! Join the #VULVALUTION!

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