To hear TV commercials tell it, women should be douching, spraying or otherwise deodorizing their vaginal areas every day. But what does it really take to stay “fresh”? Not much. That’s because the vagina does a very good job of cleaning itself. Normal secretions—usually thin, scant and clear or white—flush away dead cells, menstrual blood and other debris efficiently.
When it comes to keeping clean, washing daily with mild, unscented soap and water is all you need to do. However, because the vagina is warm, dark and moist —the perfect breeding ground for infection-causing yeast and bacteria—it’s just as important to keep the area dry.
Follow these tips to stay clean, dry and infection free:
- Wear cotton underpants.
- Avoid pantyhose and tight pants.
- Avoid scented products, including tampons, sanitary napkins and toilet paper.
- Don’t sit around in a damp bathing suit.
- Never apply greasy ointments or powders to the genital area.
- Always wipe from front to back.
Unless your doctor instructs otherwise, avoid douches. Often, they upset the vagina’s normal acidity, creating a yeast- and bacteria-friendly environment that leads to infection. Not surprisingly, doctors point to excessive douching as a major cause of yeast infections. Several studies suggest that douching may even be associated with a higher rate of pelvic infection. (Experts suspect it forces germs higher into the reproductive tract.)
As for feminine hygiene sprays, besides being unnecessary, they often irritate skin. What’s more, a recent study has linked routine spraying and powdering in the genital area to a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
The bottom line: When it comes to feminine hygiene products, save your money. Stick to soap and water and trust Mother Nature to do the rest.