Feminine hygiene is such a taboo topic that most women feel uncomfortable when the subject arises. Society taught us to keep menstrual talk to a minimum and purchase feminine products discreetly. Even the 15 million dollar feminine wellness industry thrives by marketing on the insecurities of women (read more). They are unconsciously feeding a wrong impression of the female genitalia, implicating that it is a smelly and dirty organ.
Mainstream media’s marketing manipulation had gone on for too long. They had us believe that we always need to feel “fresh” and smell like roses down there. They shoved different products to our faces, such as internal glitter bombs and herbal potion steams, with the promise of cleansing, moisturizing, and keeping our genitals odor-free. However, researches proved that these scented, glittery hygiene products could be the demise of our healthy vagina.
Understanding the Vaginal Health
The vagina is a tube-like muscle organ that starts from the vulva (entrance to the vagina) and ends at the cervix. It plays an important role in several systems of our body, especially the reproductive one. Maintaining good health and proper hygiene is of the utmost importance. It prevents you from acquiring infections and other discomforts that might affect other parts of your reproductive system.
Designed as a self-cleaning organ, the vagina takes care of itself by discharging natural secretions to keep the pH and bacterial balance in the genital area. Taking care of your general health already means that your feminine area is a healthy place. Contrary to popular belief, you only need a healthy diet and regular exercise to ensure good vaginal and vulvar health.
Good Hygiene Practices
Why are there no scrotal or rectal freshening products for men? The patriarchal system made women feel like they need to invest in perfumed soaps and do extensive washing to keep the freshness down there. However, this problematic notion will not only rob us of our money but also our health. So, here are scientific-based hygiene practices to take care of our genital area.
1. Washing and cleaning
Naturally, the vagina contains a harmonious group of bacteria that lives peacefully when maintained in equal proportions. These good bacteria are responsible for maintaining the pH of the area and protecting it from pathogenic microorganisms. Scented products and those that contain harmful chemicals disrupt the good bacteria and pH, causing the onset of vaginal irritation or infection.
To avoid this, clean your genital area the way you clean any other body parts. Water and mild soap (don’t scrub too hard) would suffice. Certain products such as Goodwipes pH balanced vaginal wipes, mild and unscented wash, and an emollient are safe to use.
2. Menstrual care
Monthly periods are the bane of our existence. It leaves us feeling icky and uncomfortable. As a result, we tend to over wash and douche the area, hoping to achieve that clean feeling. However, douching is also a big no-no in the vaginal care book. It actually disrupts the bacteria, and sometimes pushes some of it inside our system, causing a reproductive problem called pelvic inflammatory disease.
During menstruation, you should stick to the normal routine of washing and cleaning with mild soap. Choose unscented sanitary pads and tampons and avoid leaving it for too long. Change it every four hours or when you feel like it is already full.
3. Practice safe sex
Protect your overall health by using condoms when engaging in any kind of sexual intercourse. This protects you from contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis. Also, choose condom and lubrication that suits your genital area. Go for water-based products that do not contain any chemicals that may unsettle your balanced pH.
If you are going to wipe, then do it front to back. The rectum area contains a very different set of bacteria that causes infection if they wind up in the wrong canal. Also, it goes without saying that double dipping is not advisable. Although a change of condoms is possible, the two canals are very close to each other, thus easier for foreign bacteria to get transported to the vaginal area.
4. Visit your gynecologist
Regular check-ups with your gyno are necessary even if you are not experiencing any abnormalities in your genital area. According to Harvard Health (https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/do-you-need-to-see-your-gynecologist-every-year), annual or monthly visits to our gyno allow early detection of female reproductive health conditions such as cervical cancer and STDs.