Something that really is a trip to me is, back when I was putting my va-jay-jay to all sorts of use (check out "14 Lessons I've Learned From 14 Sex Partners"), other than the orgasms I was trying to have, I didn't really give my nether regions much thought. Now that January 9 puts me at (lawd!) 14 years of abstinence, I must say that I'm more attentive to my vagina than I've ever been.
I think a big part of the reason is because the time apart from sex has taught me that it isn't just a sexual organ or the part of the body where children are birthed. It is a part of what makes me a woman and I adore being that. That's why I'm all about sharing as much info as I can about ways that all of us can take better care of our vaginas. If you're constantly looking for some tips on this area, I've actually got 12 for you today.
1. Download a Vagina App
Back when I used to mentor teen girls on the topic of sex, whenever they would ask me why they seemed to be more focused on wanting sex at a particular time of the month, I let them know that it was because they were ovulating. Whew, the body (and the Creator of it) is something else that it is so intricate as to make us hornier during the time when we are most able to conceive. Ovulation also changes our discharge and can sometimes make us wetter and more sensitive as far as our genitalia is concerned. Then there's PMS and our period. Our bodies tend to go through all kinds of changes then too. That's why I think it can be helpful to download a vagina app. If you're able to keep up with what is going on, as it relates to "her", you can better prepare so that you and your vagina can feel more confident. A popular app is Clue. You can read more about it here.
2. Eat More Probiotics
"Probiotic" is a word that comes up a lot in the health-conscious world. It's basically microorganisms that help your body to maintain a level of good bacteria; especially in your gut (where 80 percent of your immune system resides). By consuming fermented foods (or taking a probiotic supplement), your digestive system will be healthier; your heart will be stronger; if you have allergies or eczema, you'll probably notice less symptoms (after about a month or so); your moods will be lighter, and your vagina will be in better shape too.
A big part of the reason why probiotics are good when it comes to your vagina specifically is it helps to keep the bad bacteria in your vagina from overtaking the good. As a bonus, it can help your vagina to maintain its pH balance (4.0-4.5) as well. So, definitely eat things like Greek yogurt, cheese, pickles, sourdough bread, miso and green olives. Oh, and if you'd prefer to take a supplement, you can see a list of some of the best probiotics for women (according to The Healthy) here.
3. Eat Less “Sweaty Foods”
A topic that may not get discussed a lot yet, at the same time, is a reality for many women is a sweaty vagina. It's what happens when you're not really doing anything strenuous yet there still seems to be a lot of moisture down below. While it is certainly nothing to be embarrassed (or even overly concerned) about, the reason why you should be intentional about avoiding it is too much moisture in your genital region can lead to a yeast infection, if you're not careful.
One way to reduce your chances of sweating so much is to consume less foods that trigger perspiration. Some of those include spicy foods; hot peppers (both of these contain the compound capsaicin which heats up your system); carbs (your body has to work harder to break the sugar down); caffeine (it triggers your sweat glands); salty foods (salt increases your body's need to get rid of urine and sweat), and fast food (processed foods make your system go into overdrive to remove excess fat).
4. Drink Some Echinacea Tea
Personally, I'm an herbal tea fan. If you can totally relate, do you have some echinacea tea in your stash? If not, you should definitely consider getting some. Echinacea tea not only helps to boost your immunity, it's also great when it comes to helping to heal your joints; reducing anxiety-related symptoms; decreasing pain that causes headaches as well as toothaches; calming your stomach; lessening the symptoms related to eczema and psoriasis and yep—it's good for your vaginal health too. That's because the properties in this particular kind of tea are awesome if you're looking for an all-natural way to treat yeast infections or urinary tract infections (UTIs). Just make sure to use honey instead of sugar and only a little bit of it. In order to get the most out of herbal teas, they need to steep for 20 minutes and have as little sweetener in them as possible. Otherwise, you're preventing the herbs from being their most potent.
