Last fall, I wrote an article entitled, "Did You Know There's A Right & A Wrong Way To Take A Bath?" The objective was not to be out here assuming that grown ass women don't know how to clean themselves. It's just that, sometimes it's the little things that we do—or don't do—that can actually cause bigger problems along the way when it comes to cleanliness and overall hygiene.
That's why I thought it would also be a good idea to touch on how important it is to make sure that we're all taking care of, what I oftentimes encourage my love nieces to call, their "treasure box". Because, the reality is, while a lot of us find ourselves having a super sensitive vagina or even an infection that we can't get to the root cause of, many times it was triggered by the fact that, while we meant well, we simply weren't cleaning our va-jay-jay as properly as we should have. So, in the effort to keep you and "yours" clean and comfortable, here are some washing tips to always keep in mind.
Remember: Your Vagina and Vulva Are Two Different Things
Yeeeeeah. I have no idea who started the whole notion that the word "vagina" speaks for everything that is going on when it comes to our genitalia area because, technically, that isn't right. Our vagina is actually the muscular inner tube that starts at the end of our vulva and extends all the way up to our cervix (which is right in front of our uterus). Meanwhile, our vulva is the external part of our genitalia. It consists of our clitoris, our labia majora (the outside of our lips) and labia minora (the inside of our lips), along with our vestibule (the opening of our vagina) and our urethral meatus (which is the opening of our urethra, because you know that we pee out of a different hole…right?). And, when it comes to washing our lower region, it's not the vagina that needs to be cleaned; it's our vulva (and only parts of it). This brings me to my next point.
Your Vagina Is Totally Self-Cleaning
You might've heard that your vagina is self-cleaning and that is absolutely true. The reason why I'm being intentional about reiterating this point is because there still seem to be way too many people who are consumed with douching and steaming their va-jay-jay when their vagina doesn't need any of that.
When discharge is healthy, it's designed to carry out the dead cells and bacteria that may be inside of your vagina. So, when you do things like douche or steam, not only can that throw the pH balance of your vagina off (which can lead to a killer yeast infection), but steaming could result in literally burning your vagina (one woman actually got second-degree burns from vaginal steaming) too.
And how do you know if your discharge is leaning towards the unhealthy side? For starters, if it's clear, white or off-white and you're noticing about 1-2 teaspoons of it coming out a day, you should be all set. Another sign is if your discharge isn't clumpy, itching and/or irritating. If anything is contrary to what I just said, don't assume that some Summer's Eve or a vaginal steam session is gonna clear things up. It's much smarter to make an appointment with your physician, so that they can diagnose what is really going on with you. It could be a yeast infection. It could be a bout of bacterial vaginosis. It could be that a new sex partner has altered your pH balance. It could be an STD. The only way you're gonna know for sure is if a professional tells you what's up. Let them.
How Do You Wash Your Vulva, Anyway?
Now when it comes to actually cleaning your vulva, since it isn't self-cleaning like your vagina is yes, you should wash it. But here's the thing—you still don't actually have to use soap. Our vulva area is pretty sensitive, so soaking in the tub or washing with a clean washcloth with warm water can do your vulva good more than you would probably think. But if you absolutely cannot imagine keeping soap away from your outer and inner lips, make sure that you go with the kind of soap that is mild and unscented. It's also important that you swap out your washcloth, every 3-4th wash and that you gently open up the folds of your vulva so that you can get into the crevices of the outer part of that part of your genitalia. Also, just like when you wipe after using the bathroom, make sure that you go from front to back while cleansing your vulva. Just like going the opposite direction can lead to irritation or a mild infection when you wipe, the same thing can happen when you wash.
As far as your anus goes, believe it or not, there are soaps out in the universe that are specifically for it; the kind that will clean your anal area without drying it out. One is Honest's Soothing Bottom Wash. Another comes in a spray form; it's by Indigo Wild and it's called Zum Bum.
Leave Feminine Sprays and Washes Alone
Whatever you do—and this really can't be stated enough—please leave all of the feminine sprays and washes completely alone.
First of all, your vagina wasn't created to smell like a rose garden or a candy store. In fact, men are naturally drawn to the scent that your va-jay-jay naturally creates. Secondly, just like scented soaps can piss your vulva off, so can all of those vaginal products that promise to make you feel "fresher". And third, there are certain chemicals that are in a lot of commercial products that could prove to be harmful to your vulva and/or vagina if you consistently use them over time.
So, what if you want to add a little "extra" to your vulva area? I actually wrote an article a while back that features some DIY vaginal wash recipes (you can check it out here). Beyond that, adding 1-2 drops of lavender oil per every ¾ cup of coconut oil can be a nice moisturizer for the mound of your vulva (the top part where most of your pubic hair is…or would be) and inner thighs. Not only does it smell amazing, but both lavender and coconut oil contain antifungal properties too. Avoid putting the oil near your vaginal opening, though. Lavender oil is pretty potent; it is prone to cause a significant amount of stinging if applied internally.
If There’s a (Strange) Odor, Again, See Your Doctor
Depending on your diet, the time of month that it is for your cycle, when you last had sex and the way that you're made up, your vagina (I'm saying that because it's mostly the discharge that creates whatever scent your genitalia's got) is going to range in smell from lightly sweet to slightly sour to maybe even a little coppery (some guys even describe the taste of vaginas as being the hint of a penny). All of this is fine and perfectly normal. When you should be concerned is if your vagina has a strong fishy, ammonia or rotten (unless you're on your cycle and it's been a minute since you've changed your pad or tampon) scent and/or it's so pungent that people around you can smell you. If that is the case, nothing in this article is going to keep the power of that type of odor away. Something is "off". You need to see your doctor.
Welp. That's what I've got for y'all on this topic. Nothing earth-shattering but hopefully relevant enough to keep your vagina's pH right, your vulva fresh and you feeling confident about them both. Amen? Amen, chile.
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