There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding hygiene. From products sold for hygiene that disrupt your vagina’s natural ecosystem to bad advice passed down from mothers to daughters, let’s take a look at what you should be doing (and avoiding) when it comes to your vagina.
What is Vaginal Hygiene?
Vaginal hygiene is essentially taking care of your vagina. A healthy vagina pH balance is between 3.8 and 5.0, which is slightly acidic. It’s also normal for vaginas to have a slight odor and produce fluid that is called discharge. If your vagina has a strong odor or abnormal discharge, poor vaginal hygiene may be to blame. Below, we’ll look at some do’s and don’ts of vaginal hygiene.
Strategies for Maintaining a Healthy Vagina
A few simple vaginal hygiene strategies go a long way in maintaining a healthy vagina. Let’s take a look at what you should be doing.
Remember That Your Vagina Cleans Itself
In general, your vagina does a good job at regulating pH balance and maintaining a healthy environment. You should never use soap, douches, or anything else to clean the inside of the vagina. Instead, use unscented soap and water to clean the vulva, which is the outside of the vagina. Washing this will remove sweat and bacteria that cause odors.
Maintaining Pubic Hair
You should maintain your pubic hair however you are most comfortable. And, remember that pubic hair is natural! If you do feel more comfortable without pubic hair, consider trimming, waxing, or laser removal over shaving. Razors harbor a lot of bacteria and are known to cause folliculitis. Folliculitis looks like pimples, but it’s an infection of the hair follicles.
Clean Yourself Properly After Using the Bathroom
When you use the toilet, it’s important to always wipe from the front to the back. Starting in the front ensures you aren’t getting bacteria in or around your vagina that can cause odors or infection. Some people also use bidets to ensure they clean properly and while this isn’t necessary, it does ensure thorough cleaning.
Know What’s Normal and When to Schedule an Appointment
Vaginas indeed have a mild odor and discharge, especially when they are healthy. Part of good vaginal hygiene is recognizing what a healthy vagina looks like so you can schedule an appointment with your gynecologist if anything seems out of the ordinary. Some signs that you may need to set up an appointment include:
- Burning or itching
- Pain after urinating
- A very bad or fishy odor
- Changes in discharge
- New sores or bumps
- Pain when having sex
Getting help with symptoms like these ensures that you can get back to having optimal vaginal hygiene sooner.
Go Pee After Sex
It’s natural for some bacteria to be introduced during sex, no matter how clean your partner is. When you urinate after having sex, it flushes bacteria that might be on the urethra, which is the tube where pee comes out of your body. This is an important step for learning how to prevent urinary tract infections.
Vaginal Health Don’ts: What Not to Do
While cleaning your vagina and practicing good hygiene goes a long way, it’s equally as important to know what not to do. Here are some things to avoid for optimal vaginal health.
Avoid Products Designed for Inside the Vagina
There are many products designed for feminine hygiene. Unfortunately, products like douches and feminine washes do not tackle odors or clean the vagina as you’d expect. Products like these disrupt your vagina’s natural pH balance and increase the risk of yeast infections or odors. You should also avoid other products for the vagina like Jade eggs and vaginal lipstick.
Don’t Use Scented Products
It can be tempting to use products that make your vagina smell floral or pleasant. Realistically though, vaginas should have a slight odor. These products might work temporarily, but they also disrupt your pH. This can cause worse odors, as well as yeast or bacterial infections.
Don’t Wear the Wrong Underwear
It’s important that your vagina can breathe. When you wear underwear made of synthetic materials like spandex or nylon, it will make your nether regions sweat. Furthermore, this trapped sweat and bacteria can contribute to vaginal odor. Try wearing cotton or other breathable materials instead.
The Center for Women’s Health
National Library of Medicine