5. Pat Dry Your Vulva
I'm thinking that you already know it's a good idea to not use perfumed soaps or any kind of body wash that has a lot of chemicals in it (check out "Love On Yourself With These 7 All-Natural DIY Vaginal Washes" and "Are You Washing Your Vagina Correctly? You Sure?"); they will only irritate your vagina and vulva (the part of your vagina that you can actually see; the part that includes and surrounds your clitoris). However, once you're getting out of the bathtub, avoid rubbing the mess out of that area of your body with your towel too. Your skin down there is pretty fragile, so gently patting it dry is all that's necessary. Oh, and if your vulva is irritated, nix the towel altogether and set your blow drying on a low cool setting. That can help to soothe that area while removing excess moisture at the same time.
6. Prep Your Pubic Hair Before Shaving
All things have trends; including pubic hair (check out "Yep. Pubic Hair Has Trends (And Specific Needs) Too."). That said, no matter how you prefer your hair to be down there, if you're prone to getting those irritating looking (and feeling ingrown) hair bumps, it's probably because you're either using a dirty or dull razor or you're not properly prepping that area of your body. As far as prepping goes, simply dampen your pubic region and then use a loofah or exfoliating sponge to remove any dead skin cells. Or, if you prefer, you can apply a brown sugar scrub and gently massage that space for five minutes. Then after rinsing and shaving (towards the grain, not against it), put some witch hazel on a cotton ball and dab the area. It will help to heal any nicks and also shrink your pores which can make ingrown hairs less of an issue in the long run.
7. Use Organic Pads and Tampons
When I was growing up, I wasn't allowed to wear tampons. My mom said, "That waste is meant to flow out." When I got to college, I took the "I'm grown approach" and started using them and, I must be honest—I had more "vagina issues" with tampons than I ever did with pads. These days, I'm rocking hard with a menstrual cup but if you are team tampon or team pads, just make sure to go with an organic brand. Not only are they made without any chemicals (which can ultimately mean less health risks and even lighter periods if you're using a tampon), they are better for the environment as well because they are fully biodegradable. If you're not sure which brands to go with, Greatist did a feature entitled, "12 Best Organic Pads Your Vag Will Thank You For" and The Good Trade published, "7 Top Reviewed Natural & Organic Tampon Brands" to help you figure out what is best for you.
8. Take Your Vagina (Panty) Shopping
Whether you deal with a sweaty va-jay-jay or not, your natural vaginal discharge and daily activities like working out can still cause your genital region to get pretty moist which can ultimately trigger infections. For these reasons, it's super important to wear organic cotton panties as much as possible. They are a breathable fabric. They contain no chemicals that will irritate your vulva or vagina. They reduce bacterial growth. They are typically more comfortable. They are better for the environment.
Speaking of working out, if you're looking for some panties that will absorb moisture, almost immediately, go with some sweat-wicking ones. Not only are they great at zapping wetness, they can also absorb odor and regulate your body temperature better than "regular drawers" will. Women's Health Mag has a list of sweat-wicking suggestions here. While we're on this topic, it's best to cop some new panties even six months or so. You can read about why by checking out "When Should You Replace Underwear, Make-Up, Bedding, Washcloths & Towels?".
9. Get Up Close and Personal
I honestly can't tell you how many women have told me that they have never looked at their vagina before. To make matters worse, their faces turn up when they say it. Y'all, just like a plant flourishes more when its owner gives it attention beyond simply watering it, the same thing applies to your vagina. That's why I'm a huge fan of practices like vagina mapping (check out "Why 'Vaginal Mapping' Needs To Be Part Of Your Healing Journey") and vaginal self-exams (check out "Why You Should Give Yourself A 'Vaginal Self-Exam'"). When it comes to increasing your body image, being more comfortable during your doctor visits and also having better sexual experiences, getting clique tight with your vagina—including your vulva and your clitoris and clitoral hood—it's something that you will never regret doing.
