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Feminine hygiene industry cashing in on period stigma, says Wendy Knowler

2 June 2021 6:34 PM

CapeTalk's Pippa Hudson chats to consumer journo Wendy Knowler about how some brands shame women into buying feminine hygiene products.
  • Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler takes a closer look at how feminine hygiene products are marketed to women
  • There’s big money in the feminine hygiene biz, and the industry keeps finding new ways to exploit women's worries

Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler says women have been conditioned to deal with menstruation "as discreetly as possible".

The taboos and myths associated with menstruation have led to a rise in feminine hygiene products that exploit the stigma around periods and vaginal health.

Knowler says companies have started introducing the term "every day" to the products to capture consumers beyond their monthly cycle.

RELATED: Local mom brings washable period panties to SA

For example, Lillett’s sells an Intimate Feminine Care Creme Wash, formulated to provide “everyday freshness”, and “everyday freshness pantyliners.”

And GynaGuard, a popular "intimate cleanser" is marketed as a range of pH balancing intimate products, gentle enough to use every day.

The producers of pantyliners and intimate washes often create the impression that vaginas should smell like strawberries and roses, Knowler says.

However, some doctors have warned that the use of intimate washes can upset the vagina's pH balance and can lead to yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.

So many girls are still socialised to be embarrassed or ashamed of menstruating and generally made to feel dirty and smelly “down there”, and a vast array of “feminine hygiene” products feed those insecurities.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

It is about manipulation to an extent.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

RELATED: These organic sanitary products are changing the narrative around menstruation

A Canadian study published in the journal BMC Women's Health in 2018 found that women who use intimate washes were three times more likely to experience some type of vaginal infection and more than twice as likely to report a urinary tract infection.

"Our society has constructed female genitalia as unclean. The marketing of vaginal hygiene products as something women need to attain is contributing to the problem", the study stated.


Every Wednesday, on Lunch with Pippa Hudson, Wendy Knowler provides useful insights and tips on how to make the most of your buying power.

For more stories visit the ConsumerTalk feature page.

Got a consumer case you need help resolving?

Email: consumer@knowler.co.za, put Cape Talk in the subject line, followed by the issue e.g. cellphone contract dispute.




2 June 2021 6:34 PM

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