Recently, someone wrote me to ask one specific question: "How is it that you can keep finding content on vaginas to write about?" Heck, if I know, chile. For one thing, they fascinate me. They just do. Plus, I figure that since our vaginas are a part of us and everything from head to toe makes us special, it's important that we have as much information as possible when it comes to learning how to properly care for our genital region. And since we are well into the summer season and it's hot as all get out, there's no time like the present to bring up a few tips that can keep "her" cool, calm and honestly, drier.
Let's get to it. Here are 12 tips that can keep your vagina in great shape, no matter what you and "her" plan on doing from now through Labor Day (well technically, September 22, which is when the summer season ends this year).
1. Go Commando
Hopefully, you're already sleeping naked more times than not since it decreases stress, helps to keep your skin healthy and can even boost your self-confidence levels. Something else that going to bed with nothing else on does is promote vaginal health. The reason why is because since our vaginas are naturally full of moisture and there is a certain amount of yeast that's inside of them, we have to be careful that we don't allow things to get too wet or it could cause the yeast to multiply which could lead to a pretty nasty yeast infection.
You see where I'm going with this, right? When it's hot, we sweat. When we sweat, it gets really wet down below. That's why, it really is OK — encouraged even — to go commando sometimes, even when you're out of the house. And what if you just can't imagine doing that? That's where the next point comes in.
2. Or Get Some Moisture-Wicking Undies
If for you, wearing underwear is an absolute must, invest in some moisture-wicking panties. These are the kind of undies that are made out of the type of fabric that actually pulls moisture away from your body instead of absorbing it. As a direct result, moisture is able to evaporate easier and quicker so that you don't feel wet all throughout the day.
If you'd like to check out some reviews on top moisture-wicking underwear that's currently on the market, First for Women has 11 of 'em that you can check out here. If you'd prefer to go a bit of the cheaper route, cotton (especially organic cotton) panties are a classic breathable fabric that works.
Oh, and if you're a thong kind of person, definitely avoid the ones that are made out of nylon, polyester or lace. If any kind of panty needs to breathe, it's a thong, so go with cotton or bamboo fabric, and definitely don't sleep in them if you've been wearing them all day long.
3. Make Your Own Vaginal Wash
I'm thinking that this probably goes without saying, but just for safe measure, there is no reason for you to wash your actual vagina (the canal/tube that runs from your vulva up to the entry of your uterus which is your cervix); it is self-cleaning which is why douching is an absolute no-no (the ingredients in douches tend to through your vagina's pH levels off balance). And while some health experts say that your vulva (the outer part of your vagina) only needs water to keep it clean, if you're like me and you want some extra back-up, it really is best to make your own vaginal wash. The reason why is because a lot of soaps are way too harsh and some body washes have too many chemicals in them.
If you agree yet don't feel like doing all of the work to make your own cleanser, Black-owned companies like Pangea sell vaginal washes that are pretty good (I've tried it before). Sites like Etsy carry all-natural homemade body washes too. Still, if you'd prefer to go about it yourself and all you need is a recipe, I've got you. Check out "Love On Yourself With These 7 All-Natural DIY Vaginal Washes" that I wrote for the site a couple of years back. It will help to keep your va-jay-jay smelling and feeling fresh all summer long.
4. Up Your Vitamin C and Probiotics
Keeping your vagina in great shape means that you've got to stay on top of your immune system. One way to do that is to make sure that you get plenty of Vitamin C and probiotics in your body. Vitamin C is good for your genital region for a few reasons. It's high in antioxidants which can fight off free radicals and viruses. It contains micronutrients that can help to flush out harmful bacteria. It also helps to increase the acidic levels of your vagina, so that health issues like bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections are less of a concern.
As far as probiotics go, there is such a thing as "good bacteria" and "bad bacteria". Probiotics are loaded with the good kind which is a good thing because they can help to balance the yeast in your vagina, so that the bad bacteria doesn't grow to the point of giving you a yeast infection.
Foods that are high in Vitamin C include citrus fruit, berries, broccoli, potatoes, bell peppers, dark leafy greens and kiwi. Foods that are high in probiotics include fermented foods such as (sour) pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt, miso soup, sourdough bread, kefir and kombucha. There are also supplements for both that you can take. If you want to take a probiotic one, Garden of Life Raw Probiotics Vaginal Care contains 50 billion CFU (colony forming units ) and 38 different strains of probiotics which is pretty darn impressive.
5. Make a Lemongrass and Sweet Almond Oil Ointment
What if you're concerned about vaginal odor? Well, first let me say that if your vagina has an ever-so-mild musky or tangy scent to it, that is pretty normal. If it smells a little like a copper penny, especially around your cycle, that's typically not a big deal. Some vaginas smell sweet; also, no cause for alarm. It's only when it gets into the strong ammonia or fishy arenas that you should be concerned and make an appointment to see your doctor. Still, if sweat seems to make your vaginal region smell a little stronger than you would like, while you should leave your actual vagina alone, you can make a topical ointment for your vulva area out of lemongrass essential oil and sweet almond oil.
