“Unlike the vagina, the vulva is not self-cleaning,” declares Two Lips founder, Cynthia Chua. “Body, sweat and sebum can get trapped in the folds of the skin around our vulva so it is important to use the right kind of vulva care products for targeted solutions.”
One has to wonder why we tend to use the best cleansers on our face only to offer our delicate areas overly-fragranced intimate washes. Sensing the disconnect, Chua—who has spent decades listening to women’s Y-Zone needs as part of her global waxing brand, Strip—created a prebiotics skincare line to pamper the skin on the vulva as much as it does the face. After seeing everything from blemishes to ingrown hairs, pimples, dryness and rashes around the vulva area of her clients, Chua says: “The vulva has been neglected for far too long and if given tender loving care, all those problems can be overcome.”
For Chua, it was vital to create a range of microbiome-friendly products that not only nourished the skin, but helped destigmatise the way we talk about—and care—for our vulvas. “I’ve come to realise that many people are not aware of the difference between the vulva and vagina, and so [they] tend to generalise the vagina and vulva as being self-cleaning. The idea of vulva care is often misconstrued because of these misconceptions.”
Why are prebiotics important for having healthy, resilient skin?
Granted our recent need for all things antibacterial hasn’t exactly been great PR for microbiomes of late, but hear us out. The reality is that regardless of how hygienic you are, our skin is covered in bacteria, viruses, microbes, and fungi. “The skin’s microbiome is a naturally-occurring ecosystem of microorganisms that live on our skin,” shares Dr Felix Li of Thomson Wellth Clinic. “Every microbiome is unique and complex and influences everything from product absorption to our skin’s overall health.”
And when it comes to how your skin looks, feels, and functions, you’re going to need a range that cleanses and restores, while feeding your face and body. “Prebiotics are the food source that supports the vitality of good bacteria,” explains Dr Li. Probiotics on the other hand, are made up of helpful bacteria or “the good bugs that live naturally on the skin’s surface.”
What throws our skin’s microbiome off balance?
Microbiomes play a crucial role in “keeping our skin functioning optimally as a barrier against infection, chronic inflammation, as well as environmental factors such as changes in temperature, radiation, and chemicals,” says Dr Li. For Two Lips’ head of learning and development, Elisabeth Raman, a healthy microbiome spells a balanced and diverse one. “When this happy balance is struck, our skin has a barrier that is reinforced.”
Antibiotics, harsh detergents, or using the wrong skincare, are just some of the ways we disrupt the skin’s pH microbiome balance, weakening its barrier and exposing it to pathogenic assault. Crucially, over-cleansing and excessive or aggressive exfoliation can also cause the skin’s microbiome balance to be disrupted, says Dr Li. This removes the essential bacteria that the microbiome requires to thrive. “Other factors like diet and lifestyle affect this balance as well.” To combat this, we need to attain a diverse and balanced microbiome by feeding our skin the right ‘foods’. As bacterial colonies vary at different parts of the body and certain strains work better for others, prebiotics feed the unique microbiome at each of these locations to keep skin at its prime.
What are the physical manifestations of an imbalanced microbiome?
Imbalance to the skin’s microbiome “can disrupt the skin’s barrier function and increase vulnerability to pathogens that can cause infection or chronic inflammation,” says Dr Li. This may lead to breakouts, redness, wrinkles, “skin dryness, sensitivity, rashes, eczema, or acne.”
How can we protect and feed our skin’s microbiome?
Prebiotics is the food source that supports the health and vitality of probiotics or good bacteria that live on the skin to help it stay balanced and diverse. Dr Li recommends having healthy skincare habits “such as using products between 4.5 – 6.5 pH to avoid disruption to the skin’s natural microbiome, while using prebiotic-based products can help to ‘feed’ the skin’s microbiome.”
“Our prebiotics line feeds only the good bacteria all over your body and plays a pivotal role in laying the foundations for strong, healthy skin,” says Chua. It also boils down to good hygiene and lifestyle choices. “We have no qualms when it comes to skincare, and vulva care should be no different,” Chua reinforces. “Just like the skin on the rest of our body, the skin around our vulva is subjected to daily dirt, sebum and sweat trapped in the hair follicles and on the skin and this is why it is essential to maintain good hygiene and cultivate vulva care habits like you would apply to your face.”
How can prebiotic skincare help my face and vulva?
