Why You're Probably Cleaning Your Vagina Wrong

Is your intimate hygiene routine actually causing problems? A top gynaecologist reveals all

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Our vaginas give us pleasure, allow us to have children, go through menstruation once a month and then, eventually, menopause. We shave them, wrap them up in trousers and tights and, if we're really brave, subject them to a thong. This all makes it even more important to pay special attention to our day to day intimate hygiene.

Our vaginas give us pleasure, allow us to have children, go through menstruation once a month and then, eventually, menopause. We shave them, wrap them up in trousers and tights and, if we're really brave, subject them to a thong. This all makes it even more important to pay special attention to our day to day intimate hygiene.

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When it comes to washing your vagina…

Don't:

  • Overwash it: rinse your vagina as you would your armpits or face, don't spend ages scrubbing.
  • Douche (squirting water into the vagina): this can flush out the natural bacteria.
  • Use anything that claims to be a 'vaginal detox': there are tablets and remedies that claim to detox the area but here is little evidence that these work.
  • Wash inside: the inside of a vagina is home to natural bacteria and moisture and is self-cleaning. Putting soap or any other product inside could risk putting the vagina's natural pH out of balance, which could lead to infections such as thrush.

Do:

  • Only wash the outside: rinse the outside skin and the labia with water, and a little soap, if you wish.
  • Use non-fragranced, simple soap: if your skin type does not react badly to soap, and you like using it, then you can use soap to wash your vaginal area in the shower. But be careful with the amount you use – a little goes a long way!
  • Be aware of your skin type: if you have sensitive skin or an allergy, check with your GP about the best way to approach your vaginal hygiene.
  • Get to know what's normal for you: everyone's vagina is different, so it's important to monitor what's 'normal' for you in terms of smell, discharge(colour, smell, amount) and feeling. This way, you'll notice if anything changes, for example if your discharge becomes thick or smelly, or you develop itching. If you do notice a change, it's important to consult your GP.

Jullien recommends: A gentle monthly examination of your genitals with a hand-held mirror. This allows for the discovery of any abnormal-looking areas, or lumps and bumps that might need a medical review. Make it part of your general health checks, like regular breast self examination.

How to look after you vagina when you…

1. Have just exercised

Exercising makes the vaginal area sweat but every woman is different when it comes to how much. Women who have a lot of pubic hair, for example, can sweat more and might need to pay more attention to the pubic area during their post-workout shower.

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2. Have just had sex

During sex, we secrete natural lubrication, ejaculation and sweat, and are likely to feel like we need to shower afterwards, which is fine (still no washing inside, though). However, if you are unable to wash straight after intercourse, having semen inside your vagina for a longer period of time will not harm you or you pH balance. It's natural after all.

When it comes to products you might use during sex, such as lube, gynecologists use the law that 'what goes in, must come out'. So it's important to rinse the outside your vagina after using lube and standing up after sex will help gravity do it's job too.

It is also important to note that, if there is any trauma during sex, this will need to be kept clean to avoid infection. Women should also monitor their discharge after sex to look for signs of infection or symptoms of other conditions.

3. Have been through the menopause

Women experience the menopause differently, but it's common to feel a lack of elasticity on the skin around the vagina and internal dryness due to reduced levels of oestrogen.

Although this may mean that women choose to use more lubrication during sex, the menopause doesn't generally require a change in our general hygiene routine.

4. Are on your period

Female hygiene during menstruation depends on the woman's flow. Gynecologists advise women with a heavy flow to increase the amount they wash to avoid the smell that comes with the oxidisation of blood.

5. Have sex on your period

While having sex during a period is completely down to personal preference, Jullien stresses that it does not cause any harm or trauma to the vagina. You may just need a shower straight afterwards.

6. Have thrush

Most of the time this can be treated with simple over-the-counter medication, and washing won't make much difference. If the situation persists after treatment, visit a doctor.

Via

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