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12 Vagina Hacks That You (And Your Vagina) Will Love

...'cause your vagina needs TLC just like the rest of your body does.

Women's Health

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

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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

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"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”

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

12. DE-STRESS

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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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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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