SUMMER CARE FOR DOWN THERE: Tips for keeping your vagina happy and healthy this season
Have you ever thought about the fact that your vagina is extremely important (menstrual flow goes through there regularly, allows for sexual activity, passage for babies, etc.), but there isn't even a class in high school that teaches you the basic fundamentals on how to care for it? Fortunately, as I've always told my patients, the vagina is like a self-cleaning oven so most women can get away with minimal maintenance. But during the summer, you will likely be spending time in a wet swimsuit made of synthetic fibers which means that you need to give yourself a little extra love down there. Vaginal Health in the Summer My advice for caring down there includes just two basic principles to keep this important organ in good working order: 1. Keep it simple. The female genitalia is mysterious with lots of allure, so surely it needs all sorts of fancy stuff to make it happy, right? No. In fact, I would say that opposite is true. Although our senses love great smelling bath soaps and lots of bubbles, some women's genitalia really don't. Many women can enjoy a long soak in the bath tub with any body products or swim in a pool all day, but some lady parts can get irritated from the chemicals in certain scented soaps (there's a reason that the phrase "cheap perfume" is derogatory) or chlorine and other chemicals used to clean swimming pools. The skin down there needs to be treated as well as, if not better than, the rest of your skin. If you have sensitive skin in general, then it's likely your skin down there will be even more sensitive requiring extra attention. Your vulva is made up of the labia majora (external "lips") and labia minora (inner "lips"). The labia respond to hormonal changes which is why puberty, pregnancy, and other hormonal changes can make them grow and darken in color. Because the labia respond to hormonal changes, that area may feel more sensitive or swollen certain times of the month or if birth control or hormone replacement is changed. If you do feel irritated, avoid prolonged periods of time in chlorinated pools and rinse off as soon as possible. You should use only mild body wash on that delicate skin, and keep it from getting too dry. GLISSANT body wash has all your needs covered with inflammation reducing marigold and arnica blended with soothing and moisturizing aloe, yarrow and oat. Afterwards, change into some comfy, loose-fitting clothes. Your undergarments should be cotton or at least have a cotton panel to let the skin underneath breathe. 2. Maintain the balance. I can't tell you how many times a woman has told me she's "just aware" of her vagina. You're not supposed to be aware of your vagina (or most body parts for that matter). In my experience, when your vagina starts raising your awareness, as opposed to burning and causing you outright pain, it usually means there is an imbalance of the microbiome (balance of bacteria, yeast, and possibly other organisms). The normal pH of the vagina is acidic, somewhere between 3.5 and 4.5. The "good" bacteria (mainly Lactobacillus) make lactic acid to maintain the acidity of the vagina and hydrogen peroxide. (If you didn't believe me when I said your vagina was a self-cleaning oven, do you believe me now?) Women who are prone to overgrowth of bacteria (bacterial vaginosis, BV) are likely deficient in good bacteria and can be treated with boric acid or other treatments that make the vagina more acidic. Keep in mind an imbalance doesn't mean infection, it just means there is too much or too little of certain organisms. Bacteria love warm, moist places so staying in a wet bathing suit all day can potentially cause bacterial imbalance and yeast infections. Other causes of vaginal imbalance are low estrogen levels, such as with menopause or prolonged use of birth control, and antibiotics. Sometimes the treatment is just avoiding certain medications and/or giving your body time to adjust. Excessive douching should be avoided as this can also upset the vagina's microbiome. In general, the more you stick with what's natural the better. Glissant Lubricant in the Summer These two basic principles are the basis of GLISSANT intimate essentials. The FDA-cleared, water-based lubricant encourages a woman's own lubrication with hyaluronic acid and l-arginine, and the lactic acid helps maintain the normal vaginal pH. The CBD & CBG infused oil-based lubricant capitalizes on the natural antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that cannabinoids possess. And after the fun, tidy up with our pH balanced body wash. How's that for summer fun? Dr. Karyn Eilber MD is a physician in Beverly Hills with over 20 years of experience in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.