POV: two nights ago, you showered with a new body wash that promised to make you smell like a walking Snickerdoodle and now you’re dealing with an annoying itch down there. As women (or vagina-owners in general), we’re constantly dealing with a delicate system that seems to go off course without rhyme or reason. And for some of us, it can be downright stressful. But when it comes to your vaginal health, there are a few simple things you can do to help you stay balanced and reduce the risk of running into pesky problems.
Not sure where to begin? We’ve got you covered.
less is more
When it comes to vaginal care, if there is anything to live by, it’s less is more. You’ve likely seen or heard the vagina described as “self-cleaning” and that’s technically true. Your vagina works 24/7 trying to create a balanced environment of healthy (and even harmful) bacteria, so you typically don’t have to worry too much about it.
But, naturally many different things can throw this balance off. A normal vaginal pH should range from 3.8 to 4.5. Things like douching (a big no-no) and using heavily perfumed soaps or lotions can have a negative effect on your vaginal pH as they can change your vaginal flora, increasing the risk of vaginal discomfort or even infection.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t clean the external area around your vagina (your vulva). But, you really only need to use warm water and mild soap to maintain good hygiene. All-natural, fragrance-free washes are gentle and practical enough for daily use.
There are also some amazing feminine cleansing products out there, specifically made for vaginal hygiene. The Honey Pot is an ElastaFlex fave. Plant-based and Dermatologist approved, their feminine washes are some of our holy-grail vag products of all time.
But one of the most important takeaways to remember here, though, is that the goal is never to insert soap of any kind into your vagina – that is another big no-no. Keep it gentle and keep it external.
front to back
Okay, so we’re sure many of you have heard this one since childhood because… same. But it is a great habit to have – wiping from front to back is a really good way to help reduce the odds of transferring bacteria from your backside to the front (which can upset the natural balance of your vaginal flora).
This should come as no surprise, but hydration plays a crucial role in maintaining our vaginal health. That’s because when we’re well-hydrated, we urinate regularly, flushing out toxins and keeping the body functioning as it should. Not to mention, increased fluid intake can also help with vaginal dryness.
The average (adult) woman should be shooting for around 2.7 liters of fluids each day (yes… we can let go of the 8 cups a day rule). But, that doesn’t mean it has to be strictly plain water – you can also incorporate beverages such as herbal teas, sparkling water, and smoothies made from fresh fruits and leafy green vegetables.
Coconut water is also not to be slept on – it helps you stay hydrated and is also high in potassium and magnesium. We also have a list of our favorite ways to hit our daily water goals here.
practice safe sex
Yes, we’re taking it back to your high school health class. But, it’s true – practicing safe sex (especially with new partners) is something your vagina will thank you for in the long run.
Aside from the most obvious vaginal issues that can stem from unprotected sex (STIs/Sexually Transmitted Infections), semen maintains a highly alkaline pH of around 7.2-8 which can raise your vagina’s normally acidic pH and result in that dreaded fishy smell we all associate with bacterial infections.
Not to worry though – feel free to check out our fave at-home remedy to help keep our pH in check.
We love a cute, lacy set from Victoria’s Secret as much as the next girl. But, be sure to switch it up with light, breathable fabrics from time to time. Considering the number of hours we wear underwear each day, it’s essential to give her some breathe-time. Try wearing underwear made from cotton (like 100% cotton or cotton jersey) or bamboo, as these are both breathable, moisture-wicking options.
Size also matters (in this case) – we want to be sure to wear undies that aren’t too tight on us.
“eat the rainbow”
This one should come as no surprise because, at this point, we know that pretty much everything that has to do with our bodily health starts from within. Diet plays a big role in our overall well-being and the vag is no exception to this rule. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet promotes gut health, which in turn will also benefit your vaginal health.
Of course, our gut plays a major role in the process of digestion, but did you know it’s also a key factor in hormonal balance and immunity? An imbalance in your gut microbiome can make actually make you more susceptible to vaginal health issues. But, no need to fret – here are a few foods you can add to your diet to help promote a healthier gut (and therefore, a healthier vagina):
- High fiber fruits and vegetables
- Probiotics such as yogurt
- Fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, and kefir
- Nuts and seeds
Women’s health is not something we should ever be ashamed of or embarrassed by. You are never alone. Ask questions and remember, an entire lifestyle overhaul is not always necessary – sometimes, a few simple choices can make all the difference in our general well-being.
And when in doubt, always remember to ask your Gynecologist about all things vag.