• Dr. Karyn Eilber

VAGINAL HEALTH PRODUCTS: What the vagina really needs?

There are a lot of products out there that are supposed to be for vaginal health, but based on their descriptions either the products aren't really made for the vagina, or some people are confused as to where and what the vagina needs. So here is some info on what's going on down there:

First things first: WHERE is the vagina? (You're thinking, "Duh.") Yes, I know you know that it's down there, but do you know where it officially starts and where it ends? The opening of the vagina, called the introitus, is the entrance to the vaginal canal and it ends at the cervix. Technically the vagina is just the internal area and does not include the external genitalia (labia minora and labia majora). My point is that a product called a "vaginal wash" should be used to clean inside the vaginal canal, otherwise it's really a "feminine" or "intimate" wash. Products meant to clean inside the vagina have traditionally been referred to as douches. The skin of the external genitalia (vulva and labia) is different from the vaginal canal, and sometimes even more sensitive, so if your goal is to care for what is outside the vagina, then any gentle cleanser is probably fine. In fact, the vagina is acidic so a wash for the labia and vulva is better to be pH balanced for the skin (less acidic) rather than the vagina itself. And the same applies to vaginal wipes. They should be called labial or vulvar wipes unless they are meant to wipe the inside of the vaginal canal---and wiping inside your vagina is pretty hard to do.

WHAT does the vagina really need? The vagina is far from sterile, and the less disruption from its normal state the better. There vagina's normal state is a balance of good and bad bacteria, and maintaining normal levels of the good bacteria prevent things like yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, abnormal discharge, or just not feeling right down there. Common causes of disrupting the balance are antibiotics and...wait for it...douching. Washing away the very important good bacteria allows growth of the bad bacteria. So even if the products that claim to be vaginal washes really are vaginal washes, they aren't really needed or even good for your precious vagina. As many of us who care for the vagina often say, the vagina is a self-cleaning oven so no extra cleaning needed.

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