If you pay really close attention to the comment section on this site, you'll notice that EIC Necole Kane will pop up from time to time. One of the last times that I personally saw her was when she was talking about how it tickles her—"tickle" is my word, not hers—how much we all like to talk about our vaginas. I think what tickles me is how many of our readers are like, "Hell yeah! We've all got one, sooo…whatcha got for us about 'em today, y'all?"
This week? It's all about habits. Not good habits—such as not douching and making sure to take a probiotic in order to prevent bacterial and fungal vaginal infections. Nah, I'm going to tackle some bad vaginal habits. Here's the catch, though. I'm willing to bet half of what I'll get paid for this piece that most of us are guilty of four-or-more of these. It's mostly because they're not the kind of things that we think about, let alone talk about, as much as we probably should. But hey, there's no time like the present.
So, before you do anything else to your va-jay-jay today, skim this over. Should you recognize yourself in any of the things on this list, it's time to make some changes. For the sake of your vagina's comfort and your health overall.
1. Vaginal Steaming
I'll be honest. Although I know that vaginal steaming is all the rage for a lot of folks, it's never been something that particularly interested me; especially with real-life stories like the woman who ended up with second-degree burns from doing it. While some women profess that it helps with menstrual cramps and can remove weird-smelling discharge, many medical professionals claim that there is no real proof that it works; not only that, but what they do say is vaginal steaming could be dangerous and totally counterproductive. Not just because of the potential for burns, but because the herbs and water combo could throw off your natural pH balance and lead to some sort of an infection.
I think the best way to put it is via the health site Healthline: "your vagina isn't meant to be steam-cleaned". It can't be said enough, how self-cleaning your vagina is. So, if you're doing some sort of vaginal steaming in order to "help your vagina along", it doesn't need it. Mother Nature has totally taken care of that.
2. Peeing Prior to Sex
If you want to reduce the risk of being diagnosed with a UTI, make sure that you urinate after not before doing-the-do. According to medical professionals, when we pee prior to coitus, it weakens our urine steam, making it harder to push bacteria out. Since bacteria basically has little hooks that like to attach to the lining of our vaginas (pretty gross, I know), the stronger our urine steam, the better. And it's stronger once we've climaxed, not before.
3. Ignoring Your Vagina’s pH Balance
A healthy vagina has an acidic balance of somewhere between 3.5-4.5. When that "count" is off, problems (like infections) ensue. That's why it's a good idea to be as proactive as possible when it comes to properly maintaining your pH.
You can do this by using a menstrual cup or disc because the silicone that it's made out of doesn't irritate your vagina; plus, cups and discs simply collect the blood without irritating your vaginal walls and lining (menstrual blood that flows into a tampon or out onto a pad can definitely throw your natural acidic balance off). You can also mess with your pH by having unprotected sex (semen's pH is 7.1 – 8, so a new partner can definitely disrupt what's going on down there) and/or using scented body products.
4. Washing with the Bougie Stuff
It really can't be said enough, y'all. Your vagina is self-cleaning. IT DOES NOT NEED YOUR HELP TO STAY CLEAN. If you ignore this and try to prove otherwise, all of that perfume-smelling stuff can also result in your vagina not feeling like its normal self.
Now, if you want to make your vulva feel fresher, something that I use is Pangea Wash; it's 100 percent natural and I've got absolutely no regrets. Or, you can go with one of the DIY washes that I wrote about a while back. But honestly, if you only used water down there, for the most part, you should be good.
It should go on record that if you're trying to find something that will mask an odor, that's a sign that you should go to the doctor not pile on some Summer's Eve. Although it's normal to have a bit of a natural scent, if it's super strong or offensive, that's a red flag that something is definitely up.
5. Not Drying “Her” After Showering
The skin on your vulva (which is the outer part of your vagina) is pretty fragile, so no one is saying to get out a towel and go to town with it. But if you're someone who tends to hop out of the shower and not at least pat "her" dry, you're leaving a lot of moisture down in your nether regions that can easily turn into a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria and germs. So yeah, dry her off. It's a little thing that can mean a lot in the days and weeks ahead.
