All those who have a vulva and feel vulnerable about what’s down there…raise your hand!
There is so much to talk about regarding vulvovaginal hygiene. Historically, companies like Lysol, promoted women’s genital region to be an “area of neglect that can mar a marriage”. In the 1930 Lysol was marketed for everything from vulvar care and contraceptives. This makes my stomach flip and disgusted at the marketing ploys of corporations. Side note: this is why you will not see me jumping on any bandwagon for products or buying the latest and greatest new things. Ok off, the soapbox!
Your vulva was created to be a self cleaning oven, an automatic car wash and a fantastic FUPA freshener! It needs nothing more than a bit of water and tender love and care.
There are times we may be more concerned about the health, smell or skin care of our vulvas. Age related changes, urinary leakage, chronic UTIs and yeast infections, sex, hygiene practices and even healing from birth can change the delicate environment of the vulvovaginal microorganisms aka flora.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when caring for your vulva
When cleansing, do not use soap on any parts without hair! Gently wash using your finger tips and warm water. Pat dry or use the cool setting of a blow dryer to eliminate moisture if there is an issue.
Avoid vaginal douching. Research does not provide any benefit to using a vaginal douche. Washing the vulva is associated with an increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, endometritis and sexually transmitted infections
Drink plenty of water to keep mucosal tissues hydrated. If you have leakage, concentrated urine is more irritating to both the skin and the bladder
If you do need to wear pads/protection specifically designed to absorb urine, change them often for optimum skin health. do not use menstrual pads whenever possible
Skin protection is essential if urine leakage is continuous or if skin irritation is present.
Protection is usually in the form of a moisture barrier ointment that is applied to clean dry skin. Common barrier protection ointments such as A and D Ointment®, Bag Balm® or coconut oil are available over the counter.
Wear cotton underwear and minimize the use of thongs! Tight undies in small places can move bacteria from the rectum to the vaginal opening
Avoid wearing nylon underpants and pantyhose directly against their skin, cotton underpants are preferable.
Sleep in the nude! Air out your lady bits for several hours while you sleep
Consider your household products. Avoid colored or perfumed toilet tissue, sanitary napkins and laundry detergents because the dyes and fragrances can be irritating to the area.
Moisturizing the Vulva
If you find you need a little extra moisture due to soft tissue healing, hormonal related dryness or sensitive skin consider using non-hormonal moisturizers. Non-hormonal moisturizes can be over the counter products to coconut oil or even extra virgin olive oil.
Remember when using these products start with clean skin and apply to the vulva (see colored areas). Many people confuse using moisturizers on the outer labia only, but the trick is to use it on the inner labia and the surrounding skin.
Products like Intimate Rose Enchanted Organic Vaginal Cream, Foria CBD Arousal Oil and intimacy and plain old coconut oil are great options for soothing the vulva, improving moisture and minimizing friction with intimacy. DIY Coconut oil suppositories- watch Dr. Amanda make some homemade coconut oil suppositories to use daily or before intimacy
Our favorite moisturizers we recommend and use in the office include:
HA has been found to be an excellent alternative to estrogen based creams for postpartum, post menopausal and cancer related vaginal dryness. It provides relief from general vaginal dryness regardless of the cause.
Hylagel D and Revaree
Has been found to treat vaginal dryness comparable to estrogen creams in postmenopausal women
Research also concluded that using HA creates new blood vessels, and improves sensitive vaginal tissue to repair itself and reverse atrophy without affecting hormones.
V-Magic Vulvar Balm: all natural, organic intimate skin cream for everyday moisturizing or intimacy.
For discomfort: relief to chafed, dry, itchy, rashy, inflamed intimate skin
For moisturizing: everyday protective lasting moisture
For intimate and physical activity: protects skin before during and after intimate activity and sports-related chaffing
For refreshing: supports skins natural pH and helps maintain vulvar skin moisture and balanced throughout the day
For personal grooming: reduces inflammation and ingrown hairs
Melexylem™ – a proprietary compound that binds raw, sustainably sourced honey (containing anti-aging, antibacterial and Vitamin B properties) with propolis (a purifying, healing agent), resulting in a high enzymatic action that provides heightened prebiotic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits while soothing and hydrating skin
Organic Extra Virgin Olea Europaea (Olive Oil) – nutrient-rich moisturizer loaded with super rich essential fatty acids to repair cells and prevent cell damage from free radicals
Organic Avocado Oil - rich in essential fatty acids and Vitamin E; repairing and nourishing
Organic Cera Alba Beeswax – creates building blocks to provide skin protection from environmental factors, keeping skin healthy and strong
Organic Sea Buckthorn - rich in Vitamins A, D and E + carotenoids; repairing and nourishing
GCL Vaginal Gel was formulated to mimic optimal vaginal conditions with calibrated pH levels, salt balance, and the same type of beneficial lactic acid produced by healthy lactobacilli for a truly natural and healthy lubricating response.
It can be used daily as a moisturizer, as well as during intimacy.
Moisturizes to reduce dryness, irritation & unusual odor
There's a small chance you might experience tingling or warming as it works to reset healthy pH levels. Warming and tingling is anticipated for the first few uses, and should diminish after 5-7 days of consistent use.
Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice
Desert Harvest Aloe Glide is 00% all-natural aloe vera-based vaginal moisturizer and sexual lubricant.
Dryness, itching, inflammation, burning, and pain associated with vulvar irritation, menopause, pain with sex, vulvodynia, vaginismus, atrophy, interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome, lichen sclerosis/planus, Sjogren's and pelvic floor dysfunction.
Organic Aloe Vera
Xanthan Gum (Natural Polysaccharide)
Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract
Althea Officinalis (Marshmallow) Root Extract
Citric Acid (Natural pH Controller)
Natapres Natural Preservative (Leuconostic/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate (Natural Antimicrobial)
Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Extract
Populus Tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract
Now you can feel confident in how you care for your vulva! Happy hygiene, happy vulvovaginal health!
Dr. Amanda Heritage, PT, DPT, PRPC is the owner of Breathe Life Physical Therapy & Wellness, LLC located in Collingswood, NJ. She has been practicing physical therapy for 11 years with a strong focus on pelvic health. She enjoys encouraging women about pelvic therapy as a treatment option for those suffering with pelvic pain, incontinence or constipation.