Lemongrass is dope because it has a citrus scent (perfect for the summer season), along with antifungal and antibacterial properties that help to fight off the fungus that causes yeast infections. Sweet almond oil is cool because it's a great carrier oil and has a way of soothing your vaginal walls. One-third cup of oil with 3-5 drops of lemongrass added to it and applied to your vulva area only, should do the trick.
6. Try a Little Bit of Vaginal Ice Application Therapy
If you tend to be more active during the summer seasons and all of that exercising, cycling, hiking and whatever else you're doing has your vaginal tissues feeling tender, inflamed, itchy or irritated, something that you might want to try is a little bit of what is called vaginal ice therapy. All it consists of is applying some ice to your vaginal region for 15-30 minute stints, an hour apart, a few times a day. It's a method that can provide instant relief while taking some of the swelling down. If you'd like to try this but would prefer an alternative to ice, you might want to test out Vagi-Kool Reusable Feminine Cold Pack. Just pop it into your freezer for 2-4 hours and it's ready for use.
7. If You Get Ingrown Hairs, Do More Waxing
Something that I make sure not to miss, every four weeks, is my wax appointment. The woman who holds me down in this lane was just telling me how she wished more Black women went the waxing rather than shaving route because it really does decrease the amount of ingrown hairs that we get — especially down below. This means less bumps and also less little dark marks that the bumps can sometimes create. So yeah, I'm all about encouraging waxing.
That said, if you'd still prefer to shave, make sure you invest in a really good razor, that you gently exfoliate the area you plan to shave (it loosens up the hairs), that you then soak in warm water for about 15 minutes (it helps to soften the outer layer of your skin and your hair follicles), that you apply some shaving cream (it moisturizes and helps to protect your skin from the razor) and that you DON'T go against the grain of your hair's growth. All of this can reduce your chances of razor bumps (although waxing really is so much better, y'all; plus, you don't have to wax as much because it pulls hair from the root).
8. Soak in Some Apple Cider Vinegar
When your vagina's pH levels (which should be around 4.0-4.5, although it might be higher if you are going through menopause or are post-menopause) are out of balance, that can trigger an infection and/or odor. Believe it or not, something that can keep this from being an issue is apple cider vinegar. That's because it contains properties that are great at keeping your vagina at the acidic level that it's supposed to be. That's why it can be a good idea to take a bath that has 1-2 cups of the vinegar (make sure it has "the mother" because that's the kind that is the most potent) in it. If you soak for 20-30 minutes, 1-2 times a week, it can keep your vagina healthy, all year round.
9. Try a Menstrual Cup
OK. I was late on the menstrual cup train (hate that because they are pretty awesome) and while I'm sold now, I must admit that I'm still a bit on the hunt for the perfect one. Nixit is a menstrual disc that is cool except it won't stay tucked behind my pubic bone (a YouTuber by the name of Vicky Logan has a great review that you can check out here). Merula XL holds a lot of blood but I need something with suction. Intimina is awesome because it's skinny like a tampon. June has suction and is cost-efficient (although it doesn't hold as much blood as others).
Anyway, I really could do an article on menstrual cups and discs at this point.
Bottom line here, though, is if you want to feel basically like you're not even on your period during the summer season, the right menstrual cup could very well be the answer to your prayers. So long as you get the right fit and dump out the blood every 8-12 hours, you can wear and do just about anything you want (including having sex) without worrying about any leaking or period blood smell. Plus, menstrual cups last for about 10 years.
They're awesome in every way.
10. Cop a Tube of Lumē
There's someone I know who, whether it was summer or winter, she pretty much always sweated through her underwear and ultimately her clothing. Sometimes, it would create an odor. Because we were pretty close, I knew it wasn't a personal hygiene issue. She simply sweated a lot and her sweat carried a stench. If you can personally relate and you've never been quite sure what to do, there is a product on the market called Lumē. It's an all-natural deodorant that is specifically designed for underarms and your genital region. Word on the street is it's a type of cream that can stop the smell of bacteria for around 72 hours. You can learn more about it here.
11. Or Apply Some Cornstarch
Speaking of absorbing wetness, something else that's super effective and pretty gentle on your vaginal region is cornstarch. Sprinkling a little bit of it onto the crotch part of your panties can help to keep the moisture in that area from drenching your panties; plus, it's so much safer than powder than has a talc base to it.
12. Don’t Stay in What You Swim in for (Too) Long
One more. If you plan on being at the pool or beach for the day, you should probably bring along some loose and breathable clothes to change into. Whether it's salt or chlorine water, that on top of the material that your swimsuit is made out of (usually polyester or nylon which doesn't "breathe" very well), on top your sweat, is definitely a breeding ground for a yeast infection to occur. So don't stay in dripping wet anything. Dry off and change. You'll feel better and your vagina will too — all summer long.
Join our xoTribe, an exclusive community dedicated to YOU and your stories and all things xoNecole. Be a part of a growing community of women from all over the world who come together to uplift, inspire, and inform each other on all things related to the glow up.
Featured image by Getty Images