What Is Vabbing and Why Are People Doing It at the Gym? – Shape Magazine

Born in Paris to a French father and English mother, Iris Goldsztajn moved to the U.S. to attend college at UCLA, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in Communications with a minor in Gender Studies. Now London-based, Iris works as a freelance journalist, copywriter, and author. She serves as the morning editor for Marie Claire, where she covers celebrity and royal news before the East Coast wakes up, and a contributing writer for publications including InStyle, Shape, HelloGiggles, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, and more. Previously, she was the L.A.-based associate editor for Her Campus, covering pop culture, fashion, beauty, gift guides and op-eds. Her debut short story, "A Story of Boy Meets Girl," won the Writing Magazine Grand Prize in 2020.
TikTok True or False is the answer to your burning questions about the health, beauty, and fitness fads taking over your social feeds. Each story breaks down a buzzy wellness trend with the help of experts and scientific research to uncover the truth and safety behind the viral "advice" you see online. You'll never have to wonder what's actually legit — or what to skip — again.
If you've come across a video tagged with the buzzword "vabbing" (aka vagina dabbing) on your For You Page recently, you may have raised an eyebrow or two. If you're confused, don't worry — you're certainly not alone. Essentially, vabbing refers to dabbing a few drops of your own vaginal fluid on pulse points on your body, such as the wrists and neck, as a kind of perfume meant to help people attract potential partners. And now, some people on TikTok are convinced that the gym is the best setting for trying out this trend.
Case in point, TikTok user @jewlieah has popularized the trend recently with a video in which she claims to have vabbed before a workout at the gym and garnered some desired attention as a result. In a subsequent video, she explains that after she vabbed, a man approached her while she was doing lunges and asked her out. Her original video has amassed more than six million views, and it has been dueted (paired side-by-side with videos made by other creators) dozens of times, mostly by users who express various levels of skepticism about this particular pick-up method.
While vabbing isn't necessarily dangerous, so long as you keep personal hygiene in mind, evidence proving whether or not tapping vaginal fluid on pulse points actually attracts a mate is slim, according to experts. Before you decide to try out vabbing for yourself, allow medical professionals to give you the low-down on the trend below.
Vabbing consists of dabbing a bit of vaginal fluid onto various pulse points, as you would a perfume. “Women either swipe or completely insert a finger into their vagina and then apply the secretions to their wrist, behind the ear, et cetera,” explains board-certified ob-gyn Cynthia Wesley, M.D. “Women produce about one half to one teaspoon of vaginal discharge on a daily basis. This discharge is usually clear, slightly cloudy, or white.”
The theory is that the vaginal fluids may contain pheromones that would attract potential partners. "A pheromone is a chemical that an animal secretes that influences the behavior of another animal," says Dr. Wesley. "Animals can use these compounds to mark a territory, sound an alarm, or trigger sexual arousal."
In short, it’s unclear whether vabbing helps attract a partner or not. “No controlled trials exist to contest the effect of vabbing,” says Karenne Fru, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.O.G., a fertility specialist at Oma Fertility. “Anecdotes to the contrary are more likely coincidence.” Dr. Fru is skeptical of claims that vabbing leads to being approached by potential mates, especially at the gym. “In theory, vabbing relies on the sense of smell,” she explains. “The gym is a place inundated with smells of all kinds, and I’m doubtful that vaginal secretions would be noticed, much less have an effect.”
Dr. Wesley agrees that evidence proving the effectiveness of vabbing is lacking, but there is some research documenting the effect pheromones have on people in general, she adds, citing a preliminary study on the steroid compound, androstadienone. “Found in the male axillary [underarm] sweat, androstadienone improves mood and heightens focus in women,” she says.
While vabbing might not be the catalyst for meet-cutes at the gym, "maybe the improved mood and focus of the women, caused by the androstadienone in the sweat of the men, has improved the women's confidence, thus making the men more attracted to the women," suggests Dr. Wesley. That said, scientists haven't studied the efficacy of vabbing specifically, she notes.
Dr. Fru advises against vabbing, as the trend essentially involves transferring bacteria from the vagina to other areas of the body. (Yes, even healthy vaginal fluid is primarily made up of cells and bacteria.) Additionally, you’ll definitely want to skip the trend if you’re experiencing abnormal vaginal discharge or think you may have a sexually transmitted disease, cautions Dr. Wesley. In that case, you should see a health care provider stat.
However, vabbing may be "generally safe" if you keep proper hygiene in mind and definitely don't have an infection, according to Dr. Wesley. "It is important to thoroughly wash your hands and fingernails for at least 20 seconds prior to inserting a finger into your vagina. After dabbing to your chosen area, wash your hands again," she suggests. This will prevent you from spreading any harmful germs to your own vagina and other surfaces.
While vabbing is likely safe to try if you don't have an infection and you wash your hands before and after touching your vagina, there is currently no scientific evidence as to its effectiveness in helping you attract potential mates at the gym or otherwise. Still, Dr. Wesley doesn't see a problem with trying it if you'd like to. "In general, I love the idea of vabbing," she says. "The era of women being confident with their most intimate space is long overdue. As long as participants are using safe and hygienic techniques, then vab away!"
For a more tried-and-true approach to enticing a potential romantic partner with your scent, stick to perfume, advises Dr. Fru. (Next Up: How to Make Perfume Last Longer and Tips for Choosing a Workout-Friendly Scent)


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