Two Lips’ five-product range centres around feeding every unique microbiome. In a market where most soaps have a pH of between 9 – 10 and the majority of shampoos ranging between 6 to 7 pH, Two Lips’ prebiotic range falls between an optimal 4.1 to 5.9 pH. The line is also dermatologically and gynaecologically tested, and was formulated sans sulphates, parabens, and petrochemicals. “The skin on our vulva region can get complicated with common skin conditions such as dryness, eczema or become thinner, dull and loses its elasticity as we age so the earlier we start caring for our vulva, the more resilience you’ll build,” says Chua.
Each product boasts a synergistic blend of results-driven prebiotic ingredients that speak to all skin types across various climates. Alpha-glucan oligosaccharide was selected for its clinically-proven ability to protect, stimulate and feed the beneficial strains of microbial skin flora without also triggering the same response in pathogens and undesirable flora, according to Two Lips. Up next: inulin, for its ability to reduce the growth of bad bacteria, in favour of friendly microorganisms that are naturally present on the skin. The formula also contains saccharide isomerate, an all-natural plant-derived moisturiser that binds to the skin longer than other moisturising ingredients, providing long-lasting hydration.
Two Lips Rinse Gentle Prebiotic Cleanser
Did you know that the skin on your vulva and face function optimally at similar pH levels? This gentle cleanser, formulated to refresh and soothe your skin, offers a pH level that’s well-suited for the vulva and face. Saccharide isomerate, leaves a film of moisture on the skin even after it is washed off, ensuring that the skin is less dry or irritated, and therefore more resilient. As with skin on your face, cleanse with cool or tepid water as hot water is damaging to skin.
“When choosing the right type of vulva care product to use, we should remember that the pH levels vary between different parts of our body. A healthy pH range for our vulva and face should sit around 4.5 to 5.5 pH so it is crucial to look for products of the right pH value so you don’t disrupt that balance,” advises Chua.
Two Lips Scrubbs Konjac Jelly Scrub
“For those who undergo hair removal treatments or shaving regularly, it is important to maintain good post-hair removal care to keep folliculitis and ingrown hair at bay,” says Chua. Buff away dead skin cells for smoother skin with this prebiotic exfoliator. It removes dirt and allows the skincare benefits of your serums and creams to penetrate deeper while minimising the occurrence of ingrown hairs down there. Work the mix of biodegradable glucomannan konjac jelly beads and finely ground non-GMO olive stone powder into the skin for a gentle, non-stripping face and body polish. It’s gentle enough for daily use and being biodegradable, doesn’t threaten marine life.
Two Lips Juice Prebiotic Body Balm
Hydrate and revitalise your precious face and vulva with this protective moisturiser. Containing a blend of shea butter and trehalose, it locks in moisture to help combat dryness, redness and irritation while nourishing the skin. Best of all, it’s lightweight with a silky finish.
Two Lips Sleepover Repairing Overnight Mask
Perfect for repairing and reviving parched skin, this prebiotics-infused mask works while you sleep to replenish moisture levels. It soothes dry, tired, or stressed skin, and is loaded with skin-soothing properties and humectants that flood the skin with moisture, while encouraging self-repair. Plant-derived saccharide isomerate binds and deeply saturates the skin with its unique ability to bind to skin cells, providing a moisture reservoir that lasts up to 72 hours. “Just like the skin on the rest of our body, the skin around our vulva can be complicated with common skin problems as we age,” says Chua. “Dryness, losing its elasticity or dull skin are some real issues. Therefore, it’s important to use hydrating vulva care products to maintain the skin’s moisture level.”
Two Lips Screen Pore Refining Sunscreen
Protect, prevent sun damage, and refine the skin with this antioxidant-rich sunscreen with skincare benefits. The SPF 50 PA+++ sun protector is infused with skincare ingredients including niacinamide to refine the pores and sodium hyaluronate to hydrate the complexion, it delivers moisture while helping prevent skin damage brought on by UV rays. And yes, it’s safe to apply around the inner thighs and bikini area when enjoying watersports or sunbathing.
Two Lips Rinse Gentle Prebiotic Cleanser, $55 for 200ml; Scrubbs Konjac Jelly Scrub, $70 for 200ml; Juice Prebiotic Body Balm, $80 for 200ml; Sleepover Repairing Overnight Mask, $100 for 50ml; Screen Pore Refining Sunscreen, $70 for 50ml; available at Two Lips.
Poem written and performed by Deborah Emmanuel
Director: Martin Yeoh
Director of photography: Alvin Choon
Beauty director: Alli Sim
Hair and make-up: Manisa Tan
Model: Kaci Beh/Basic Models
Digital creative producer: Vanessa Caitlin
Producer: Clyde Cheng
Beauty editor: Dana Koh