Nurse Gail Ingram draws from both wellness and medicine to provide the best recommendations for her patients. When recommending the best anti itch cream for women, she suggests getting out of the feminine products aisle:
I credit the wellness community with exposing unhealthy practices and behaviors while endorsing a natural lifestyle. I appreciate the intention and believe that wellness and medicine communities have much to learn from each other. While I believe that medication is more effective than wheat grass shots or honey, some over-the-counter products are less “toxic” (in the words of the wellness community) than others.
One example is hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone is safely used in all areas of the body, including the vaginal region. However, for this specific use, there is hydrocortisone cream marketed to women. The pink packaging is splashed with “gynecologists recommend,” “soothing aloe,” “Vitamins A, C & E,” and “#1 itch medicine.” However, on the back of the box, in small print, it states that the #1 itch medicine “refers to the ingredient hydrocortisone.” This type of marketing is designed to be confusing and uses the addition of aloe and vitamins to appear more natural.
Aloe used in creams is heavily processed and has lost most (if not all) of its soothing properties. Vitamins A and C are acid, yes that’s right, and are often used as exfoliants in facial peels. Studies that use acid regularly on skin conditions such as psoriasis, show a reduction of itching after months of use. However there is no solid research to support its short-term use as an anti-itch agent in the vaginal region. Furthermore, the pH of the vagina is naturally acidic and if the pH is off balance, this cream won’t fix it.
There are other ingredients in the ladies’ hydrocortisone cream that are controversial. BHT, a preservative, has been banned from food products in Canada, Japan, Australia, the UK, and counties in Europe. While the National Institutes of Health [NIH] state that small amounts of BHT in cosmetics is fine, it hasn’t been tested on the vaginal region–one of the most vascularized areas of the body. This means that BHT applied to the capillary-rich membranes may end up in the blood stream. If we are concerned about “toxins” entering the body, we should limit the exposure of chemicals to this area.
So I recommend getting out of the feminine products aisle and heading toward the first aid department. Look at the ingredients of the 1% hydrocortisone cream. There should be only two. Hydrocortisone and the oil used to make the cream. Simple.
Please don’t be distracted by pretty pink packaging or the lure of “natural” ingredients. Look beyond the marketing, read the label, and make a healthier choice.
And by all means, if the itch doesn’t go away, get it checked out!
You might enjoy this article about hidden ingredients in labeling: Don’t be a Victim of Marketing | Sodium Laurel Sulfate.