For a body part that’s rarely exposed, our vaginas really do require a lot of maintenance.
From beauty to hygiene, we all have our own preferences for how we keep things ‘down there’ (although post-children, our attitudes have definitely changed when it comes to our lady bits!).
While we fully encourage you doing what’s best for you and your body, there might be some dangerous side effects to your daily routines that you’re not aware of.
So in the name of a happy vagina, check that your habits aren’t causing your lady parts any harm with our helpful guide!
1. Bath bombs
Bath bombs are the perfect addition to a relaxing soak after a long day. Not only do they make us feel pampered and smell delightful, our bath water looks pretty too!
But hold onto your shower caps, because bath bombs could be playing havoc with your privates. The best thing about bath bombs is of course the pretty colours and floral smells that they give out, but unfortunately a lot of perfumes and dyes are used to achieve this. Your vagina’s delicate ph balance can become altered with heavily perfumed products, and so soaking yourself in a bath full of the stuff is probably not the best idea!
Dr Vanessa Mackay, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told Metro, ‘It’s a good idea to avoid perfumed soaps, gels and antiseptics as these can affect the healthy balance of bacteria and pH levels in the vagina and cause irritation.’
2. Hair removal
While there are no medical risks involved with hair removal, there are lots of irritations that you can cause your delicate skin. Waxing is the best option if you want to do some grooming, as it pulls the root of the hair completely out, but if shaving is your thing there’s some tools you should be aware of.
Make sure you have some delicate scissors to trim the hair first and a decent razor, no £1 multipacks! Use proper shaving foam as opposed to shower gel and keep shaving every few days.
3. Wiping back-to-front
Hopefully you know not to do this anyway, but if you need a reminder – never wipe from your derriere to your vagina!
Doing so can transfer some nasty bacteria into your sensitive vaginal area, which can end up infecting it. So, save yourself the trouble, and do it front-to-back. If you have a young daughter, teach her the right way as well!
4. Using baby oil during sex
Using baby oil or any petroleum- or oil-based lubricant can result in a serious infection.
Due to its thick consistency, oil can be difficult to wash away, even with soap. Products containing oil can get stuck in your vaginal canal and trap bacteria over time, leading to infection.
Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of slippery fun to be had – just make sure you opt for silicone- or water-based lubricants instead, which wash out easily.
5. Not changing your tampon or pad frequently
Although this will vary from woman to woman, the general rule of thumb is to change your pad or tampon before it gets totally soaked through. Not doing so could lead to infection, or even toxic shock syndrome.
It’s hard to know exactly when that is, but every four to eight hours is recommended by The Office on Women’s Health – so if your flow tends to be heavier, it’s worth swapping your tampon every few hours just to be safe!
6. Hovering over the toilet seat
If you’re anything like us you’ll be guilty of doing this when using a public bathroom, feeling more than a little grossed out by the amount of people using it every day. But even though most people are lead to believe that hovering over the toilet seat is better for you, sparing you from touching all of those germs, it’s actually damaging your vagina muscles and bladder.
When you’re in a half squatting position your muscles aren’t actually relaxed enough to urinate, so by forcing yourself to wee your damaging your muscles and weakening your bladder. The best alternatives to try are layering the toilet seat with toilet paper to protect your behind and sitting down fully. Or take a full squatting position where your muscles will be able to relax fully, as well as getting buns of steel!
7. Staying in your swimwear
Okay, so you might not do this daily, but if you’re a regular swimmer, you probably do it several times a week, and we’ll all guilty of it on holidays.
Sitting around in a wet costume is one of the worst thing you can do for your vagina: ‘Yeast and bacteria really thrive in moist, dark places, like a wet bathing suit or wet workout clothes,’ Alyssa Dweck, assistant clinical professor and gynaecologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine explains to The Huffington Post. To avoid the risk of developing an infection, be sure to rinse off as soon as you leave the pool, take off your costume as quickly as you can, and don’t wear it again until it’s been thoroughly washed with soap.
8. Sleeping in layers
If you get chilly in bed and need to wear several layers, make sure underwear isn’t one of them. Come bedtime, as the rest of your body relaxes and repairs, this is an important time for your vagina too. Ideally you should be sleeping naked in order to let your lady garden breathe.
This American term describes the act of shooting water and soap up into your vagina to give it a thorough freshen up. We applaud your hygienic ways and can totally see how you’ve been drawn in, what’s not love about being super, squeaky clean? But unfortunately, douching completely contradicts everything your vagina is all about by upsetting the delicate moisture levels and washing away all of the good bacteria which leads to drying and soreness. Ladies, take it from us – all you need is a splash of water and you’re good to go!
10. Wearing pretty underwear
So, we’re not saying you have to wear ugly underwear, but your vagina definitely has a preference to what it’s clothed in. And, surprisingly it’s not a fan of super tight, frilly or lacy materials. In an ideal world a pair of cotton briefs would be perfect, as cotton is the perfect material for down below thanks to its breathable qualities and absorption of moisture. If you are looking for something a little saucier, going commando is also recommended so why not forego underwear all together!
11. Spin classes
‘Oh no, don’t take spin class away from me!’ we hear you cry. But don’t worry, you don’t need to stop going, it’s just about changing what you’re wearing. It turns out hitting the cycle studio hard can be a bit much for your fragile bits. If you’ve been extensively cycling you might have felt some numbness or tingling in your groin area, which means you need to wear padded shorts to cushion that part.
12. Cutting dairy
With every fad diet there are new rules of what we should and shouldn’t be eating – whether it’s super foods, cutting carbs or staying away from dairy. But it turns out yogurt is one of the best things for your vagina, and a food that you’ll definitely want to leave in your diet. Probiotic yogurts create a bacteria eco system, keeping everything healthy and happy down there.
13. Using bath salts
Scented bath salts can seriously melt your stress away and create the perfect at-home spa experience – but they may be doing more harm than good.
Yale professor of ob-gyn Mary Jane Minkin, M.D. told Women’s Health that soapy products containing fragrance and dyes can cause your lady garden to itch and burn, especially if you’re soaking in them regularly.
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‘I always see a slight increase in patients complaining of vaginal irritation after Christmas because they use those salts during their bath without realising how harsh the chemicals that give them their scent and colour can be,’ she said.
As much as we love bath salts and bubble bath, it’s worth checking out the ingredients if you’ve been noticing irritation after use.