The dos and don'ts of vaginal hygiene

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Your vagina has an efficient, perfectly balanced way of keeping itself clean and healthy. It does this through vaginal secretions, as well as a mix of ‘good’ bacteria and carefully balanced pH levels. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to maintain good hygiene, from washing every day to avoiding unnecessary products such as feminine douches.

Here’s your essential guide to the dos and don’ts of vaginal hygiene. 

Do wash every day

Washing your vulva (the area around the vagina, on the outside) every day can help to clean away sweat. What’s more, you’ll feel fresh and clean down there.

 

Don’t use overly perfumed soaps, gels or wipes

Your vagina has a delicate balance of pH levels and bacteria, but this can be disrupted when chemicals are introduced into the area. This is why it’s a good idea to avoid overly perfumed wipes, sprays, powders, soaps and gels when washing your intimate areas. Instead, opt for washes and foams that are specially designed for your intimate area.

 

Do wash more often during your period

It’s good practice to wash the area around your vagina more often when you’re having a period. Things can get messier down there at this time, so it can help you to feel fresher and cleaner if you wash with warm water a couple of times a day.

 

Don’t douche

One of the most important things to remember with vaginal hygiene is that you don’t need to wash inside your intimate area. There’s a perfectly efficient system of cleaning and hygiene happening in there already, through vaginal secretions and a carefully balanced ecosystem of ‘good bacteria’.

If you douche (meaning to flush water into your intimate area), you’ll be washing away these secretions. This isn’t recommended, as it washes away the vagina-cleaning secretions as well as clearing out ‘good’ bacteria that helps keep the vagina healthy.

Believe it or not, too much or the wrong method of intimate washing can actually cause conditions such as Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). This is where the healthy mix of bacteria in the vagina becomes disturbed, leading to abnormal and sometimes unpleasant discharge.

So, avoid douches, internal washing and water directed into your intimate area - it’s just not necessary.

 

Do use a soft, fluffy towel to dry off

Be gentle with yourself when drying off after a shower or an intimate wash. A lovely fluffy towel is just the ticket, as anything rougher could cause irritation or dryness.

However, it is important to get your genital area properly dry after washing, so be gentle but thorough with the towel.

 

Don’t get too hung up on odour

It’s 100% normal for your vagina to have a scent. Unless it’s overly strong or unpleasant - in which case you should make an appointment with your doctor - then there’s really nothing for you to worry about.

If you’re self-conscious about vaginal odour, it’s tempting to overcompensate with powerfully fragranced products. However, these soaps and wipes could potentially cause irritation and other problems. The best way to keep odours to a minimum is to wash regularly and dry thoroughly.

 

Do wipe from front to back

This is another crucial tip for intimate feminine hygiene. When you go to the toilet, always wipe from front to back with your toilet paper. Do it the other way around and you could risk spreading fecal bacteria from your anus to your vagina and urethra. This can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) and many other problems. If you don’t feel clean enough after going to the toilet, have a gentle wash of the area with warm water.

 

Do wear breathable fabrics down there

Unfortunately, fashionable underwear can sometimes cause a few problems when it comes to feminine hygiene. Overly tight-fitting thongs, tights and skinny jeans can restrict the flow of air around your genitals, as well as trapping in heat and moisture. This is made even worse when your underwear, tights or trousers are made from synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester.

These fabrics trap in moisture, which can create the perfect environment for infections such as thrush. Along with this common yeast infection, you could also risk getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) such as cystitis. You may even experience problems with a strong or unpleasant odour after several hours spent wearing skintight leggings.

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to avoid these uncomfortable feminine health issues. For starters, you should aim to wear cotton underwear and natural fabrics where possible. Cotton is a wonderful natural material in that it is breathable, which means that the air can flow in this sensitive area. Excess moisture from sweat and normal vaginal discharge can evaporate. Even if your underwear simply has a cotton crotch insert, this is much better than pants made purely of nylon, polyester or even spandex.

You can also give your vagina room to breathe by limiting the amount of time you spend wearing tight clothing. Opt for loose pyjama bottoms and flowing skirts around the house, rotating them with your skinny jeans and tighter clothing. This will give your vagina a much-needed break, and hopefully limit the chances of creating an environment where infections like thrush can thrive.

 

Do use a condom when having sex

This last tip may not be related to washing or vaginal care, but it is just as crucial for feminine hygiene. Unprotected sex can cause unwanted bacteria and even viruses to enter the vagina, which can lead to other infections. Just a handful of the many sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) you could catch in this way include Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Genital Herpes and even HIV or Syphilis. If you use a condom every time you have sex, even if you’re using other forms of contraception, you can reduce your risk of catching these STIs.
* This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. You should consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions.