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We spoke to Dr. Jessica Shepherd to find out why the area around your vagina needs a little more TLC than you might think.
You’re probably cleaning your vagina wrong. Actually, you shouldn’t be cleaning your vagina at all. But your vulva (the external area around your vagina) does need to be cleaned, and it needs a little more than a bar of soap. We spoke to Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a gynecologist and women’s health expert, to find out what we’re doing wrong—and how to fix it.
I didn’t know I could clean my vagina incorrectly
The vagina refers to your internal muscles that connect the external genitals to the cervix, while the vulva is the external area that includes the labia and the clitoris. Unless you have a special soap formulated for your more intimate areas, you’re probably using a product that’s too harsh.
“The vagina has a very sensitive lining that can be easily irritated by douching and harsh soaps and cleansers,” says Dr. Shepherd. “I always tell my patients to never wash inside the vagina. It cleans itself, so let Mother Nature do her job.” So, when cleansing, remember to only clean your vulva.
Why are regular cleansers bad for my vagina?
Cleansers formulated for your body tend to include glycerin. “Glycerin is a sugar-based product that yeast loves,” says Dr. Shepherd. Cleansers can also include irritants like fragrance or have the wrong pH.
“A healthy vagina has a pH range between 4 and 4.5,” says Dr. Shepherd. “Traditional body washes and bar soaps can range between a pH of 6 and 10.” This can upset your vagina’s natural chemistry. “This area is home to a finely tuned system of good and bad bacteria, and when it’s disrupted, it can cause yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis and lead to chronic irritation.”
What products should I be using?
“You want to look for a product that’s pH-balanced and that doesn’t contain glycerin,” recommends Dr. Shepherd. Other things to look for include natural ingredients, sulphate-free products and cleansers that won’t strip the natural moisture from your skin.
Sweet Spot Labs Neroli Mandarin gentle wash, $15, sweetspotlabs.ca.
Dr. Shepherd’s tips for keeping your vaginal area clean:
1. Wash the outside of your vagina with a natural pH-balanced, wash that’s glycerin-free.
2. Dry the skin by patting gently with a clean towel to reduce moisture and bacteria growth.
3. Wear cotton underwear, which allows the skin to breathe.