#Health & Fitness
8 Things You Didn’t Realize Are Hurting Your Vagina
by Hannah Marsh
Your vagina can be a beautiful, complicated, and delicate thing all at once. Be aware of these common practices that are actually harming your vaginal health.
There’s nothing we love more than coming home after a long day at work and relaxing with one of our favorite bath bombs and a glass of wine. But it turns out that some experts are saying that you might want to think twice before dropping one in the tub. Why, you ask?
Adina H. Keller, MD FACOG, Obstetrics and Gynecology at CareMount Medical told MORE, “Bath bombs are full of chemicals and fragrances that can be harmful to the vulva and vagina. These chemicals and fragrances can irritate the skin and the surface layer of the vagina and they can also change the pH balance of the vagina, putting women at a higher risk for infection, including being more susceptible to STI’s. You should listen to your body. If you feel irritated after using any bath products, you should stop using them immediately.”
Some women claim that vaginal douching (aka flushing out your vagina with water or other fluids) makes them feel cleaner and fresher down there. But experts warn against the practice.
“Many of these products can actually harm the vagina by causing inflammation and irritation. Products that change the pH balance of the vagina [such as douching] can also lead to more infections including sexually transmitted diseases,” Keller told MORE. “Women may feel they need to freshen up, but in general good hygiene, gentle washing with a non-fragrant soap, maintaining a healthy diet, avoidance of tight clothing, and the avoidance of mini pads can all help the vagina naturally maintain its pH balance. It is so important to see your gynecologist before trying any of these products because you may actually have an infection in many cases.”
Too Long In The Bathtub
If you’re prone to UTI’s and/or yeast infections, this one is especially for you. You know how you’re not supposed to hang out in a wet swimsuit all day? Chilling in the bathtub for too long follows the same train of thought. A warm bath sounds great, but it also can put your vagina in a prime condition to get a yeast infection. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, it can also allow e. coli bacteria that’s been hanging around your bum a straight shot toward your urinary tract.
We totally understand wanting to freshen things up down there after a particularly sweaty day (whether that’s from exercise or the bedroom is totally your business). However, using perfumed or scented soaps in your nether regions can throw off your normal, healthy pH levels (if you haven’t noticed, that balance is quite delicate).
“The vagina is perfectly capable of maintaining and cleaning itself without over the counter products. It is best to use gentle non-perfumed soaps to wash with and to avoid over scrubbing as that can injure the vulva and lead to infections,” Keller explained to MORE. So if you really want to give a little extra cleaning to your lady parts, opt for fragrance-free. (The same goes for scented tampons!)
Using A Tampon For Too Long
And speaking of tampons… This one is an important one. Not only can leaving your tampon in for too long cause a weird smell, but it also puts you at a higher risk for infection and Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). While TSS is rare, we’re going to assume you’d rather make an extra trip to the bathroom than the hopsital.
It’s never a great idea to put foreign things in your vagina—even if you found a great article that told you to put garlic oil or tea tree oil up there. Chat with your doctor before you try anything, or stick to over the counter medicines.
Wearing Underwear To Bed
Night time is a time to relax, and the same goes for your vagina. Take your panties off at night to let your lady parts breathe. This can lessen the chances of infection because it keeps it airy and dry and doesn’t let moisture build up.
Shaving/Waxing/Other Types Of Hair Removal
How you choose to groom yourself is totally up to you. However, just know that pubic hair is there for a reason, and if you choose to remove it, you are making your vaginal area all the more vulnerable.
“Pubic hair is important in maintaining body temperature in the vaginal region and also protecting the skin, so removing all of it may not be the best practice. Many women choose to shave or wax, but proper technique is important. Shaving with a fresh blade, going with the direction of the hair and when the skin is moist, in the shower ideally, is the best safeguard against skin irritation and inflammation of the hair follicles. Some women are prone to ingrown hairs or infection of the hair follicle, called folliculitis, and shaving or waxing can exacerbate those problems. If you wax, it is important to wash the wax off afterwards in the shower so it does not block or clog the hair follicles. If you are prone to inflamed hair follicles or ingrown hairs, you should see a dermatologist and consider laser hair removal or possibly topical antibacterial creams. If you choose to do laser hair removal, it is important to do it with a trained professional, ideally a dermatologist,” Keller told MORE.
And if waxing if your preferred choice of removal, be sure to look into the waxing salon before booking an appointment! You don’t want to run the risk of an unsanitary venue or a waxer who doesn’t know what he/she is doing. Yikes!
Wearing Too Tight Underwear/Wearing Skinny Jeans Everyday
No, we’re not saying throw out all of your cute, lacy thongs or favorite skinny jeans. But we are saying to make sure and alternate them with other options, like a cotton underwear or looser-fitting bottoms. If not, it can lead to yeast infections or pressure acne, and we promise you don’t want either of those. On top of that, be wary of daily panty liner pads, as they can also cause moisture build-up that can lead to infections.