If your quarantine habits have turned your daily shower into a weekly one, well, same. But now that warmer weather is here, it may time to revert back to your pre-QT time standards of hygiene—at the very least for the sake of your vagina.
I’m going to give it to you straight: Higher temps inevitably mean more sweat, which means that there’s more of an opportunity for bacteria to get riled up between your legs. In addition to potentially causing some unpleasant odors down there (though, let me remind you, it’s normal for vaginas to smell like vaginas), it can also lead to yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. So yeah. You’re going to want to wash those lady bits once a day.
“It’s important to wash the outside of the vagina—known as the vulva—daily with warm water and a mild soap,” says OB/GYN and Love Wellness Advisor Jodie Horton, MD. The vulva, she explains, describes the external parts of the female genitalia, and include the clitoris, labia majora, labia minora, and vaginal opening.
To clean it properly, use warm water and a mild soap, like Love Wellness pH Balance Cleanser ($17), Sweet Spot Labs Neroli Mandarin Gentle Feminine Wash ($15), or good-old Dove Bar Soap ($14 for 14 bars) and cleanse the area with your hands. “You want to avoid cleaning the inside of the vagina because it is designed to keep itself clean with the help of natural secretions,” says Dr. Horton, adding that this can disrupt the pH in there and create an environment where bacteria and yeast can thrive.
A few more tips for ensuring you keep things fresh and clean? For one thing, keep your loofah far, far away from the area. “Avoid using a loofah because it can abrade the delicate skin of the vulva. Loofahs can harbor mold, bacteria, and dirt that can do more harm than good for your vulva, and can abrade its delicate skin,” says Dr. Horton. And as your mom always told you, you’ll want to be sure to wash from front to back—never the other way around. “Washing your backside first may lead to bacteria from your anus to enter the vagina causing urinary tract infections and vaginal infections.” When you’re finished cleansing, rinse the area thoroughly then pat dry.
If taking a full-blown shower isn’t happening, at the very least you’ll want to cleanse your vulva at the sink with some warm water and a mild cleanser to clear away the sweat and bacteria. But really, pros say the a shower is the best place to get the job done. “While taking a shower, the water can stop products from getting in the vagina and eliminating necessary bacteria,” says Dr. Horton, explaining that this built-in rinse factor can help you avoid irritation that can come from messing with your vaginal pH.
So go ahead and make daily showers a staple in your summer routine—whether you’re stuck in quarantine or not.
Want to know what a dermatologist keeps in the shower to wash the *rest* of her body with? Watch the video below.
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