If your vagina were a song, she’d be Destiny’s Child “Independent Women, Part 1” – she can take care of herself.
There are dozens of “intimate hygiene” deodorant sprays, powders, washes, douches, suppositories and cleansing wipes on the market, but doctors say it’s not necessary to deodorise or douche at all – and it can actually be bad for you. Here are four common moves that can go very, very wrong.
1. Stay far away from steaming
FYI your vagina isn’t a carpet – you shouldn’t be steam cleaning it. While celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow sing its praises, Dr. Raquel Dardik, clinical associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center’s department of obstetrics and gynaecology, has a slightly different opinion. “Steaming would be a definite no because you would burn your vagina,” she says.
2. Self-medicating is a no-no
Those over-the-counter vaginal creams or suppositories for yeast infections have their place; this is about the more DIY approach people sometimes try. “You should never try to self-medicate with homemade remedies like garlic or tea tree oil,” says Dardik. At the very least, they won’t make a dent in your misery. At the very worst? Well, it’s not pretty. “I’ve seen chemical burns from some of these Internet suggestions, and a chemical burn inside of your vagina is not something I’d wish on anyone,” says Dardik.
3. Inserting UFOs (unsanitary foreign objects)
You already know what’s allowed to go into your vagina: tampons, fingers, sex toys, a penis, lube, birth control, menstrual cups – and that’s about it. Give everything else the Monty Python treatment: None shall pass. “Essentially, it comes down to common sense and personal habits. Sex toys, diaphragms, menstrual cups should all be cleaned and washed in-between uses,” says Dr. Constance Young, assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center’s department of obstetrics and gynaecology. Everything else—cucumbers, bananas, that phallic-looking device in your kitchen—should stay far, far away from your lady parts. Even if you sanitise the hell out of them, their textures alone can cause some serious irritation.
4. Douching or ‘perfuming’
Pretty sure you know this already, but just in case: Your downstairs isn’t supposed to smell like a tropical breeze. “You vagina is like a self-cleaning oven, the vagina and vulva maintain themselves,” says Dr. Gunter. “If you over-cleanse the skin on the vulva, you may strip the natural oils, and your body may compensate by making more.” This means the area can become more fragrant, not less.
Worse than that: douching, in particular, can disrupt the balance of healthy bacteria in your body and put you at risk for vaginal infection. Mists or wipes might also cause an allergic reaction.
Lessen the risk
– A vagina should smell like a vagina, but a strong odour may be a sign of an infection. See a doctor.
– If you want to wash the area, avoid wipes (they leave behind a chemical residue) and cleanse with an unscented, mild soap.
– The consensus among doctors is that douching is best avoided.