Gyno report: It’s OK just to let your V be
Don’t fret about down there – we’ve got the lowdown on all your queries
YOU MIGHT ASSUME THAT ANYONE under age 40 is more likely to call someone a douche than to use one. But you’d be wrong. Recent data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 1 in 5 women* aged 15 to 44 use vaginal douches. Reasons include wanting ‘to be clean/fresh’ (84 per cent), ‘to prepare for sex’ (54 per cent), and ‘to clean up after sex’ (70 per cent), according to a new study.
Unfortunately, one hundred per cent of these people have underestimated the innate power of their lady parts. The vagina doesn’t need scrubbing, polishing, or rinsing hacks. It doesn’t require diluted ammonia, lime juice, body soap, or any of the other surprising products women told researchers that they squirt ‘up there’ to stay fastidious. Vaginas, magical organs that they are, are born with incredible selfcleaning abilities. They don’t need your help.
In fact, trying to tidy up your vag isn’t just a waste of time and money, it could also be harmful
to your health.** That’s because cleansing of any kind can wreak havoc on the delicate internal structure, leaving you vulnerable to infections or worse. Allow us to explain...
Meet your microbiome
You’ve probably already heard of the gut microbiome, that accumulation of intestinal bacteria that is increasingly being linked to everything from your mood to acne. Turns out, the vagina has a microbiome too – and it’s also a key player in your overall wellness.
In a healthy vaginal microbiome, the Lactobacillus bacteria strain reigns supreme, producing lactic acid that keeps your vaginal pH level slightly acidic. That, in turn, makes the entire area less hospitable to organisms that cause odour, irritation, itching and infections, says obgyn Leah Millheiser. Cases in point: Research shows that women with thriving vaginal Lactobacillus are less likely to contract HIV than those who are missing a bunch of the bacteria. They’re also able to kick human papillomavirus (HPV) infections much faster.
What wipes out Lactobacillus and other beneficial strains? You guessed it – soap, douching solutions, and quirky home remedies like lime juice. All these disrupt your vagina’s fragile pH balance, making good bacteria feel less at home and leaving the door open for destructive germs to take over, says obgyn Caroline Mitchell.
Ironically, women who douche often are five times as likely to develop bacterial vaginosis,*** or BV, a smelly, painful condition that affects nearly one in three young women. It’s the most common vaginal infection in those of childbearing age,* according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Bacterial vaginosis can up your odds for pelvicinflammatory disease, a reproductive tract infection that may cause fever, pain during sex, and bleeding between periods. If left untreated, it can even damage fertility.)
Other microbiome bombs include antibiotics (they wipe out good bacteria along with the bad and encourage vaginal yeast to multiply) and lubes made with parabens (the preservatives that prevent contamination before you open the bottle may also kill helpful bacteria inside you). Unwashed sex toys or a penis that hasn’t been cleaned after anal sex can also sabotage your Vzone’s microbiome, says Dr Millheiser. Oh, and inserting any food into your vag is a nono – that whipped cream bikini is hot... until some gets inside you and wrecks your pH balance.
Leave her alone
Seriously, in almost all cases, your vagina is already cleaning itself (even as you read this!).
‘Just leave it alone,’ confirms Dr Millheiser. ‘It’s perfectly capable of getting the job done.’
If you insist on lending a helping hand, try sleeping in cotton underwear or going commando at night. This helps stop moistureloving bad bacteria from infiltrating the vagina and crippling its healthy microbiome. Snacking on probioticrich dairy products like kefir and yoghurt may also support a strong pH balance, which is especially helpful if you’re taking antibiotics. And go easy on your vulva – i.e., your outer genitals. All you need to wash it is plain warm water. If you must, a gentle, fragrancefree soap is OK, says Dr Millheiser. And that’s it.
DON’T DULL YOUR SPARKLE BY OVERSANITISING