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Female hygiene wipes frequently contain contact allergens, potentially contributing to the development of vulvar contact dermatitis. The contact allergens include fragrances, tocopherol, and other scented botanicals.

Female hygiene wipes aim to maintain the cleanliness of the perineum and vulva in females. While these products are marketed as being made “for sensitive skin”, “fragrance-free”, and “gentle”, they may not necessarily be devoid of potential allergens, which may contribute to the development of vulvar contact dermatitis.

This cross-sectional study, published in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, aimed to assess the prevalence and presence of potential allergens in commonly used female hygiene wipes. The investigators conducted an internet-based search to identify generic and best-selling products. This was followed by the analysis of each unique feminine hygiene wipe which was compared with North American Contact Dermatitis Group 80 allergens.

The analysis of the feminine hygiene wipes suggests that all of the products contained potential allergens. The most common of these potential allergens were fragrances. The remaining scented botanicals included essential oils, vitamin E (tocopherol), and fruit juices. The fragrances and vitamin E were found in 17 of the 34 products included in the study. The botanicals were found in 10 out of 34 products. The epithelium of the vagina and vulva is highly vulnerable to contact allergens, which are frequently present in feminine hygiene wipes and other similar products. The mean number of allergens in each product was 3.53. ProCare Personal Wipes and Equate Assurance contained the highest number of potential allergens, with 6 allergens in each. Twenty-seven products contained ≥ 3 potential allergens. Butt Wipes for Her and Always Feminine were found to contain only one allergen each, tocopherol and fragrance, respectively.

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In summary, this cross-sectional study of 34 feminine hygiene wipes demonstrated that every product contained potential contact allergens, which may cause vulvar contact dermatitis in users. The authors recommend improving the identification and labeling of allergens in feminine hygiene products and increased consumer education about marketing tactics and safe hygiene practices.

Reference

Newton, J., Richardson, S., van Oosbre, A. M., Yu, J., & Silence, C. (2022). A cross-sectional study of contact allergens in feminine hygiene wipes: a possible cause of vulvar contact dermatitis. Int J Womens Dermatol, 8(4), e060. https://doi.org/10.1097/jw9.0000000000000060