10. Consume More Vitamin C
The reason why it's a good idea to consume a daily amount of Vitamin C is because it's an antioxidant that helps to keep your immune system healthy and strong. Some of its other health benefits are it can keep your blood pressure balanced, help to keep you from being iron deficient, is necessary for your system to produce collagen and, Vitamin C fights off free radicals too. The reason why your vagina needs this nutrient is because it can raise the acidic levels in your genitalia region and fight off bacterial overgrowth. You can always take a Vitamin C supplement, or you can consume foods that are high in it. Some of those foods include citrus fruits, berries, chili peppers, thyme, parsley, kale, broccoli, kiwi, tomatoes and potatoes.
11. Try a Vaginal Gel
Something that took me a long time to learn (yet I'm glad I finally did) is how maintaining the pH level of my vagina is what can help to keep infections at bay. Because things like antibiotics, our menstrual cycle, douching (please don't do that), semen and even stress can cause it to be imbalanced, it's important to keep in mind that a healthy pH is 4-4.5 (if you're pre-menopausal) and 4.5 (if you're menopausal or post menopause). If it feels like your vagina is slightly irritated, smells a little fishy or your discharge has shifted in color (from white or off-white), you might want to take an at-home pH test to see what your levels are. If they are high, it's best to make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible. If they are pretty much in their normal range, something like a vaginal gel may help to get things back on track. A popular brand worth looking into is RepHresh Vaginal Gel. It's gynecologist-recommended and can help to relieve minor symptoms within a couple of days.
Stress affects everything about us. EVERYTHING. That's why I wrote, "Ever Wonder If Your Vagina Is Stressed TF Out?". The (sad) reality is some of us have such a high threshold for stress that we don't even get that when our vagina isn't feeling quite right, it simply could be telling us to slow down and chill TF out. Taking some things off of your to-do list. Going for a walk outside. Turning in a couple of hours early (and sleeping naked when you do). Having more sex. Detoxing your system. Getting a massage. Simple things like this can cause your cortisol (your natural stress hormone) levels to drop and your vagina to feel like its old self again.
I'm always learning more and more about the vagina, so don't be surprised if I roll up with some more to say sooner than later. For now, though, try and add some of these things to your daily routine (if you're not doing so already). Your vagina will love you for it—and you'll feel so much better because it does.
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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. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
It (almost) never fails. Whenever I do an interview, someone will ask me: 1) is it hard to be a marriage life coach and not be married (chile, these clients are a part of the reason why I’m more cautious than ever about mate selection) and 2) am I lonely when it comes to being single? From the angle of loving Black men and understanding, daily, what a marital covenant can do for a person, I am totally open to jumping somebody’s broom one day. Lonely though? No. Not really. And a part of the reason is because I have such an awesome group of male friends.
No, I’m not one of those women who don’t see the value in female friends too. It’s just that one demographic “scratches one itch” while the other scratches another. And when it comes to men, specifically, there are certain things that they bring to my life that are simply incomparable.
That’s why, whenever single women will tell me that they are getting restless as they wait on their husband to make his presence known, I am quick to ask, “Girl, where are your male friends at?” Because while they can’t meet every need that a husband can (and should), believe me when I say that they do offer some bona fide benefits that will definitely make them a great alternative on a few different levels.
I’ve got a solid six for you today.
1. Men Are Not Women. Let’s Start There.Giphy
Listen, I’m sure that there is a lot of good stuff out in TikTok world; however, as a life coach myself, on the coaching front, truly sensible advice can really be like a needle in a haystack on that platform — especially when it comes to trustworthy (and sound) insight on men. So much stuff is rooted in bitterness, stereotypes, and gross generalizations (generalizations are typically rooted in bitterness, by the way) that there’s no way that it can be seen as being even close to being reliable.
And as much as some of y’all might not want to hear what I’m about to say, I think a part of the reason is because a lot of women don’t want to accept that men are just…different. Not in a “Yeah, I know. They should be more like us” kind of way. I mean, a “God made it that way by design, and science is there to back it up.”
For instance, some professionals believe that women having more blood flood to the brain is why they are more emotional in their communication style, while men are typically more direct (more on that in a bit). Other studies reveal that women are more comfortable with their emotions while men tend to be more centered (and sometimes quicker) at problem-solving. And while a woman’s right hemisphere of her brain is more developed to the point where she is more sensitive and empathetic, a man’s is more developed to where he is more “mathematic” (2+2=4, that’s it) and explorative.
