While vagina care isn’t complicated, it is crucial. Naturally built to self-clean, it’s not hard to throw off your vagina’s pH balance, grow “bad” bacteria, fungus or other organisms, and get an infection. Here’s how to keep your privates clean, fresh, and a picture of health.
Know your anatomy
First thing’s first: you don’t actually need to wash your vagina.
Your vagina is the inner part of your genitalia— the canal that runs from your inner labia to your cervix, which is the opening of your uterus. Cleaning the inside of your vagina by say, douching is not only unnecessary, it can actually be pretty disastrous.
You have flora (natural bacteria), which is balanced by acidity (pH) that naturally keeps your vagina healthy. Using soap, sprays, gels, or even water can upset that balance. According to the Office on Women’s Health, this can lead to vaginal infections and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
What you should keep clean is your vulva, the outer parts of your vagina. That includes your outer labia (your vaginal “lips”) and the clitoris.
No soap, no problem: How to properly wash your vagina
It’s super simple to clean your vulva: rinse it with clear, warm water, pat it dry with a clean towel, and you’re good to go.
Of course, you might think you need a fancy, good-smelling wash or soap to give it an extra zhoosh, but really, not so much. The skin around your vulva is sensitive, so it can become easily irritated by scented products. If you want to use a cleanser down there, stick to plain, gentle, unscented wash. And be sure to look at the labels: make if you’re buying “all-natural” feminine wash or wipes, like our REFRESH wipes, that the ingredients are actually pure and natural. And one more time for the record: skip anything scented!
Cotton is best for down there
Ever notice that even your hottest silky panties have a strip of cotton on the crotch? That’s because cotton is breathable and absorbent, which keeps you dry and comfortable. Synthetic fabrics can trap moisture, which makes your underwear a breeding ground for growing unhealthy bacteria and other organisms that cause irritation and infection. And when you’re hanging out at home, skip the underwear altogether. A little commando time gives your vulva a chance to breathe.
Dry off after spin, swim & other sports
This one is easy to forget, and it’s perhaps the easiest way to get a yeast or other infection, as moisture can be a fast-track to breeding unhealthy bacteria. As soon as you’re done, take a shower. If you don’t have time or access to a shower, at the very least, towel off and change into dry clothes.
Take charge of your discharge
A note about vaginal discharge: generally speaking, it’s a good thing. It’s a sign that your system is in self-cleaning mode, exuding a natural lubricant that keeps your sensitive tissues moist and protected. You may also notice extra clear discharge when you’re ovulating. If you are about to get your period or just finished it, your discharge might be tinged with light red or brown. All of this is normal.
On the flip side, if you notice that your discharge is yellow, gray, or greenish, and you’re experiencing other symptoms, like pain, itchiness, a burning sensation when you urinate, or a fishy odor, then you should call your doctor. It could be a sign that an infection is throwing your natural pH balance off. While you might be tempted to buy an over-the-counter yeast infection treatment and call it a day, keep in mind that there are other infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV) or an STD is causing the problem. Always err on the safe side and get checked by a medical professional.
Your mom was right about wiping...
Your mother probably taught you the way to wipe is front to back, to keep from spreading bacteria from your anus to your vagina. What she may not have told you is the same advice goes for sexual activity — don’t let anyone put anything that’s been near or in your anus in your vagina.
… And your BFF was right about peeing after sex
You’ve probably heard that peeing after sex is a key to avoiding getting a urinary tract infection (UTI), and it does help flush out bacteria before it travels from your urethra to your bladder or even kidneys. That said, you don’t have to pop out of bed the second you finish to go on UTI-patrol. Just be sure to pee or rinse off before you doze off for the night.
Here’s to a happy, healthy vagina, from one peach to another.