6. Sleeping in Your Underwear
Hopefully, you already know that cotton (preferably organic cotton) really is the best thing for your vagina, as far as panties go. The reason why is because it's a fabric that gives your girl the ability to breathe. At the same token, whenever you wear lingerie-friendly fabrics like satin or nylon, because they are moisture-wicking and absorbent, moisture can collect and that can trigger infections down there too.
That said, even cotton panties need to be taken off sometimes; preferably at night. By going commando while you sleep, your vagina can "air out" and that can do wonders for its health and well-being.
7. Going the Cheap Toilet Paper Route
Is it just me or is even toilet paper getting mad expensive? Plus, you've gotta buy it in bigger bulks now (le sigh). I'm irritated but I've adjusted because Quilted Northern Ultra Plush is my jam! After checking out a list of the best toilet papers of 2019, it appears I am not alone.
And why does toilet paper matter when it comes to your vagina? It's because that cheap one-ply stuff can actually irritate it. So, if you want to pamper your vagina, just a bit, splurge and spend $5-7. You go to the bathroom every day, several times a day; it's worth it.
8. Using Dull Razors
If you're someone who uses a razor to keep everything nice and neat down there, here are some things to keep in mind. One, swap out razors every two weeks; that way, you won't end up using a dull blade that could cause irritation or spread bacteria. Two, exfoliate the area you want to shave first so that the hair will be easier to remove. Three, consider going with a male razor; the kind that they use on their face. The blades will give you a closer cut, plus they'll be gentler on your skin so that you won't get ingrown hairs and razor bumps.
9. Not Washing Your Undies Properly
This is one that a lot of us fail at—washing our panties right. If you're thinking, "How do you wash them wrong?", I'm soooo glad that you asked that. It's actually a good idea to wash them by hand with a gentle unscented fabric detergent. But if your schedule is super hectic and it's best to toss them into the washing machine, please remember these five things—sanitize your washing machine on a monthly basis (germs and bacteria do tend to store up in there); if you live with someone who is currently under the weather, wash your undies in a separate load (germs can spread that way as well); if you've currently got bacterial vaginosis, wash those panties separately from everything else (even your other underwear); tumble dry your undies on low for about 30 minutes (that helps to remove any remain bacteria), and budget to get some new ones around every six months or so. Even the best drawers aren't designed to last forever.
10. Foreplay Being Too Short
OK, so after reading my fair share of articles on foreplay (and then doing some unofficial polling of people that I know), the general consensus is women would like to have around 15 minutes of it before intercourse is even up for discussion. Whether you just read that and thought it was way too long or way too short, the main thing to keep in mind is this—if you aren't wet enough down there, wait before penetration to get to that point. There is nothing more uncomfortable than intercourse when you're dry. Plus, the more "lubed up" you are, the less friction and irritation your vagina will have to go through.
11. Eating the Wrong Foods
Your vagina will tell on you if you're not eating the right foods. How will it do that? For starters, yeast thrives off of sugar, processed foods and cheese, so if you're eating a ton of these, you're practically begging to get a yeast infection. Fried food isn't the best either because its fat content can alter your pH balance and increase the risk of you being diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis.
And while caffeine and alcohol aren't "wrong" per se, they along with onion, garlic, spices, red meat and asparagus, can affect the smell of your vagina. Something to keep in mind if you're planning a romantic dinner for you and your partner in the near future.
12. Staying in Workout Clothes Too Long
If you and your workout buddies like to get a smoothie or a salad right after leaving the gym, please make sure that you shower and change first. Workout clothing like yoga pants aren't made out of the most "breathable" fabric and when you're all hot and sweaty, the natural yeast and bacteria that's in your vagina can start to thrive and multiply.
Not to say that it's an automatic that staying in your exercise gear will make things itchy and irritable for you, but if you want to significantly decrease your chances of that happening, getting out of those wet clothes, taking a shower and then putting on some cotton drawers and something that isn't super tight below will help to make that happen.
13. Not Cleaning Sex Toys
Guess how many people own a sex toy of some sort? Drum roll…three out of four people reportedly own a dildo (the next favorite toy among Americans is a vibrator). That's certainly enough individuals to make this worth mentioning.
