I'm typically a sucker for any product with the words "activated charcoal" or "sheet mask" in the name or description. It doesn't take much to convince me to try a new skincare product, but when I first discovered Two L(i)ps' Blackout sheet mask for your vulva, I'll admit, my initial reaction was, well, sort of speechless. What could a sheet mask possibly do to benefit your vulva, of all things, and, perhaps more importantly, is it even safe to use a product like this? Look, I'm totally here for self-care and grooming as much or as little as you want to, but according to at least one expert, this sheet mask is one you might want to pass on, or at least one you'll want to check in with your doctor about before you try it out yourself.
So what exactly is this $25 mask supposed to do for your vulva? According to the product page, the Blackout mask's four-step process "soothes, detoxifies, brightens and moisturises your vulva, with the help of infrared activated charcoal." However, naturopathic doctor and women's health expert, Dr. Ashley Margeson, says you should be careful about any product you put on or near your vulva — especially something as powerful as activated charcoal. "Activated charcoal is a harsh detox-er generally used internally to combat food poisoning and parasites," Margeson tells Elite Daily in an email. "While charcoal masks are all the rage for the skin on our face, it is too potent to be used safely on such sensitive skin as your vulva."
Basically, using a powerful ingredient like activated charcoal on such a delicate area, the doctor explains, could potentially lead to redness and irritation, which is really the last thing you ever want to experience down there, you know?
When Elite Daily reached out to Two L(i)ps for comment on the safety of the Blackout sheet mask, a representative of the brand responded with the following statement:
Activated charcoal is increasingly used [in] many beauty products, which many people have found to be beneficial to them without issues. The charcoal masks that we are familiar with usually come in a cream or clay format. These are applied to skin, left to dry after 10-15 min and are washed or peeled off. These types of charcoal masks can be drying and harsh on sensitive skin. Unlike cream or clay charcoal masks, Blackout presents the charcoal in a sheet mask. So while the charcoal comes in contact with the skin, it does not have the same drying or harsh effect on the skin as a direct cream or clay.
It is also worth noting that activated charcoal has been used medically for hundreds of years. Because it is used internally as a medical treatment, it is safe to use in and around the genital region. The inclusion of Binchotan charcoal in the Blackout mask (the highest quality of activated charcoal used in health products) is specifically to detoxify the outer area of the area. It also works by stimulating the lymph node area so that the area is "activated". Much like how toxins can be drained through a lymphatic drainage massage. We have taken every care to research into only using ingredients safe for the vulva area, even the most sensitive ones. The pH-balanced sheet mask is also soaked with organic plant extracts such as Elderberry, Indian cress and Chamomile known for their calming and soothing properties and Ylang Ylang and Aloe Vera that helps to hydrate & nourish the skin.
Blackout was created for use immediately after waxing, IPL and laser hair removal and, therefore, was formulated without any sulphates, parabens, petrochemicals, alcohols or harsh chemicals such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, retinol, tretinoin, isotretinoin, alitretinoin, and EDTA.
The thing about a sheet mask like Two L(i)ps', Dr. Margeson says, is that there doesn't appear to be a ton of extensive research on the product or on how it actually affects vaginal health. Two L(i)ps' FAQ page claims that the product is "absolutely" safe to use, "even for the most sensitive of vulvas," and that the mask is "100% free of sulfates, parabens, petrochemicals and alcohol, and is packed with organic flower extracts to detox, soothe, hydrate and brighten skin with no irritation." Moreover, the FAQ page also states that the Blackout mask was "tested by a panel of 30 trial participants who did not face any adverse reactions." But, that's about all we know, and as far as Margeson is concerned, the activated charcoal component of the mask should be enough to give you pause.
When it comes to any product that's meant to be used on sensitive skin, like that of your vulva, Margeson says you should pay close attention to the language used in its description, particularly if you're unsure about whether it might cause irritation. For instance, if you see the word "detox," the doctor says, that's a pretty reliable red flag: According to Margeson, "detoxing" the vulva can have a serious effect on your vaginal health. "With such a delicate pH balance, disrupting that can increase your risk of bacteria vaginosis, yeast infections, and vaginismus," she tells Elite Daily. On that note, it's worth pointing out that the Blackout mask, according to the product's FAQ page, is apparently "pH-balanced to be safe for use."
Bottom line: It's not my place to tell you what you can or can't use on your vulva. I'm simply here to give you the facts, so here's the deal: If you're considering trying the Blackout mask yourself, it's probably best to talk to your doctor first to see what their take on it is. But, for the record, when it comes to taking care of your vulva, nothing needs to "brightened" or "detoxed." According to the Center for Young Women's Health, washing your vulva with warm water and mild, unscented soap is all you need to keep things clean and healthy.
And, when it comes to any additional products you might use for your vaginal health, Dr. Margeson recommends avoiding anything that contains ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, retinal, tretinoin, isotretinoin, alitretinoin, and EDTA, as well as anything scented, as she explains these can all irritate sensitive skin on the vulva.