This kind of stuff always fascinates me, so while I could go on and on, the bottom line here is men's and women’s wiring are not identical.
And while society keeps trying to make them be the same via all of these damn gender wars, the beauty in the differences is men and women can actually provide each other with balance. Because, after all, as a man by the name of Larry Dixon once said, “If two people were exactly alike, one of them would be unnecessary.” And both men and women are…necessary.
2. Guys Tend to Have a “Straight No Chaser” ApproachGiphy
Whenever I read an article about how social media is creating more narcissists than ever, I can’t help but nod my head up and down in total agreement. I don’t even hesitate because one example of this that I see on a regular basis is how people are becoming more and more wired for praise, and yet they can’t handle any kind of criticism or call out to hold themselves accountable to save their lives.
You know who will bring you back down to earth, though? A good friend. And guy friends? I guess due to some of the science that I just mentioned, I don’t have one in my life who pulls any punches. Although some are more, let’s go with tactful in their approach (LOL), there’s not one who sugarcoats issues or tells me what I want to hear. And you know what? I need that. I don’t need flatterers (even the Bible frowns on that…did you know that? — Job 17:5); I need folks who will be as direct, candid, and “Well Shellie, you asked” as I tend to be with other people. It keeps me responsible. It grows me up. And it helps me to better discern when my ego is getting all up in the way.
Yeah, if you want to hear the REAL real, a guy will deliver it to you. Which brings me to the next way that they are a true “win.”
3. They’re Good At Catching Blind SpotsGiphy
Back when I was on my “Get Your Heart Pieces Back Tour” (you can read more about it here), there was a guy from my past who I was talking heavy with for a few weeks. He’s always been fine. The sex was always incredible. And, back in the day, he was there for me during a time that was very dark in my life, which is why I will always hold a special affection for him. That’s why, I ain’t got no lies to tell y’all — after our first eight-hour-straight conversation, I was ready to get on a plane and (eh hem) relive some memories. So, what stopped me? One was a particular conviction that I have (perhaps we’ll discuss that at another time). Another was a conversation that I had with two of my male friends.
One asked me, “So, who contacted who?” Oh, the loaded question that will make you reflect on talking to these exes, chile. The other said, “He said he did what when he found out his ex cheated?” Listen, I don’t know who reads my content or not as far as people who know or who knew me, so I won’t get all into the details. I’ll just say that it wasn’t anything violent, but it was intense. And those two questions, put together, caused me to ponder some things that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Because while my girlfriends thought that it was some rom-com come to life, my guy friends were like, “Uh-uh. Think it ALL the way through.” They simply had eyes where I didn’t because…they are guys who know guys. Simple as that.
4. They’re Like the Big Brothers (or More Big Brothers) You Never HadGiphy
I didn’t really notice how much I needed my blood brother until he moved to South Africa. Even though he’s younger than I, there’s a presence that he provided that made me feel protected; like if some ish really hit the fan, I had someone to call who could help me to feel safe. Thankfully, over the course of the first couple of years that he was gone, some “love brothers” came into the world. And when I tell you that they don’t play about me — I mean, at all.
A good example of this is when my house burned down back in December of 2021. Two immediately sent me a laptop (because for a writer, that’s like not having a car). One sent me the deposit for a new place to stay. Another came to check on me for a week straight. I can’t tell you how many mini-sermons I got on how to legally proceed with my landlords. Bottom line, they held me down and didn’t even give it a second thought. And although my girlfriends had my back as well, they were coming more from a nurturing stance, while my male friends were more protective.
Another example. Earlier this year, I had to drive to another state to sue the person I bought my car from (heads up: a meditator told me that Kentucky has some of the strictest as-is laws in the country). Long story short, the dealer assured me of a feature that wasn’t there. Anyway, I asked one of my male friends to drive me, and even though we took my car, he was like, “Let me drive” — and I had no problem with that. He does it for a living; we had to leave while it was still dark outside, and he knew that I was kind of tired. There was a natural “let me cover you” energy about him that we didn’t need to be dating for it to show up — he’s a good man who knows how to take care of ALL of the women in his life. I love that for me.
