Whew. It's already March and I'm assuming that a lot of you are asking the same question about 2021 that I am—where is the time going? Since the 20th of this month marks the official beginning of spring, I thought I would do a few articles surrounding spring cleaning. As you can tell by the title, this one is gonna be about spring cleaning your vagina.
I know. It might sound a little funny at first but trust me when I say that it's absolutely not clickbait. While I'm hoping that cleaning your vulva (you don't need to clean your actual vagina because it's self-cleaning) is a regular occurrence, what this is about to explore are ways that you can get to the baseboards of that area, so to speak. Like, you know how when you spring clean your house, you clean the baseboards? This is going to offer up 10 ways to give your vagina some extra special attention as you head into warmer weather and maybe even some "spring fever" opportunities. #wink
1. Up Your Vitamin C Intake
When it comes to what you can actually take in order to obtain vaginal health, probiotics are typically what come up the most often. They provide your body with more "good bacteria" so that the bad bacteria doesn't eventually lead to something like a yeast infection. Well, if there is a second place of things to consume to keep your vagina on the up and up, I think Vitamin C is the way to go. Not only is it loaded with antioxidants that can help to strengthen your immune system and keep free radicals at bay, Vitamin C has the ability to increase the acidity of your vagina so that harmful bacteria is not able to thrive. You can get this particular nutrient into your system by taking a supplement or you can eat foods like berries, peppers, broccoli, potatoes and citrus fruit to get a good dose of it into your system.
2. Take Some Chaste Tree Berry
If you've never heard of this particular herb before, don't feel bad. I do my best to share certain ones that don't come up in normal conversation because many have some really impressive health benefits. The awesome thing about Chaste Tree Berry is it can actually increase progesterone levels in your body. What's cool about that is the end result can lead to more regulated (and less heavy) periods, less PMS, a decrease in menopausal-related symptoms and, it can even help to increase your fertility levels (if you're trying to conceive) too.
That said, do keep in mind that herbs aren't candy. Some are quite potent. So, if this is something that you want to add to your regular diet, run it by your doctor first. Just make sure to avoid using chaste tree bark if you're pregnant. Also, it's important to keep in mind that it could take anywhere from 3-6 months before you start seeing some significant results.
3. Get Some New Cotton Undies
Tell the truth, shame the devil. When's the last time you bought some new underwear? If it was this time last year, that's close to being ridiculous because we're actually supposed to cop new pairs every 6-12 months. When you think about the discharge, period blood and even tiny bits of fecal matter that panties collect over time, you should want to get some fresh ones, anyway. As far as which ones, fabric-wise, are best for your vagina's overall health and well-being, breathable fabrics (like organic cotton) are the lick. As far as the kind/cut that you should go with, a lot of that is totally up to you. Just make sure to keep in mind that thongs can irritate your va-jay-jay and also trigger an infection over time and sometimes boy shorts are too much fabric. Bikini cut and hipsters are a happy medium. Please get the right size, though, because there is no point in having a breathable fabric if your panties are tight AF.
4. Balance Your pH Level
As far as spring cleaning goes, one of the best things that you can do for your vagina is make sure that its pH balance is right where it should be. For the record, a healthy vagina is supposed to be somewhat acidic and hovering somewhere around 3.8 and 4.5. The reason why it needs to be acidic is because that's what helps to keep the bacteria from turning into some sort of overgrowth. And what are the signs that your vagina is way more alkaline than it needs to be? If there's a dramatic change in color, texture or smell, those are dead giveaways.
One way to know for sure (if you don't have the money or time to see your doctor) is to take an at-home pH test. If it is a little "off", try taking a probiotic supplement, eating more fermented (like pickles and yogurt) and sulfur-based (like garlic and onions) foods, eat less sugar and lower your stress levels. If nothing improves in about a week, make an appointment to see your physician anyway. You may have some sort of infection that requires extra testing and/or a prescribed antibiotic.
5. Upgrade Your Sanitary Stuff
When it comes to my personal vaginal health and, what I call, "period convenience", something that has totally changed my life for the better is a menstrual cup. But if you would still prefer to go with tampons and/or pads, another vaginal spring cleaning tip that I would recommend is going with organic brands. Not only are they free of potentially irritating things like pesticides and dye that could lead to recurring yeast infections and BV or even certain diseases up the road, organic brands can actually help to lessen period cramps and prevent skin issues such as dermatitis.
