Over the past few years, we’ve observed a sudden surge of products targeted to “cleaning” our vaginas. But with the advent of all these new feminine care brands popping up, it begs the question: do you really need any special treatment to do that? Not only are we concerned about their safety and efficacy, but if you’re an avid beauty lover, it can be daunting to have to include yet another product in a regimented routine.
To determine whether or not the new generation of feminine care products was worthy of our attention, we consulted with four experts. They outlined the real facts behind healthy and happy vaginas, plus lifestyle and product tips that can help keep them fresh.
Fact #1: The vagina is easily irritated — and we need to take its care more seriously.
The vagina is like any part of the body that requires excellent hygiene, and every expert agrees that we must take care of it. According to founders of DeoDoc Intimate Skincare, Dr. Hedieh Asadi and Hasti Asadi, very few people know that the same sweat glands that exist in our armpits are also found in our vaginas. (As a result, cautious care can be neglected.) These sweat glands makes the area prone to the same dirt buildup that are found in other areas of the body. This can lead to odors, pimples, and other irritations if not taken care of properly.
Women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period Dr. Sherry Ross, MD, adds that there are many common irritants that can disrupt the vagina. “Every day, unsuspecting feminine rituals can disrupt the pH balance and irritate all areas of the vagina and cause vaginal dryness,” she says.
The optimal pH for this body part is 3.8 to 4.5 — learn more about pH levels in the body here — and when it’s thrown out of whack, the area gets aggravated. Many items, even those you think are enhancing the health of your vagina, can actually be to blame, including fragrant soaps, sanitary wipes, nylon underwear, spermicides and shaving creams. (Keep reading to discover how to avoid pH disruption.)
Fact #2: The best care of your vagina is through a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Our experts note that vaginal health is a reflection of internal body health; if you take care of yourself, your vagina will be in equally ideal condition. To keep yours in top shape, founder of Walk IN GYN Care Adeeti Gupta, MD, recommends a balanced diet that includes fresh fruits, vegetables, and probiotics, drinking plenty of water, wearing clean cotton underwear, and not exposing the vaginal area to any chemicals. “The vagina needs minimal care and interference; just let it be,” she says. “Any cleansers, sprays, or liners still contain chemicals that can irritate the sensitive area.”
Ross also recommends getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) after each sexual partner, as there are many STIs that have no symptoms at all. Undiagnosed vaginal infections can lead to bigger problems down the road.
Fact #3: Feminine care products are OK for your outsides, but not your insides.
The key to effectively and safely cleansing the vagina is to focus on external areas of skin — and leave the inside alone. Ross explains that the vagina has its own internal “washing machine” that keeps it cleaned and balanced. “Using an intimate wash and water on the lips of the vagina (also known as the labia) is ok, safe and recommended,” she says. “As a gynecologist, I suggest that you clean your vulva/labia as if it was any other part of your body by using a gentle, non-fragranced (soap) intimate wash, especially one that is made specifically for the vagina.”
Gupta agrees that putting any cleaning product inside the vagina will only do you harm. “There is no need for special vaginal cleansers, lotions, sprays, etc.; it cleans itself.” she says. “The more chemicals or foreign products you put in there, the worse it is.”
When looking for products, it’s important to make sure to look for washes that are pH balanced, like the DeoDoc Intimate Wash ($20). “The vagina requires products that will not disturb its natural pH balance,” says the Asadi sisters. “Anything that disturbs the balance can cause discomfort and infections.”
Ross recommends products like the Vagisil® pH Balance Wash ($5) and Summer’s Eve® Simply Sensitive Cleansing Wash ($4), as they are made with no ingredients to disrupt the normal pH balance of the vagina. She also says that non-fragranced and gentle soaps from brands such as Dove, Caress®, Aveeno®, Cetaphil®, and Eucerin® are also safe for the vagina. Ultimately, feminine care products aren’t completely necessary for a clean and healthy vagina, but can’t hurt — just as long as you select them carefully and use them correctly.
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