- Dario Cantatore/WireImage/Getty Images
- Feminine hygiene products and services like douches, feminine sprays, and waxing are marketed as healthy ways to care for the vagina and vulva, but can cause more harm than good.
- The vagina is self-cleaning, so these products are unnecessary.
- Removing pubic hair can also be harmful and lead to unwanted inflammation and infections.
The sheer number of products aimed at making the vagina cleaner, healthier, and more presentable might seem to imply that the genitals are supposed to have a beauty routine of their own. But the truth is that products and services like vaginal douches, scented sprays, and pubic hair waxing aren’t necessary. They can even cause serious harm to your vagina and outer genitals.
“There is no need for your vagina to smell like a garden,” gynecologist Donnica Moore, MD previously told INSIDER. It doesn’t need to look like a perfectly groomed garden either.
These are some of the most common vaginal hygiene myths you should stop believing now.
Myth: Removing your pubic hair will keep your vagina and outer genitals clean.
In a 2016 survey from JAMA Dermatology, most women said they removed their pubic hair because it’s “hygienic or cleaner,” but that’s simply not true.
Gynecologists agree that pubic hair grooming can wreak havoc on your pubic area. “Women who shave or wax are more prone to skin infection following waxing or shaving,” gynecologist Leah Millheiser, MD said. “There is no data to show improved genital health with waxing or shaving.”
These removal methods can lead to cuts and ingrown hairs. If a person tries to remove these hairs with tweezers or fingers, it can also lead to an infection, Millheiser said.
Before removing pubic hair, consider that it acts as a protective barrier from dirt, just like ear wax acts as a protective barrier for the ear canal. If you do want to tame your hair down there, trimming it carefully with scissors is the healthiest and safest option, Moore told Health magazine.
Myth: Douches keep your vaginal pH balanced.
- Siriluk ok/ Shutterstock
Douches are liquids – typically scented waters – that claim to cleanse inside of the vagina.
Douching is unnecessary because the vagina is self-cleaning, according to the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, douches can lead to serious infections since they can push existing bacteria into the cervix, upsetting the vagina’s natural bacterial balance, Moore said.
If you find your vagina smellier than usual, Moore recommends consulting with your gynecologist, as the problem probably requires more than a drugstore product. At the same time, everyone’s vagina is supposed to have its own unique odor, so you shouldn’t be alarmed if yours has a distinct scent.
Myth: Scented feminine sprays cover up the smell of your vagina and are harmless.
Like douches, feminine sprays are unnecessary for cleaning the vagina, which cleans itself with a slightly acidic vaginal discharge.
Using the products can mess with the balance the vagina is supposed to have, since these sprays contain chemicals that can interact poorly with the healthy bacteria in the vagina, which keep you from getting yeast infections (and other bacterial infections).
The scents in the sprays can also irritate the external skin of the genitalia, Moore said, just like scented products can cause discomfort on the skin in other areas of the body.
Myth: The more expensive the underwear, the better it is for your vaginal health.
- Kunlanan Yarist/Shutterstock
When you spend more money on something, it’s usually assumed to be better quality. But when it comes to underwear, a higher price tag could actually be a bad thing.
Underwear made of silk and other synthetic materials isn’t very breathable and can trap moisture in the crotch area – something that often leads to yeast infections, Millheiser said. “Cotton underwear are preferable as they are more breathable and are better moisture-wicking than other types of underwear,” she said.
For the same reason, it’s important to remove wet bathing suits and sweaty workout clothes as soon as you can, since leaving them on can trap unwanted moisture and lead to discomfort or infection in your vagina.
Myth: You need to clean your vagina with soap.
The vagina is so good at cleaning itself, soap isn’t needed to keep the area in tip-top shape, Moore told INSIDER. “You don’t need any special products to cleanse to vagina in any way…unless your doctor tells you otherwise,” she said.
That’s because, for some people, even a bit of soap can create a vaginal bacteria imbalance and result in infection. Add scented soaps into the picture, and the likelihood of an infection is even greater.
Instead, gently washing the genitals with warm water during your shower or bath is the best way to stay clean down there. Moore said some people may choose to use a mild, unscented soap to clean the pubic hair too, but it’s optional.
Myth: Vaginal steaming will help cleanse the area of impurities.
- Flickr via dolapo
Popularized by Gwenyth Paltrow’s website Goop, vaginal steaming is a practice that involves sitting above steaming water to cleanse the vagina and give users “an energetic release,” according to Goop’s website.
In reality, steaming your vagina could potentially lead to serious burns, gynecologist Mary Jane Minkin, MD, told Women’s Health. Additionally, the steam could upset your vagina’s natural bacteria production that keeps the vagina healthy and balanced.
“The lactobacilli strains that keep vaginas healthy are very finicky about their environment and raising the temperature with steam … is likely not beneficial and is potentially harmful,” gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter wrote on her blog. If the steam has any added scents or components, it could also lead to irritation or further vaginal imbalances.
Bottom line: When it comes to caring for your vagina, the simplest option is usually the healthiest.
- Read more:
- Sex won’t permanently loosen your vagina no matter how often you have it, but 2 other factors can
- Dieters are trying to battle ‘keto crotch’ using everything from apple cider vinegar to scented sprays, but the remedies can be harmful
- More women are using marijuana while pregnant, but doctors aren’t sure how it might affect their babies
Myth: If your vaginal discharge is white or clear, it means you have an STI.
- China Stringer Network/Reuters
Having vaginal discharge outside of your period is completely normal and doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your vagina. That’s because the cervix naturally creates a mucus, which changes in color and consistency depending on how a person’s hormones fluctuate.
Even if your vaginal discharge looks slightly different from week-to-week or month-to-month, it doesn’t always mean you have an STI or other infection.
But if your discharge has a smell that isn’t normal for you or you feel itching or discomfort in the vagina area, you should see a doctor.