5 Vaginal Health Products to Ditch
Every day, women encounter advertisements for vaginal health products that are packaged appealingly, scented florally and promise to be a vital part of your self-care and hygiene routine. The reality is that many of these products have little to do with the health of your vagina and/or the vulva, the external surface around the vaginal opening that needs cleaning.
Your vagina is a self-cleaning wonder, and it isn’t supposed to smell like a field of flowers. Doing less, rather than more, and knowing your body’s normal functions can go a long way toward a happy, healthy vagina.
Let’s walk through the most commonly used “vaginal health” items and analyze which are worth using, and which need to leave your medicine cabinet ASAP.
Vaginal douches are one of the oldest products on the market, and many DIY family recipes still get circulated.
However, vaginal douching upsets the natural pH of your vagina, decreasing the healthy Lactobacilli bacteria that lives in the vagina. This causes existing bacteria and yeast to overgrow, leading to yeast infections, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and possibly more serious health complications.
Worse yet, frequent douching can actually introduce new bacteria into the vagina, which often increases your risk of developing painful urinary tract infections (UTIs).
As an alternate solution to douching, your gynecologist may recommend a mild, pH-balancing soap for the vulva, not the vagina.
While vaginal lubricants can be an important part of your sex life, it’s important to use a water-based formula that is free from artificial dyes, flavoring and fragrance. Although it might be tempting to use a flavored lubricant, these products do not work as well and can alter your vaginal pH, leaving you more susceptible to irritation and infections.
Instead, choose a lubricant that is specially formulated to support your body’s natural pH and is water-soluble, making it safe to use with latex condoms. There are also silicone-based lubricants, which last longer and are safe to use with condoms.
It may not smell of strawberries and bananas, but the better the lubricant, the more pleasurable the sexual experience for both you and your partner.
Vaginal itch creams
Vaginal itch creams are marketed to women as a way to treat uncomfortable itching and odor. While these products work to temporarily relieve the itch, they may actually mask symptoms of a yeast infection, STI or other serious health issue. Unfortunately, these products may lead women to believe that itching is a normal part of vaginal health, causing them to ignore symptoms that could be easily treated with a more routine cleaning regimen.
If you experience itching, first clean your vulva with a fragrance-free, pH-balanced cleanser. This will remove any irritants and harmful bacteria instead of temporarily relieving the discomfort. If symptoms continue, consult your gynecologist to rule out more serious health problems.
Scented wipes & sprays
While vaginal cleanliness is extremely important, cleansing the vulva too much with scented wipes and sprays can dry out and irritate your vagina, alter your natural pH and promote the growth of too much bacteria. Warm water is all that is needed to clean the vulva, but freshening up with wipes isn’t a hard no.
Doing less, rather than more, and knowing your body’s normal functions can go a long way toward a happy, healthy vagina.
Some products are specifically designed to balance your body’s pH, and when used after a workout, if taking a shower is not an option, these wipes can actually prevent bacterial overgrowth. Always remember to purchase products that are free of harsh cleansers and parabens (chemicals added to increase the shelf life of a product), to prevent irritation.
Many women use tampons because of the freedom they provide in comparison to other bulky period products. The downside is they hold bacteria inside your vagina and can increase your risk of developing toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a condition that causes a high fever and, in severe cases, death.
These risks are increased by using scented tampons, because the artificial fragrances can cause vaginal irritations or allergic reactions that increase the chances of a bacterial overgrowth. As a result, many women are tossing tampons completely and choosing more eco-friendly products such as silicone menstrual cups, which are reusable and more hygienic than tampons.
Commonsense vaginal hygiene
When choosing products for your vaginal health, don’t cause more harm than good. You should always choose hypoallergenic, fragrance- and dye-free options that are designed to promote your body’s natural pH.
When it comes to your personal well-being, pay attention to your vaginal health. Anything that is out of the ordinary for your body shouldn’t be masked with a product in a pretty package, because it’s often a warning sign of a more serious condition that you and your gynecologist should be addressing.