If you listen to advertisers, it seems like maintaining good vaginal hygiene requires no less than a dozen products. Do you really need a special soap to maintain your pH balance down there? And how often should you suds up that area, anyway? Fortunately, there are vagina hygiene hacks that will help you clean up in the most effective way possible. And chances are you’re doing just fine anyway.
Contrary to gross cultural stereotypes, the vagina isn’t inherently dirty at all. "It’s like a self-cleaning oven," OB-GYN Jennifer Gunter told Buzzfeed Life. It doesn’t require a tremendous amount of upkeep, and messing with too many products — or scrubbing up too harshly — can actually cause infections.
That said, there are some hygienic best practices that can also keep your vagina happy and healthy. Not hanging out in sweaty gym clothes, for instance, can go a long way toward preventing infections. (Even though it’s difficult to part with your comfy yoga pants after savasana.)
So take heart. Most of those specialized vaginal cleansers are really solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist. Just a bit of plain soap and water, and some breathable fabrics, can provide all the cleaning power you need. Here are the top tips for keeping your vagina clean and healthy.
1. Wash Gently
When you're showering off, it's a good idea to be gentle when cleaning the area outside your vagina. "You don’t have to attack your vulva like it’s public enemy number one," Michele G. Curtis, a private-practice gynecologist, told Shape. In fact, scrubbing too hard can cause tears and make you more susceptible to infection.
2. Use Plain Soaps
And that scented body wash you love might not be the best choice for cleaning up down there. The National Health Services recommends women use plain, unperfumed soaps to gently wash the area around the vagina. Gentle seems to be the key word here.
3. Dry Off Thoroughly
After showering, it's crucial to let everything dry off thoroughly. “Make sure that the area is dry before you get dressed,” Iffath Hoskins, an OB-GYN at NYU Langone Medical Center, told Health. “Moisture is what causes that area to grow bad bacteria.” Taking a little extra care when toweling off is a good way to help avoid obnoxious infections.
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4. Wear Clothing That Stays Dry
Keeping everything nice and dry down there is half the battle when it comes to vaginal hygiene. As Everyday Health noted, "certain types of fabrics and styles worn close to the genitals can increase heat and moisture, potentially leading to bacteria overgrowth and infections." Opting for loose-fitting clothes, and changing out of damp swimwear or sweaty workout gear quickly, is a good choice.
5. Do NOT Douche
Basically every health article about douching has the same advice: Don't do it! As OB-GYN Jennifer Gunter said on BuzzFeed, "multiple studies show that douching is associated with damaging your good bacteria," which can even make you more prone to getting an STD. Because it can actively harm your health, there's no good reason to douche.
6. Pee Before Sex
Most women know peeing after sex can help prevent a urinary tract infection, but you should also pee before sex . "Emptying your bladder preromp can expel any bacteria hanging out at the entrance of your urethra, which could get pushed up there during intercourse and lead to a UTI," Katharine O'Connell, OB-GYN, told Glamour. Now you just need to find a way to incorporate a bathroom run before things get going in the bedroom.
7. Practice Responsible Sex
Of course safe sex is a big component of maintaining good vaginal health. The Mayo Clinic recommends women use condoms or maintain a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who's free of sexually transmitted infections. They also add that you should clean your sex toys thoroughly after use. These basic practices will go a long way toward keeping your vaginal hygiene in perfect order.