To be perfectly honest, you probably have been cleaning your vagina wrong.
Think a subtle splash of water and perfumed soap will do the trick? Think again. Have you been rinsing your lovely lady parts with scorching hot water because it seems like the right thing to do? Nope, that’s not right either. Do you even really know where your vagina is? Maybe not. If you hesitated to answer any of these questions, it’s time for a much-needed lesson on vagina cleaning.
Yahoo Beauty picked the brains of a few gynecologists and dermatologists to learn best practices and solutions for keeping things clean down there, the doctor-approved way.
Understand every part of your equipment
For starters, you need to fully understand the terminology and what it all means as it directly ties to your lady parts. “The vagina is internal and is essentially a self-cleaning mechanism,” says Susan Bard, MD, of Sadick Dermatology in New York City. In layman’s terms, this is where you menstruate and give birth.
The vulva, on the other hand, is what would be considered external. “It should be gently cleansed daily, especially after sweating, as yeast and bacteria tend to breed in warm, sweaty environments,” Bard explains.
When it comes to cleansing, there are differences to note as well. Adrienne Mandelberger, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Mount Sinai — New York, says “to wash the vulva daily in the shower with mild soap and water, making sure to clean between the folds.” When it comes to your actual vagina, she advises to avoid it.
Stay away from scented soaps
Most women appreciate body washes with a light lavender aroma or refreshing lemon scent, but when it comes to your genitalia, it is best to stay away from fragrances. “A hypoallergenic soap without fragrances or additives, or plain water, should be used externally on a daily basis,” says Jennifer M. Browning, MD, the medical director of Kingwood Skin Essentials. “Soaps with additives can be irritating and break the skin, leading to superimposed bacterial infections.”
Shyama Mathews, MD, a board-certified gynecologist in Princeton, N.J., also suggests avoiding scented soaps and harsh washes of any kind. “These products can alter the natural balance and pH of the vagina.”
Ditch dryness, the right way
As with the skin all over your body, using water that is too hot will cause dryness. The vagina is naturally moist, and it is the last place you want to cause any unnecessary dryness. “You want natural lubricants to do their job,” says Mathews.
If you haven’t been using superhot water to bathe, and you still are experiencing dryness, experts agree that you should try a water-based lubricant, as such lubricants absorb best into the skin. If you are in a rush (perhaps, before sex?), you can run right to your kitchen rather than a drugstore for a natural solution: olive oil. Mandelberger says olive oil can act as a great natural lubricant. You can also try a naturally derived lubricant such as VMagic, which is formulated specifically to moisturize the vulva skin and help soothe irritation.
Pubic hair can protect you
A little “mowing of the lawn” or getting rid of pubic hair may seem like the right thing to do, especially during bikini season. But according to Mandelberger, pubic hair is thought to act as a barrier of protection from nasty bacteria entering the vagina. She explains, “Actually, grooming can come with its own set of problems. Waxing and shaving can cause folliculitis — those painful little red bumps that occasionally lead to a more dangerous infection called cellulitis.” So, embrace your hair down there, if you can ladies.
Real talk: Don’t douche
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Most douches are sold in stores as prepackaged mixes of water and vinegar, baking soda, or iodine.” While inserting these fluids into the vagina might seem like the ultimate refresh, douching is not the answer and can actually cause problems.
“Your vagina has good bacteria that helps to prevent infections like yeast,” says Mandelberger. “You can offset the normal pH of your vagina and lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria, making you potentially more prone to infections.” This one go-to that allegedly claims to give your vagina a boost could actually be making things worse. Best advice: Don’t do it. As an alternative, you can try a Lumenis treatment such as Femtouch. “It will help restore the normal acidity and increase blood flow to the vaginal tissue which helps your body treat infections and aid in healing breaks in the skin,” says Browning.
Go commando while you sleep
After a warm shower or bath, it’s a good idea to toss your undies before hitting the sheets. Wearing underwear all day doesn’t really give the vagina and vulva room to breathe. “Moisture plus lack of air breeds nasty bacteria,” says Mandelberger. If you are ever going to go commando, the best time may be when you are catching a few z’s. Let loose and air out.
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