One more example. One time my car didn’t start, and I didn’t know what to do. I had to leave it in a random parking lot and, so I called a male friend for some advice. All he said was, “I got it. I’ll call you later.” By that evening, he drove it to me. He had a mechanic friend of his put a new alternator in, and he didn’t even charge me for it. He was like, “Girl, you need to get a man, but until you do, I got you.”
When all you have in your life are guys who you date, sometimes it’s hard to discern what their motives may be. Plus, if things don’t work out, you’re back to figuring everything out on your own. When you have male friends, though? There’s no slick ish. Plus, they’re not going anywhere. You’ve got brothers from another mother who acts just like that. And it’s awesome.
5. They Are Awesome Friend (or Stand-In) DatesGiphy
One of my male friends, folks have been thinking that we’re screwing on the low for years now. He’s a cutie. He can sing his butt off. I tell him often that if I could turn his speaking voice into a person, that part of him (and that part alone) would be my sneaky link, for sure (that voice!). Yet nah — nothing even remotely sexual/physical has happened to us beyond a hug “hello” and a hug “good-bye.” And while I wouldn’t say that we’re exactly “platonic” because he sometimes jokes that “Shellie, you are like a sister, but you still ain’t my sister” and that holds a bit of subtext (check out “Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'”), we’ve got almost two decades under our belts — at this point, ain’t nothin’ finna go down. It just doesn’t “click” that way. And we are both so good with that.
That doesn’t mean that we’re not each other’s kick-it buddies, though. Aside from the fact that we try to have a lunch or dinner date once a month, if there’s something we want to do or a place we want to go to, we don’t hesitate to take each other as an unofficial date. That’s because we know that it will make the event more fun and less stress-filled because there is no extra stress, pressure, or expectations. We also know how to dress up or down, be casual or corporate — y’all get it.
Yeah, if you’ve got something coming up, you don’t want to go alone, and the idea of a traditional date seems like it would be “too much,” a guy friend is the perfect solution. It has worked out for me (with the guy whom I’m referring to and others) for years now.
6. Platonic Love Is Really SpecialGiphy
Clearly, I believe that men and women can be “just friends” (check out “Unpopular Opinion: Men And Women CAN Really Be 'Just Friends'”). And although the genuine definition of platonic means that there is NO sexual interest on ANY level (which is why I think that word is used too loosely), those types of relationships can exist — and they are truly one of a kind.
Final example. I’ve got four male friends who I absolutely adore. We hang out. We can talk on the phone for hours. We send each other stupid clips throughout the day. And HELL NAW, we ain’t gonna date each other. Like…ever. We talk enough about relationships that we get how and why other people are attracted to us — and still, that doesn’t mean we want to fit into those categories. We like each other. We love each other. We trust and respect each other. We enjoy each other. As friends, and that’s all it’s ever gonna be.
However, because I am a woman and they are men, we bring something into each other’s worlds as far as opinions, perspectives, and insights that no one of the same sex can. As their friend (for instance), I tell them when a woman has some ulterior motives that they haven’t even thought about, and as men, they tell me when a guy is just wanting to hit, no matter how cryptic their approach may be.
OH, HOW I LOVE MY MALE FRIENDS. They make my world so much richer. Plus, they’re great reminders that you don’t have to be sexual with a man in order for you to be intimate with him. Men are far more layered than that (contrary to whatever you may hear in the media).
So, if you don’t have any strictly male friends, I’m hoping that this will encourage you to at least consider getting some (or hell, at least one). And if you do, do what I do and treat your male friends to a meal sometimes, just to say “thank you”. Men who’ve got your back, just because, without wanting you to get on your back? Sis, they deserve a seasonal meat-‘n-three or somethin’. Wouldn’t you say? I WOULD.
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