Healthy Body

3 Rules a Gynecologist Wants You To Follow When Buying Vaginal Care Products From the Drugstore

Photo: Getty Images/Carol Yepes
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Between periods, bacterial infections, menopause, birth control, and overall daily hygiene, keeping vaginas happy and healthy is super important. Thankfully, it's not rocket science—it's not like we have to go to the doctor every time we feel like things are off (although if you're really concerned, you most certainly can and should!). With the plethora of vaginal care products within reach (like your local Target), caring for finicky vulvas has never been easier.

That being said, not all vaginal care products on Target's shelves are created equal. In a sea of pH balancing body-washes and boric acid suppositories, it might seem like all vaginal care products are safe to put in and around our bodies. Plot twist! They're not.

According to Kelly Culwell, OB/GYN, a gynecologist in San Diego, vulva-owners should be veeery picky about what products they throw into their Target shopping carts (or any drugstore, for that matter). "In general people with vaginas should look for unscented and hypoallergenic products," she explains. "This includes menstrual products like pads and tampons and washes and wipes." That means the next time you're tempted to toss vanilla blossom-smelling pH balancing wipes or Summer Breeze-scented vaginal wash into your cart, try to avoid. Stick to unscented, hypoallergenic products only.

Next time you hit up your local Target, keep these rules in mind. To be safe, add one of the below gyno-approved products to your cart while you're at it.

Here's an OB/GYN's advice for shopping at Target

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Soaps and washes

Dr. Culwell recommends steering clear of washes and wipes which have fragrances, dyes, or added chemicals—even if they say "pH balancing."  "Instead, use unscented hypoallergenic soap or plain water to wash the external genitalia," she says. A few soaps and washes that tick off her boxes, below. (Reminder: these are all safe for the outside of your vagina, aka, the vulva only. Don't put them inside you!)

Cetaphil, Gentle Cleansing Bar — $10.00

This cleansing bar is hypoallergenic and gently washes away dirt and sweat without using any parabens, sulfates, or harsh chemicals that could upset your vulva.

Dove, Sensitive Skin Hypoallergenic and Sulfate-Free Body Wash — $7.00

Dove’s sensitive skin body wash ticks all of Dr. Culwell’s boxes, including being hypoallergenic and skipping on any fragrances or weird chemicals that could throw off the body’s pH.

honey pot mommy to be
The Honey Pot, Mommy-To-Be Wash — $9.00

If you’re dead set on a wash, check out this pregnancy-safe one from The Honey Pot. It’s 100 percent natural and plant-based, free from any artificial anything and is gyno-approved from the brand’s in-house doctor.

Period care

Same goes for menstrual care. Dr. Culwell says to stick to pads, tampons, and other products that are unscented and free of any weird chemicals, dyes, pH-balancing powers, or more. We've previously reported on the big no-nos to look out for in tampons (think: rayon, chlorine, non-organic cotton). When you're shopping at Target, the more natural the product, the better. Some picks below.

Rael, Organic Cotton Regular Menstrual Fragrance Free Pads — $6.00

Rael pads are made from 100 percent organic cotton sourced from right here in Texas. There are no scents, no toxins, and no chemicals that could expose you to carcinogens—just the good stuff.

Tampax, Pure 100 Organic Tampons — $9.00

Tampax now makes organic cotton tampons that are free from any of the big no-nos you don’t want to put in your body. Plus, they’re packaged in a 90 percent plant-based plastic applicator that’s better for Mother Earth, too.

lunette menstrual cup
Lunette, Reusable Fragrance Free Menstrual Cup — $40.00

Same rules apply for menstrual cups: If you’re going to buy one, look for one that’s unscented, made from medical grade silicone, and doesn’t have any BPA or chemicals in the plastic.

OTC medicines

There are a number of over-the-counter meds you can buy to treat minor yeast infections and UTIs from Target, like Monistat and boric acid suppositories, but that doesn't mean you should. Dr. Culwell says you should be picky and talk to your doctor first: "Products containing boric acid should only be used under the direction of a healthcare provider as there are certain conditions, such as recurrent BV, that can benefit from boric acid treatment in the right dosage and duration," she says.

Same goes for Monistat, which can be used to successfully treat yeast infections—if you're positive that's what's wrong. "It's very common for people with vaginas to misdiagnose yeast infections, so if you have irritation and abnormal vaginal discharge and are not certain it is a yeast infection (or have tried the over the counter treatment and it didn't help) you should see your healthcare provide for further evaluation," says Dr. Culwell.

Your best bet? Asking your doctor directly about using any of the below.

Monistat, 7-Day Combination Pack — $14.00

As Dr. Cullwell said, Monistat products will work… if you’re 100 percent positive you have a yeast infection in the first place. If you’re not sure why things are burning, itching, or getting a little yeasty, a call to your doctor is your safest bet.

Up & Up, Miconazole Vaginal Antifungal Cream - 3-Day Treatment — $6.00

Fun fact: Miconazole is the same anti-fungal cream used in Monistat products, without the brand-name markup. If you want to save some cash, buy the generic version from Target, which is available in 1-day, 3-day, and 7-day treatments.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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