By Emma Holmes
Vaginas are strange, beautiful, functional things. Unfortunately, though, they’re finicky, and are often subjected to unintentional abuse from everything from tight, high-riding pants to harsh body washes. Here’s a few things that you can do to make friends with your vagina and keep everything running smoothly.
Air it out
For all the hype about taking off bras, I think the real treat at the end of the day is ditching the underwear. Sleeping without bottoms on, either in loose pajamas or the nude, leaves your vagina to its own devices. This miraculous anatomy is great at regulating itself, and without the meddling daytime wedgies and cameltoes, you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to go.
Cultivate Your Microbiome
The vagina is home to Lactobacilli bacteria, which maintain a pH around 3.8-4.5. That’s right, vaginas are acidic, which is why sometimes you get bleach spots on your dark underwear. A higher pH (more basic) will spur more bacterial growth and lead to a bacterial vaginosis, while lower pH (more acidic) can harbor fungus and cause a yeast infection. Consider drinking probiotic kombucha or kefir, and eating fermented foods such as kimchi or yogurt. These substances encourage a healthy bacterial balance.
Ditch the Thongs
Thongs and other tight fitting clothing trap heat and moisture close to the labia. Because thongs also sit right up against the anus, bacteria can be transferred from there to the vagina and create itchy, burning infections including UTIs. One of the best things you can do for your vulva is to change clean, cotton underwear everyday. Healthy secretions can become dangerous if they accumulate on dirty, re-used underwear. (Ew, I know). Similarly, staying in wet swimwear or sweaty workout clothing past their purpose can be equally harmful. So, embroider the days of the week and do your laundry regularly to avoid discomfort. Save the thongs and silk panties for special occasions.
For simplicity, group all douches together: they’re not worth it. Douching capitalizes on a constructed idea— that your vagina should smell differently than it already does. This is not true. Your natural scent is an element of attraction, so if it’s not bothering you, then it’s not bothering them. Douching removes the friendly bacteria from your vagina and offsets the pH, leading to bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections.
While your body is absolutely your own, there are some health benefits to leaving your jungle wild, or at least not clear-cut. Routine pubic close shaving opens small, irritated cuts that invite infection and could even increase the risk of contracting STIs. Your pubic hair also acts as a natural barrier against foreign bacteria that would offset your pH, not to mention keep you warm and cozy. If you do shave, make sure to use a gentle, nonscented moisturizer on the skin around your labia, or consider trimming instead. Never use multipurpose lotions or creams, harsh soaps, or body washes on your genitals. pH balanced body washes and soaps on a clean, soft cotton washcloth are the best bet for routine maintenance.