We’ve been seeing all kinds of pH-balancing vaginal-area cleansers advertised lately, specifically products from brands like (and we are not making this up) Healthy Hoohoo and Summer’s Eve. But is buying a separate wash for your ladyparts necessary? We talked to Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MD, OB/GYN and co-author of V is for Vagina, to get the lowdown on what we do (and don’t) need to worry about when it comes to down-there care.
Sexcerpts: Is it necessary or helpful to balance the pH of your vagina with a special wash?
Dr. Dweck: “The short answer is no, this is definitely not necessary. The more complex answer is many women still feel these products are helpful to ‘feel fresher.’ The truth is that the vagina has mechanisms to do its own cleaning and keep pH balanced. Vaginal odor is directly related to lifestyle, weight, and diet. Some vaginal discharge is physiologic and normal. Vaginal secretions and odor vary with the menstrual cycle, too. Foul odor, copious discharge, itching, or irritation may signal an infection requiring medical attention. A good way to balance pH is to eat yogurt with live cultures or take a daily probiotic, and avoid excess sugar and alcohol. There is actually a natural balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina, and disruption can cause itching, irritation, odor and discomfort.
“Regarding [specific] products, the Healthy Hoohoo products are alcohol-free, fragrance-free, and parabens-free. Women could still be sensitive to some of the listed ingredients. Many Summer’s Eve products contain alcohol and fragrance, common irritants for some.”
Can a wash with a fragrance negatively affect your vaginal climate?
“Definitely, yes. Some women are really sensitive down there, and even the most delicate and ‘natural’-appearing products can actually cause reaction such as rash, irritation, itching, and discharge. For example, I see women regularly who have significant sensitivity with rashes, fissures, odor, irritation, and misery from vigorous baby wipe use! The treatment is…to stop using baby wipes.”
If you’re interested in a gentle cleanser or concerned about odor, is there a generic or inexpensive soap that will do the trick just as well?
“In general, mild soaps like Dove or Ivory will limit the chance of sensitivity and are excellent for cleaning. Some find it helpful to use soap on the vulva but just plain warm water on the more delicate vaginal mucus membranes. Avoid vigorous scrubbing.
“A couple of other related tips for a healthy V: If you have really sensitive skin, use fragrance-free laundry detergents and fabric softeners, white (un-dyed) toilet paper, cotton crotched panties or go commando, [and] non-perfumed tampons/pads. Avoid douches and talc. Keep the vulva aerated. Get out of wet workout clothes/swimsuits as soon as possible.”
Thank you, Dr. Dweck! (You can buy her book V is for Vagina here.)
Follow Sexcerpts on Twitter!: @Sexcerpts_SK