If you use a sex toy, you've got some sort of infection and you don't wash it before your next use, it is possible that the microorganisms will linger and you could reintroduce yourself to the infection all over again (same goes for your partner). That's why it's imperative that you wash them, thoroughly, after each and every use. Not just underneath a faucet of tepid water either. Self broke down how you can do it properly here.
14. Wearing Pantyliners Too Much
If you have a heavy amount of discharge (by the way, it's only "abnormal" if the texture, amount or smell is different from what you are used to) and you wear pantyliners to "protect" your panties, that's cool (a list of the most popular right now is here and a list of organic ones is here). But if you wear them for more than 10 hours, they can also trap in moisture that can result in an infection. So, as a rule of thumb, when you get home and take off your bra, try and make it a point to remove your pantyliner too. Your vagina needs the break.
15. Being Unprotected
Remember how I mentioned earlier that it's important to have protected sex? Yes, to protect yourself from STDs and an unplanned pregnancy but again, semen can throw your pH balance way off. If you don't want to risk that, condoms are your best bet.
It's not like condoms are anyone's favorite thing in the world, but technology is getting better by the day. Vegan condoms are an actual thing. Or, if you want to check out a pretty comprehensive list based on size and personal preference, there's one here and here.
16. Diagnosing Vaginal Health Issues via Google (or Any Search Engine)
I have a natural fungal sensitivity. This means that if I'm not careful, tinea versicolor will pop up and so will a yeast infection. Before I had experienced either one of these before, when some "abnormal" symptoms started to appear, the researcher in me was like, "No problem. I'll just Google what's going on." Although once I did go to the doctor, my diagnosis was correct, the way I went about treating both issues was all wrong.
Your health is important. In many ways, it's pretty fragile too. See your medical professional for an annual check-up and, if something isn't right, including when it comes to your vagina, let them tell you what's up and what you should do about it. Otherwise, self-diagnosing could end up doing more harm than good in the long run. Trust me, I would know.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Feature image by Giphy
Originally published September 4, 2019
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
ComplexCon, the annual event that brings together the hottest artists, designers, and tastemakers, is back this year with an all-star lineup and a strong focus on environmental sustainability. This highly anticipated event is not only a celebration of culture but also a platform to promote sustainable practices that are crucial for the long-term growth and development of our economy. The brand also makes a note to include conversations surrounding art, music, fashion, and other facets of the entertainment industry that help push the culture forward. Not to mention huge brand collaborations between art, designers, and celebrities.
One of the key highlights of ComplexCon was “The Marathon Clothing” store activation. Ermias Joseph Asghedom, commonly known as Nipsey Hussle, was a pillar to his community in Los Angeles. The rapper, activist, and entrepreneur created “The Marathon Clothing” store located in South Central LA on Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue, and it has been around since 2017. Subsequently, he was fatally shot in front of his store two years later. His girlfriend at the time, Lauren London, was seen at the ComplexCon activation. The actress has been vocal about how hard the passing of her beloved partner Nipsey was and how it has shifted her life. “My loyalty and devotion is to you”, she said, reciting a text message she sent him while he was asleep. She shared this message at Nipsey's funeral, holding back tears. It was an absolute pleasure seeing her smile and continue to support the “love of her life” and commemorate his memory.
We got a chance to speak to some influencers and stars about their ComplexCon experience and what “culture” meant to them. Those among many who joined the conversation included the cast of Netflix’s hit show Love is Blind. Newlywed Brent Brown, a prominent figure in the fashion industry, emphasizes the importance of embracing differences and bringing people from diverse backgrounds together. He states, "It's like a constant thing that can bring people from all over different backgrounds together. This feels like the epicenter of Culture."
Marshall Glaze, a strong advocate for street culture, believes that there is no better culture than street culture. This mindset reflects the power of authenticity and staying true to oneself. Kwame Appiah, another influential figure, sees culture as a reflection of one's internal state. He finds it beautiful to witness the self-expression and creativity at ComplexCon, stating, "It's like bringing Ghana with me."
Photo courtesy of Complex
Luka Sabbat, a renowned fashion influencer, actor, and model, believes that culture is whatever people make it. He lives in his own world and does not conform to societal norms. This individualistic approach showcases the diversity and uniqueness of the cultural landscape at ComplexCon. He was there exhibiting a recreation of the living room from his hotel room in the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles.
