It seems like every day I get pitched on a new line of “beauty products” designed to make women’s lady parts the cleanest, freshest and prettiest they’ve ever been. And although this personal care category is majorly trending, I couldn’t help but think, are all of these products really necessary? And, do they potentially pose a threat to the health of your vagina if they’re overused or not used properly?
The thing is, we’re not just seeing downstairs-friendly body washes anymore—there’s a whole new world of products including moisturizer, exfoliator, wipes, serum, oil, mist, and even luminizer. Yes, you read that right. So needless to say, women are being flooded with options, but they may not have all the facts. To get to the bottom of things, I turned to two top Ob/GYNs for the real deal on what should and shouldn’t be applied to your “V.”
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According to Ob/GYN Barb Depree, MD, the pH of your vagina plays a critical role in its health, and a normal vagina should be acidic. “Multitudes of bacteria belong there and that is completely normal and expected. The bacteria are in a fine balance, with lactobacillus being dominant. But, there are times when the pH can be disrupted, causing a shift in the normal bacterial balance, which can lead to a vaginal discharge, infection, odor, or irritation. Using vaginal products can be the disruption causing these problems.”
So is warm water and a gentle body wash all we truly need to stay clean and fresh? “The skin of our sensitive parts below is not really getting dirty (in most instances), but rather sweaty,” says Ob/GYN Mache Seibel, MD. “And, if you’re wearing tight or occlusive clothing, it can develop an odor just like other parts of the skin. While water alone is typically enough, a mild soap should not cause a problem unless you have an allergy to the product.” Dr. Depree adds, “The vagina has the ability to ‘self-clean’—it really it does. This is one area for a woman that is truly low-maintenance. This is an area where the ‘less is best’ rule applies—just a mild soap, or better yet, no soap at all, and clear water with gentle rubbing (no scrubbing!) of the area.”
Whether you’ve tried these new V-specific washes and prefer them over traditional cleansing methods, or you’re intrigued and want to give them a go for the first time, both doctors advise making sure there is no alcohol in the formulas you choose, as it can be very harsh and drying to the skin, which can lead to an infection. “Fragrances and dyes can also cause allergies,” says Dr. Seibel. “Look at the ingredients. Don’t put anything down there you wouldn’t put on your face.” However, if an infection does occur, Dr. Depree says correcting your vagina’s pH is often the best solution. “Using RepHresh can restore that acidic pH and allow all of those ‘good’ bacteria to get back in order.”
Brands like The Honey Pot, The Perfect V and Lo Bosworth’s line Love Wellness have jumped on the feminine care bandwagon, but with the promise of chemical-free formulas that are gyno-approved and don’t mess with your pH levels—The Honey Pot is even fragrance-free, too. However, if you’re going to give these products a try, start slow (don’t use them every day at first), so you can be sure they don’t cause any irritation.
The bottom line, as Dr. Seibel puts it: “Nature has taken pretty good care of our bodies for a very long time. Most of the baths and showers we take are to get rid of surface dirt and some odor and to refresh us. Many of the products available for women’s feminine parts don’t, in my opinion, serve a very strong purpose. Use it if you feel it helps you, but as little as you can.”