We’ve all heard of self love and self care, but did you know that includes your vagina? That’s right! Your vagina and vulva deserve some TLC, and I have ten helpful and informative pointers to guide you! Caring for our intimate health is incredibly important and should not be taboo, so let's dive in and discuss!
1. Love her look
The appearance of our vulvas can come in all different shapes and sizes, including protruding labia, larger labia, smaller labia, differing skin tones, darker spots and lighter spots. All of it is normal, and all should be celebrated! The term ‘designer vagina’ should be abolished, because which vagina was this ideal based on? Who has decided what is ‘designer’ and what isn’t? It’s also not accurate because the vagina is actually the anatomical name for the inside. The vulva composes all of the outside features. Also, pubic hair is 100% a personal choice, whether you want to let it grow, shave it, or trim to your preferences, there is no right or wrong way! Own whatever feels good for you.
2. Bin intimate washes & wipes
Vagisil, FemFresh, Woo Woo, and other ‘feminine wash’ products, sprays, and wipes should be avoided at all costs. The vagina does not smell terribly, and if an offensive odour appears, this could indicate an infection like thrush or bacterial vaginosis. The ingredients in a lot of these products are actually doing a lot more harm than good, and can actually provoke skin irritations, yeast infections and BV. A vagina should not smell like a ‘peach blossom’, it should smell of a vagina! Men are not targeted with special penis washes, so as self-cleaning vagina owners, we shouldn’t be either. A simple wash with water is more than enough and is best advised, but otherwise an aqueous cream can be used instead. Do not over wash; 1 or 2 times a day is best!
3. Don’t douche!
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but never, ever, douche. Douching can be extremely dangerous for the vagina, and completely flushes out the much needed good and bad bacteria balance. This can lead to infections, primarily bacterial vaginosis, which results in a fishy odour! As well as douching, do not stick anything up there. No suppositories, no yogurt, no garlic, no ‘cleansing balls’ (this can actually result in vaginal damage). Just let the self cleaning vagina do its thing!
4. Moisturize your vulva
A skincare routine for your vulva? Yes! You moisturise your whole body so why should the vulva be any different? It’s important to use safe products with suitable ingredients for the vulva, but moisturising can help with dryness, irritation, hydration and elasticity of the skin. Always ask a doctor before using any products, especially for women with skin conditions like vulval dermatitis, eczema and Lichen Sclerosus (moisturising could help these symptoms). I personally use some extra virgin organic coconut oil, which can also be used for a perineal massage. Coconut oil has great natural antibacterial and healing properties.5. Kinder Lube, Happier Skin
Lube is not a cure for painful sex, but it can help to alleviate symptoms and provide overall comfort. Did you know many lubricants contain irritating ingredients? Be mindful of choosing a kinder, natural based lube to keep your vulva and vaginal health in shape. Fragrances, parabens, glycerin, propylene glycol, and silicone oils could all cause issues with the skin and should be avoided when possible. Leave the strawberry flavored tingling lubricant on the shelf!
6. Organic period wear
It’s highly frustrating that period product manufacturers do not need to declare their ingredients. Why are we ok with just inserting tampons without knowing what’s in them? Major period brands like Always & Tampax contain unwanted extras like fragrances and bleaches, and from an environmental perspective, are usually wrapped in harmful plastic and use non-organic cotton. Switch to organic brands to not only be kinder to the planet, but kinder to your health! You’ll get full disclosure of ingredients used, and save your skin from harsh ingredients that you may not have known were there.
7. Ditch the panties in bed
Just like wearing socks to bed can be controversial, it’s important to let your vagina breathe too. When you’re not menstruating, try sleeping with no underwear on. Give your vagina the chance to breathe properly after being cooped up in a pair of panties all day. This can be a great way to help prevent thrush and improve your natural odor, by ditching the tight clothing and allowing an adequate air flow. Give it a try!
8. Wear cotton underwear, avoid thongs
Cotton is one of the most naturally breathable, and moisture wicking materials, so it helps to improve your vaginal health by providing it with an ideal environment. Synthetic, scratchy lace and polyesters can be really aggravating, but also don’t allow that same ‘air-flow’ that cotton provides. Underwear that is too tight can also be a yeast infection trigger, so it’s always best to size up from your normal pant size. Thongs work for some, but for those with more sensitive skin, they can be incredibly uncomfortable. If you want to give them a go, try a cotton thong in a larger size from your norm.
9. Change, change, change
Avoid sitting in the same pad or tampon for too long. You could be at risk of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) if you keep a tampon in for longer than you should, or if you use a tampon that is too high an absorbance for your flow. It can be flow dependent, but changing a tampon every 4 hours would be best. Having the same pad stuck against your skin for too long could also cause a problem; make sure you are not constantly sitting in moisture. The same rule applies for exercise clothing and wet bikinis, do not sit in them! Change into dry clothing as soon as you can.
10. STI Screening, have you been checked?
Regular STI screening when you have new partners, or multiple partners, is essential. Although it may seem taboo for some, it shouldn’t be! Being in touch with your sexual health is both a responsible and important action to take. Some STIs can be passed with skin to skin contact, so even if condoms are used, it is still advised to be on the safe side and get checked out. If an STI is left undetected for too long, more serious health complications can occur, and you don’t want to spread infections to others!
Written by: Jillian Currie