This story was originally posted July 3, 2017.
This month marks my one-year anniversary of living alone. Completely, totally, no-parents, no-sorority-sisters, no-cats alone. And in that time, I've developed some weird beauty habits. Like keeping a few pairs of socks in the cabinet under the sink, so that when I nick my legs shaving, I can pull them on to stop the bleeding. (Band-Aids are my personal bobby pins — as in, I never, ever have one around.) Or chilling in bed watching Bachelor in Paradise with nothing but a sheet mask on...my vagina.
Judging by the reactions of the R29 beauty team when I casually mentioned this in a meeting, this is not a normal thing that most people do. Y'all are missing out. Your vagina (Yes, technically the correct term is "vulva" — this is all external — but this isn't a medical journal) puts up with a lot. I mean, think of how close it gets to the subway seat when you're wearing a dress on a sticky summer day. Shudder. It deserves a weekly spa treatment just as much as your face does.
In my opinion, the ideal down-there masking time is post-shave or wax on a Friday or Saturday night, when you have an hour or two to kill before getting dressed and heading out. Step out of the shower, dry off, and grab a sheet mask (two if you're feeling wild and don't want your face to feel excluded). Which kind, though? According to dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, as long as it doesn't contain "a retinoid or powerful alpha/beta hydroxy acids, because you don't want to irritate the skin right after [shaving or waxing]," anything goes.
"Most sheet masks are very gentle, calming, and hydrating. Look for chamomile, feverfew, aloe, and rose oil," Dr. Bowe adds. Pour yourself a glass of wine, lie back, and slap it on, making sure to cover the bikini lines. (What you do with the eye, nostril, and mouth holes in the sheet is your business.)
Peel it off after 10-to-20 minutes and — voilà! — the skin is smooth, baby-soft, and, ideally, free of the usual post-hair-removal inflammation. I think of the sheet mask as the perfect middle ground between body moisturizer (which, for me, does little to help with bumps) and alcohol-based or acidic toners (which do help, but really dry out the area). Plus, it's just a strangely luxurious thing to do — before a date or just for yourself. Others, not me, might recommend it as an activity for "getting in touch with your inner goddess;" I'll just say it makes you feel like S-E-X.