Sustainable brands like Murd333r.FM, owned by Tate M. and Bloody Osiris, are actively participating in ComplexCon once again. They prioritize sustainability by reusing old pieces and working with a women-owned operation in Turkey. Tate explains, "We source these hoodies from Turkey, it's 100% organic Turkish cotton. We don't source our stuff from China, it's all coming from Turkey and other places that have sustainable systems in place and pay a living wage." This commitment to sustainability is evident even in their pricing strategy, as they cap their prices at $333 to ensure affordability for consumers and to provide brand consistency.
ComplexCon is not just about fashion and sneakers (though anybody who knows anything about sneakers and fashion was in the building) but also a hub for art and food culture. The event showcases an array of creative and innovative artwork and installations, including cover artist Nicky Chulo, and exhibits that cater to the diverse interests of attendees. From eye-catching paintings and sculptures to interactive digital installations, ComplexCon aims to provide a platform for art that pushes boundaries and sparks conversations.
When it comes to food, ComplexCon offers a unique culinary experience by inviting some of the most sought-after eateries and food vendors. From trendy food trucks to famous restaurants, attendees can indulge in a wide variety of cuisines, ranging from gourmet burgers and tacos to exotic fusion dishes. One food highlight was Hot One's collaboration with Hot Pocket, debuting four new incredible spicy flavors. Hot Ones is a talk show hosted by Sean Evans, produced by First We Feast, and Complex Media, created by Chris Schonberger. Hot Pockets is a cultural classic.
Photo courtesy of Complex
Additionally, ComplexCon has become known for its brand collaborations, particularly between designers and celebrity guests. This year, renowned artists and musicians like Chris Brown and Jim Jones joined forces with notable fashion brands to create limited-edition collections exclusively available at the event. Chris Brown with The Auracles, and after 20 years, Dipset reunited with B.B. Simon. These collaborations not only demonstrate the intersection of fashion and music but also give fans and attendees the opportunity to own one-of-a-kind pieces that combine the artistic visions of their favorite celebrities and designers.
ComplexCon is not just about celebrating culture and sustainability; it also serves as a platform for influential voices to share their messages. T.I., a highly respected Grammy-nominated rapper, emphasizes the importance of authenticity and sharing one's lifestyle organically. He states, "Being authentic to how you live and sharing that lifestyle, that mindset, that perspective with others organically. Sharing it by being the example of how you live your life." T.I. has made groundbreaking moves in the music and entertainment industry and he's currently promoting his new independent film Da’Partments, which stars himself, Lil Duvall, DC Young Fly, and his son King Harris.
In a lighthearted conversation between Funny Marco and Speedy Morman, the importance of not chasing money is highlighted. Funny Marco shares the valuable lesson he learned from his former manager, Ray, stating, "Do not chase money." He believes that true success lies in waking up every day and doing what you love, rather than focusing on material possessions. He gave himself flowers during the interview but also gave fans a hint that he might be changing his name from Funny Marco to his real name Marco Summers, but he has to earn that right.
Many of your favorite celebrities were simply walking around buying and ingesting the environment, like Luh Tyler, Xzibit, YG, Swaggy P, Russell Westbrook, who was spotted with his son, social media star La’Ron Hines, Kid Cudi, who headline Sunday night, and millennial childhood favorite Barney, made an appearance.
As ComplexCon continues to grow and evolve, it remains a symbol of cultural expression, sustainability, and economic growth. Speedy Morman expresses his excitement about being a part of ComplexCon, stating, "Feels incredible, happy to be here, dream come true." He envisions an even brighter future for the event, saying, "ComplexCon 2023... movie. And if you're not here this year, come next year. It will be even more lit."
Speedy has had some of the most entertaining and informative interviews in the last few years, including his recent sit-down with Rick Ross and Meek Mill. And who can forget his hilarious moment with Ray J and his Raycon glasses? Speedy Morman is one of the voices pushing the culture as it stands and one of Complex’s star players.
In conclusion, ComplexCon 2023 promises to be a cultural phenomenon that merges art, design, sustainability, and star power. This event serves as a testament to the importance of embracing diversity, staying true to oneself, and prioritizing sustainability. By doing so, we can create a brighter future for our economy, environment, and quality of life.
Feature image courtesy of Complex