Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Sure, you know to brush your teeth, floss, and maybe even use a water pick for good oral hygiene. And you make sure to wear UV-blocking clothes and sunscreen to protect your skin. But do you know what you can (and shouldn’t) do on a daily basis to ensure the healthy maintenance of your all-important vulva (the external sex organs) and vagina?
Continue reading below for vaginal care tips to maintain a healthy vagina.
Vaginal care 101: 8 Do’s and 8 Don’ts to avoid and address vaginal irritation
There are some basic steps you can take to take care of your vulva and vagina to avoid irritation and infection and to find comfort when issues do arise. Here are some tips from the American College of Nurse-Midwives (1), Cleveland Clinic (2, 3), and Mayo Clinic (4).
8 Things to Do:
- Use only your hands to wash your vaginal area.
- Use unscented soaps and laundry detergents and be careful about bubble baths, bath salts, and oils—avoid these if they become irritants.
- Wear loose-fitting, 100% cotton underwear.
- Wash new underwear before wearing them for the first time.
- Keep yourself uncovered (go commando) at night if dealing with irritation, as airing out can be helpful.
- Wash up with a lukewarm or warm bath, or try a sitz bath if you’re experiencing irritation.
- Use soft toilet paper without any dyes.
- Remember that some forms of contraception (like foam, film, creams, and sponges as well as condoms, diaphragms, and spermicide) can cause pain or itching, in which case you should speak with your doctor.
8 Things NOT to Do:
- Use washcloths or other bath accessories like loofahs for washing your vagina.
- Use personal hygiene products with fragrances like baby wipes, douches, sprays, or perfumes, which may cause discomfort and irritation.
- Use panty liners or pads that are scented or say they retain moisture.
- Leave tampons in for long periods of time to avoid toxic shock syndrome. It’s best to change every eight hours (5).
- Wear thongs, girdles, pantyhose, or underwear made of nylon or other manufactured materials, which can trap heat and moisture.
- Hang around in a wet swimsuit or damp exercise clothing for an extended amount of time.
- Give into the urge—even though it may be tempting—to scratch when you feel an itch. More likely than not, doing so could make any irritation even worse.
- Forget to clean sex toys after each time you use them.
Warning signs of vaginal issues: When to see a doctor
Make sure to speak with a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms as they may be signs of vaginal health issues:
- A change in your vaginal discharge, either the color, amount, or smell
- Vaginal itching or redness
- Bleeding between periods, after sex, or after menopause
- A vaginal mass or protrusion
- Pain during sex or going to the bathroom
There also vaginal health tests that you take at home, but be sure to consult a doctor first.