What you should know about 'vabbing,' the trend of vaginal dabbing

By Lisa Marie Basile | Fact-checked by Jessica Wrubel
Published April 24, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Vabbing refers to vaginal dabbing, and it’s the practice of applying one’s own vaginal fluid to the body to attract potential lovers or suitors.

  • Researchers have yet to conclude whether human pheromones exist or how they work. 

  • Vabbing may influence a user’s psychological state, increasing a perceived sense of attractiveness. Experts say that the people willing to try vabbing may also already be the type of people who are capable of meeting a romantic or sexual partner.

A trend known as “vabbing” is making the rounds in news reports and on social media platforms like TikTok, where search terms like #vabbingchallenge have become common. If the word “vabbing” sounds odd to you, it’s a combination of “vaginal” and “dabbing,” and it refers to using one’s own vaginal fluids as a sort of pheromone perfume to attract mates. The practice has gathered a lot of attention, but many call into question if it actually works.

In a TikTok video, content creator @jewlieah shares her “Vabbing 101” tips—which include showering before vabbing and applying vaginal fluid to the areas behind the ears and on the wrists. She tells viewers, “I’ve been doing it for a week, and it’s been working out for me.” 

Because the trend has been shared widely across social media and is covered in the majority of women’s health magazines, your patients may be interested in vabbing or are already practicing it. Here’s what you should know about vabbing. 

A look at pheromones

The word “pheromones” entered the lexicon in 1959, according to Facts, views & vision in ObGyn. It refers to “substances which are secreted to the outside by an individual and received by a second individual of the same species, in which they release a specific reaction, for example, a definite behavior or a developmental process.”

While there are plenty of examples of pheromone attraction in nature, some researchers say that humans don’t have the same ability to ‘smell’ potential mates as other mammals do. This is because our vomeronasal organ, which sits within the anterior inferior third of the nasal septum, is essentially non-operative.[]

The vomeronasal organ itself is also a topic of great debate among researchers, with some posturing that it simply doesn't exist and others stating that it does (and that it works).[]

Put simply, pheromones are a hot topic, and researchers are still unsure which pheromones in humans even exist, if they exist at all.[] 

“There is some evidence to suggest that humans may be able to detect and respond to certain pheromones, such as androstenone, which is found in male sweat, and estratetraenol, which is found in female urine,” says Aliyah Moore, PhD, a certified sex therapist, and expert at SexualAlpha. But, she adds, “the effects of these pheromones on human attraction are relatively weak and highly variable. The role of pheromones in human attraction is likely to be more subtle and complex than the simplistic idea of "dabbing" one's own vaginal fluid as a perfume.”

Dr. James Giordano, professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center, agrees that the research around pheromones is equivocal but says that certain human secretions (made up of fatty acid-based chemicals from both the vagina and peri-scrotal areas) may “serve as human pheromones” that can exert sexual attractant quality.

Giordano says that there is a possibility that these chemicals may have an attractant quality rooted in their expression of human lymphocyte antigens (HLA).  

“Humans have a variety of HLAs, and there is evidence to suggest that people are attracted to others who have ‘complementary’ HLAs. Evolutionarily, there is literature to suggest that this process of sexual attraction favors combining a variation of HLAs so as to prevent and mitigate in-breeding and thereby create offspring that are a more hearty biological mosaic, with fortified immunological (and other physiological) traits” Giordano posits. 

Psychology is at play with vabbing

If your patients ask about the practice's popularity or its benefits, it may be helpful to chat about how the trend affects one’s psychology. 

Because the research around pheromones and attraction is uncertain, a psychological component may be at play.

For one, vabbing creates a positive psychological effect on the individual practicing it, says Moore. For example, thinking that you will become more desirable to others can boost your confidence. “These psychological factors…the perceived increase in sexual attractiveness…can influence their perception of their own attractiveness, even if there is no tangible effect on the behavior of others,” she says.

Sarah Chotkowski, LICSW, who sub-specializes in sexual health and wellness, suspects that a desire for human connection plays a role in this trend. “This trend speaks to our innate desire to form connections with other people…I suspect people’s willingness to try something outlandish is directly proportional to the degree to which they feel human connection is elusive nowadays.”

Chotkowski goes on to say that the people willing to try vabbing may also already be the type of people who are capable of, say, flirting with a potential romantic or sexual partner. “I think this trend is a case of correlation rather than causation. Anointing yourself with your own vaginal fluids takes a certain amount of open-mindedness and confidence,” she says. 

Lastly, exposing others to bodily secretions, especially if not dried, can carry certain health risks, including sexually transmitted diseases. Shigella can pass through vaginal fluid contaminated with feces, just as vabbing with unclean hands may pose risks to vaginal health. []

Share with emailShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to Twitter