If you need a little help in choosing which brands are best, Glowing Nest did a review on organic pads that you can check out by clicking here and Influenster did a review on organic tampons that you can check out here.
6. Clean Your Clitoral Hood
I've shared before that I once read about a woman whose clitoral hood was so swollen and irritated that her doctor ended up having to cut her hood off. Eww. The problem was there was so much hair, dried discharge, lint and overall gunk in there that the extra skin had to be removed in order to get it all out (whew). It got to that point because she didn't clean her clitoral hood.
I know it's not really something that we think about a lot but just to put everything into perspective—how would you feel if your man was uncircumcised and never cleaned his foreskin? A clitoris is a lot like a little penis in the sense that it's got a ton of nerve endings and it gets erect when it's aroused. And the hood of it? That is the foreskin. So yeah, once a month or so, dip a Q-tip in some olive, sweet almond or coconut oil, very gently push the hood back (as far as it will comfortably go) and rub the tip in order to dislodge what may be underneath. If your clitoris has been itching lately and you're pretty sure it's not an infection of some sort, it needing to be "spring cleaned" is probably the problem.
7. Schedule a Wax Appointment
It was literally this year that I started waxing. It started with my eyebrows because, for some reason, my threader seemed to be on a mission to thin mine out as much as possible. Yet as I became more comfortable with my totally bomb waxer, I decided that I was tired of literally bending over backwards to try and remove the stray hairs along parts of the inside of my butt (including what she calls the "coin purse" which is right where the crease of the butt begins). I had her do it instead. And man! It has been life-changing. It wasn't painful (just a little uncomfortable, but it's over really fast) and it lasts for weeks on end.
She's been trying to talk me into a Brazilian. I'm good on that. I like having grown woman hairs around my vagina. But what I will say is, as far as spring cleaning your vagina goes, if you want to tame some hairs or remove them altogether so that you can feel really clean and fresh down below, making a wax appointment is 1000 percent the way to go.
8. Condition Your Pubic Hair
Question. When's the last time you conditioned your pubic hair? I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it's something that you haven't exactly considered before but why wouldn't you do it every once in a while? Hair, anywhere, that is deeply moisturized can end up feeling smoother and being so much easier to manage. And in this case, if you happen to go with a conditioner that is high in vitamins A and E, it can help to unclog pores and prevent ingrown hairs.
The key is to make sure that you only apply the conditioner only where your pubic hair is and that you don't get any inside of your vagina (because that could irritate it). Let the conditioner sit for about 10 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. If you do this for about a week, you will notice a really big difference. (Feel free to add some Vitamin E oil at the end for some additional sheen.)
9. Sanitize Your Sex Toys
If you've got a stash of sex toys, now is a good a time as any to give them a really thorough cleaning. Make sure that you go with an antibacterial kind that is unscented because that will significantly decrease the chances of your clean toys irritating you once you're ready to use them again. If your toy happens to vibrate, wash it with a clean washcloth. If it doesn't, you can run it underneath some warm water and then clean it with the cloth. If your toys happen to be made out of glass, silicone or stainless-steel, you can actually boil them for 3-5 minutes in order to completely sterilize them. In any case, once you're done cleaning them, you can let them air dry.
10. Get Some “Naked in the Bed” Bedding
Definitely, one of the best things that you could ever do for your vagina is sleep in the buff. It's just one more way for your vagina to breathe since it's been cooped up in layers of clothing all day long. That said, one thing that a lot of people don't really think about is the kind of bedding that they should sleep naked in. Natural fibers are definitely the way to go. Organic cotton is great. So is bamboo. They are both breathable, soft and able to keep your body cool throughout the night. Hey, new sheets are supposed to be purchased every 2-3 years, so in the spirit of spring cleaning your vagina, why not get a couple of new sets this month? You'll adore it and your vagina will even more. Happy cleaning!
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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.
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A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
Jeff Bergen/ Getty Images
"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
Westend61/ Getty Images
While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
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