Keeping Clean: The Truth About Feminine Hygiene

Before I go to the dentist, I'm always very careful to brush my teeth. I find that some women view their visit to me in the same way--but on the other end!  Women will say, "Just let me freshen up a bit."  While I appreciate the sentiment, I worry about the effect of inappropriate cleaning of the tender tissues of the vulva and vagina. So, I try to spend a little time discussing how to smartly practice feminine hygiene. 

Cleaning the vulva

The area of the female genitalia on the outside of the body includes the vulva, mons pubis, perineum and perianal areas. The mons pubis is the upper area that is covered in hair. The hair is there to protect the area. The hair should be cleansed with a gentle soap and warm water. The labia majora and minora make up the area known as the vulva. This area surrounds the introitus, or opening to the vagina. This area can primarily be cleansed with warm water. A very mild soap may be used if the area is particularly soiled. The perineum and perianal area is the tissue that extends between that introitus of the vagina and the anal area. It also can primarily be cleansed with warm water and then a very mild soap if particularly soiled. Any soap that is irritating should be discontinued immediately. 

Cleaning the vagina

The vagina is a self cleaning organ! It doesn't need any help. There is no reason to douche or scrub the inside of the vagina. The bacterial and pH balance in the vagina is a very fine-tuned mix. Any soaps or douches can offset that balance and lead to overgrowths of bacteria or fungus. If you feel that your vagina is dirty or has an odor, then you should see your health care provider since that could be the first signs of an infection. On rare occasions, your health care provider may prescribe medicinal douches. In that case only, it's okay to douche!

Good hygiene is important

Good feminine hygiene is extremely important. But it is just as important that the hygiene happen in an appropriate manner. Don't use harsh soaps. Don't scrub. Don't douche or wash the vagina.  Be nice and gentle to the tender tissues and they'll be nice to you!  


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