How to Practice Good Vaginal Hygiene

We all want to practice a healthy lifestyle. But sometimes it’s hard to know what we should or shouldn’t do, especially when it comes to vaginal hygiene.

“Our vagina is like a self-cleaning oven,” says Mary Kinyoun, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist from Nebraska Medicine. “You really don’t need a lot of extras to keep that area clean other than water and sometimes mild soap.

“Excessive washing or rubbing, using antibacterial or scented soaps, douching, or using scented deodorant sprays can irritate the area, upset the natural PH balance and the natural vaginal flora (bacteria that live in vagina) that keep it healthy and prevent other organisms This can potentially create more problems These hygiene practices apply to both the external and internal parts of the vagina, such as the labia minora and labia majora lips.

When there is an imbalance of these organisms and an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria, you may notice a more potent smell. It could also lead to a yeast or bacterial infection, notes Dr. Kinyoun.

Products to avoid using in the vaginal area include:

  • Antibacterial soaps
  • Shower products
  • Scented soaps
  • Perfumed sprays, powders or air fresheners
  • Vulva masks (a sheet mask for your vulva that is supposed to soothe the area after waxing, brighten or moisturize the area, or serve as prep for a date)

“It’s important to remember that the vagina isn’t supposed to smell like the flower,” Dr. Kinyoun notes. “Some vaginal odors may be normal.”

Safe hygiene practices

You can help minimize strong odor or the risk of getting vaginal infections by following these safe hygiene practices.

  • Wear breathable underwear. Lycra and spandex underwear and yoga-type pants aren’t very breathable and can trap organisms around the vulva, producing more odor. Consider wearing more breathable cotton underwear or not wearing any underwear at night while you sleep
  • Always wash gently and if you have already washed in that area that day but need to wash again due to exercise or activity, consider using only water
  • Avoid wearing wet or damp underwear for long periods of time, which can promote bacteria buildup
  • Choose cotton underwear over lycra or spandex, which tend to lock in moisture
  • Avoid wearing panty liners or pads when not absolutely necessary, as they trap more moisture close to the skin and can cause vulvar irritation

Concerned about your vaginal health?
We can help. Make an appointment with one of our OB-GYNs. Call 800.922.0000.