Let’s talk about some self-care, more specifically the care you take of your downstairs.
Vaginas are beautiful and wonderful and perfect just the way they are, but many people I’ve met don’t know how to properly care for theirs and some hygiene habits can be downright harmful to your naughty bits.
Let’s start with some basics.
The vagina is self-cleaning, yes, really. Throughout the day your vagina regularly discharges fluid to clean out debris and balance out the pH. And when I say “vagina” I mean the vaginal opening and the pathway to the cervix – the area around that opening is not called the “vagina,” it is called the labia or the vulva.
Because the vaginal canal cleans itself, you don’t have to do much to the inside of your body, but the vulva can get dirty and sweaty from daily activities. The best way to take care of this is to wash your outer vagina with water or a pH balanced soap.
DO NOT USE SHAMPOO OR BODY WASH ON YOUR GENITALIA.
Most soaps are harsh and meant to get rid of oils and grime, but much of the area around your vaginal opening is considered a mucus membrane, which is just a fancy way of saying that the pores more readily absorb things.
If you’ve ever accidently touched your genitals with hot sauce on your hands then you know what I’m talking about, or maybe I’m the only one who eats Taco Bell completely naked. Putting Fire Sauce on your Crunchwrap Supreme is a dangerous game.
Your vagina is a carefully balanced ecosystem, so you have to do things to take care of it and help it maintain that balance.
If the balance of bacteria gets thrown off, you could get a yeast infection or a UTI – both of them are awful and very inconvenient. A yeast infection causes intense itching and some weird looking discharge, while a UTI causes a never-ending feeling that you are going to pee yourself.
You don’t want either of these conditions.
Let’s talk about some do’s and don’ts of vaginal caretaking.
First off, never douche. Ever. This is probably the worst thing you can do to your vagina. It throws off the pH balance of your vagina so severely that it can cause problems for months after doing it. Let your vagina handle its own internal cleaning and only clean the outside.
Again, don’t use harsh soap near the vagina. In all reality water and your hand will work the best.
I know, I know, “What if I smell?”
Spoiler alert: all vaginas have a scent because they are wet. This being said, the normal scent profile for the vagina can range from musky to sweet smelling. If your vagina starts to smell bad, like a fishy odor, then you should go see your gynecologist because it can be a symptom of a more severe problem.
And again, douching will make the odor problem worse, so don’t do it.
Another way you can keep your vagina happy is by keeping it comfortable. Many of the panties on the market are made of nylon or polyester, and though those silk panties feel nice, they aren’t the best option for your vagina. You want to wear cotton panties because they are breathable and will wick away moisture, keeping you feeling fresh.
It’s OK to wear a pair or two of the fancy silky undies on special occasions – just make sure that most days you go for cotton.
Also, after you are done working out, make sure to change out of your workout clothes. The bacteria in sweat are not something you want hanging out near your vagina for long periods of time. My personal trick is to keep a fresh pair of leggings in my gym bag along with a package of baby wipes, which are vagina safe.
So remember: Your vagina is self-cleaning. Water will clean your vulva just fine. Every vagina has an odor. Wear cotton undies. Change after working out.
A few easy steps to a healthy and happy hooha.
[Editor’s note: Due to the unfortunate stigma surrounding women discussing sex, the author of this column has requested to use the pseudonym “Kay Ann.”]