Feminine Hygiene 101: Soap and Vaginal Health

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Life is hectic, but your vaginal health should always be a priority. When you walk down the feminine hygiene aisle in the pharmacy, an array of pricey soaps with pretty pink or floral containers aimed at vaginal hygiene stick out. Despite all these options, what kinds of soap (if any) should you really use on your vagina?

The vagina is a tube of muscle inside a woman's body that runs from the cervix to the vaginal opening. The vagina cleans itself with natural vaginal secretions (or discharge), meaning you don’t need to wash it out with soap. The vulva, or the outer area around the vagina, is what you should typically focus on cleaning.

The vagina has a pH level of about 3.5 to 4.5 (pH is measured on a scale of zero to 14). When you use any type of liquid body wash, which generally has a pH of about 8, this can throw your vaginal pH balance out of whack, leading to itchiness, irritation and odor. If you must use soap, use unscented, plain soaps to clean the vulva. But don’t ever use soap or body wash inside your vagina.

When washing around your vagina, avoid any soaps intended for acne or soaps used to dry the skin since this will likely cause irritation. Every woman’s body is unique, so a soap that works for your mom may cause vaginal irritation for you. If the soap you’re using burns or irritates your vagina even a little, stop use immediately.

Bar soap is better for your vaginal area than liquid soap because it usually contains less alcohol. Don’t know where to start? Just look for any bar soap that is unscented, such as the Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar. Natural and organic soap products are also safe to use if there are no added fragrances. Most natural or organic soaps are made from base oils or organic oils, but the manufacturer can add fragrances to them that you don’t want near your vagina.

When choosing a soap to use around your vagina, be sure to check the ingredients and avoid any scented products. Using body wash to clean your vaginal area isn’t recommended due to its pH. Instead, look for unscented bar soaps, which won’t throw off your natural pH balance. Whether the soap you use is organic, unscented or both, discontinue use of any soap that even slightly irritates your vagina.

By: Dr. Sherika Newman

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