Are Vaginas Really Self-Cleaning? - Women's Health

Are Vaginas Really Self-Cleaning?

Feminine wash, douches, soap or just warm water and some vaginal faith. Is there a right – and wrong – approach?

Image: Instagram/@zhonglin_

The debate seems to be raging about whether we should or should not be washing our vaginas.   Today, while many of us are following strict beauty routines, we are still confused about how we should be taking care of our lady bits. 

Is there a right – and wrong – approach?

We decided to talk to Kolorex, the vaginal health care brand, that have launched a campaign to #loveyourladybits.   

Chloe Chivers, Kolorex in-house women’s health expert and naturopath talks to us about just what we should be putting on or near our vaginas.  

So, let’s split fact from fiction and help you understand your vagina, take control of your vaginal health – and feel comfortable in your own body.

Let’s talk about vaginas and vulvas 

Less than half of women can identify their lady bits. So you’re not alone if you struggle with that. 

We’ve grown up calling our whole lady bits the vagina. Vagina is often used as a catch-all term for women’s genitals.

But before we can start to care for our lady bits, we need to settle the vagina vs vulva confusion once and for all. There is in fact a wonderful complex system going on down there.

The vulva is our genital’s exterior, and it includes the labia, clitoris, vaginal opening and urethra opening.

The vagina, on the other hand, is a muscular tube that joins the cervix and the vaginal opening.

What to clean  – vulva or vagina?

We get it – at times you really feel you need to be washing down there.  Maybe after exercise, or during your period, you may feel your vagina needs a little extra freshen up.  

Sweating helps our body detox and cool. And yes! Our genitals sweat too. In fact, our vulvas house a high concentration of sweat glands.

Naturally, an active day can bring on and itch and perhaps a little odour. But nothing a good shower won’t wash away.  

While all hygiene practices are personal and you need to choose if they’re right for you, you may decide to wash your vulva – just like you would other parts of your skin.

But the skin of the vulva is extra sensitive and delicate, so we have to pay it a little more attention.   Just like our facial routine we need to choose the products we use down there carefully. 

Using just any normal soap or bodywash can cause havoc with this sensitive skin, often these are high in alkaline, which can affect your skin’s acidic shield, causing irritation to your vulva as well as dryness. 

A little tip: Keep some pubic hair down there – it helps to draw moisture away from the skin. And prevent any unwanted irritation. 

How to wash your vulva

Keep it simple and natural for you.

You don’t need any complicated routines here.   

If you’re feeling your lady bits need a refresher, all you need is warm water and a gentle, natural pH-balanced vaginal or feminine wash. Wash your vulva front to back with your hands, then pat dry with a clean towel. 

A pH balanced wash is important as it will help to maintain that special eco-system we have down there.   If it becomes disrupted and that sensitive skin gets out of balance it can cause other issues like thrush or other skin conditions 

Most thrush is caused by an overgrowth of the fungus, Candida albicans.  And while Candida is naturally found in the gut, vagina, and vulva it’s an opportunistic fungus and can take over if given half a chance.  

If this happens, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Almost 75% of women develop thrush at least once in their lifetime.  Thrush is super treatable with a tablet or cream so if your vulva is constantly itching or you are suffering discomfort it’s important to talk to your doctor.  

But what about cleaning your vagina? 

Does that muscular tube inside us need cleaning?

Our vaginal flora maintains a delicate acidic pH balance (like a tomato!) that naturally deters infections.

Douching – or any other form of internal cleaning – only upsets the balance and can potentially disrupt your vagina’s self-cleaning ability, causing irritation. 

Instead, trust your vagina to clean itself.

Yes, that’s right, vaginas self-clean.  

You know that stain on your undies? That’s your vagina’s cleansing ritual.

Coping with vaginal discharge 

Vaginal discharge, together with friendly bacteria, help remove blood, semen, and old cells from the body and it varies from day to day and throughout the month.  

As you move through your ovulation cycle, you will experience normal changes in your discharge.

It can vary in appearance, texture and volume throughout your cycle. Some days it will be runny and milky, while other days it might be dry. 

Every woman is different, so keep track of what’s normal for you.

If your delicate vaginal flora becomes out of balance or becomes infected, you will notice a stark change in your discharge.

A yellow, grey or green discolouration, a change in consistency or an unpleasant odour can indicate something’s wrong.

In a recent survey carried out by Kolorex on 819 women who have suffered from thrush 1 in 3 women didn’t feel comfortable talking to their GP about it.  

But we wouldn’t feel embarrassed by a throat infection. So why should a vaginal infection be any different?

Seek medical advice as soon as something looks or feel abnormal. Especially if there’s itchiness, burning or irritation.

Ultimately, vaginal health is just as important as any other kind of health. And there’s nothing wrong with being practical about it. 

So treat your body with the kindness and respect it deserves, and never hesitate to get the support it needs.

But you can be proactive – not reactive 

Just like any other part of our body you can practise daily wellness habits, you can keep vaginal health in tip top order:

  1. Clean clothes equals a fresh vagina

We know it’s tempting to lounge around in your damp post-workout clothes.

Especially when your muscles are feeling tender.

But wet swimsuits or sweaty gym clothes are a breeding ground for fungal growth. So if you can, change out of them right away.

  1. Wear breathable undies

After rigorous daily activities, synthetic underwear is restricting – creating extra humidity and stickiness.

So pick up a pack of cotton and bamboo fibre undies instead.

The natural fibres will allow your vagina to breathe and absorb excess sweat.

  1. The secret behind wiping

It sounds super simple, but we often dismiss the proper wiping technique.

Our vulva, urethra and anus are tightly nestled in to one small area.

And wiping back to front can easily introduce anal germs into your vagina – which can cause infection.

Remember: always wipe front to back.

  1. Say no to douches 

Our vagina maintains a delicate pH balanced flora.

And douching or perfuming your lady bits can disrupt their balance – leaving you vulnerable to irritation.

Instead, embrace your vagina’s natural musky odour. And trust her to self-clean.

  1. Supplement your vagina

Looking to support your lady bits?

Consider using a probiotic or supplement with a herb called Horopito, both are great at supporting vaginal health.  You can also find Horopito in feminine washes and creams too.   

Understanding you 

Whether you decide to wash or not is a personal choice but what’s important is that we are giving our vaginas (and vulvas) the care they so rightly deserve. 

Embrace and familiarise yourself with your lady part’s and get know what’s normal for you, your unique discharge and odour.

To join the conversation about demystifying women’s health and wellness, follow Kolorex on Facebook or Instagram or find out more about vaginal health at www.kolorex.com.au.

By Nikolina Ilic

Nikolina is the web-obsessed Digital Editor at Men's and Women's Health, responsible for all things social media and .com. A lover of boxing, she spends most of the time in the gym or with her husband and daughter. She was previously a Digital Editor at GQ and Vogue magazine.

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