Rarely a day goes by that we're not confronted by advertisements for vagina-related hygiene products. Sold in packages covered in flowered designs and girly colors, they're presented as goods that can make your vag cleaner than it was yesterday. On the outside, the messages seem innocent enough. Douches, for example, are labeled as simple feminine sanitary products, there to help you take better care of yourself.
But there's more to douches and similar products than just maintaining a nice smell between your legs. So many of today's vag-centered hygiene goods are trying to sell us things that may actually not be good for our vaginas at all. In fact, information about what is and isn't good for your vagina is, for most of us, quite hard to come by. Dr. Melissa Holmes, OBGYN and founder of Girlology.com, told Seventeen that she sees plenty of women who barely have a basic understanding of what they've got down there, let alone how they should be caring for it. So it's no wonder a lot of us have trouble definitively knowing what belongs around and in our vagina, and what doesn't.
It's something we need to talk about, though, because what goes into your vag could potentially have serious consequences. I'm sure you've heard the oddball ER story of a woman admitting herself because she got something strange stuck inside of her. You probably rolled your eyes and thought, That could never be me — I know that a ice cream sundae/ vintage action figure/ souvenir of the Eiffel Tower doesn't belong in there. Yes, you are correct, but that's not the end of it — there's so much more info out there your vag would like to know.
As always, talk to your doctor or a qualified medical professional if you have any pressing questions. In the meantime, there are nine things that should never, ever come into contact with that vagina of yours.
2. Fruits & Vegetables
Laugh all you want, but fruits and veggies have been used in the act of sex long before we came around — and they still are, even if most people who are into it are scared to admit it. From grapefruits to carrots, there are all kinds of creative ways they can be incorporated in the bedroom. But while this may be funny to talk about, there are some important things to know if you're choosing to get down and dirty with fresh produce.
Dr. Raquel Dardik, Associate Professor Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center, told SELF that not only do many fruits and veggies still carry some kind of pesticide on them, but that if you're using them for vaginal penetration, a piece could conceivably break off, get lodged in your vaginal canal and rot away. Yuck. Also, no matter how many times you've scrubbed that organic cucumber, it probably still carries some bacteria that your sweet vagina doesn't need to come into contact with. Those nasties could result in a bacterial imbalance, which leads to a yeast infection. So save the produce for external stimulation.
3. Rubber & Plastic Sex Toys
Simply using a dildo that's made of rubber won't hurt your vagina right off the bat. But over time, that squishy sex toy is susceptible to small cuts and other damages, which can eventually lead to microbes making themselves a cozy home in there; they then move from the toy to your jade garden, and you're slammed with an infection.
Plastic is no better. Many of the chemicals found in plastic — particularly trimethhyltin chloride, phenol, and toluene — have been banned from use in the manufacturing of children's toys because they've been dangerously correlated with hormonal changes and birth defects. And there are risks to adults, too: Laura Anne Stuart, owner of Milwaukee's boutique adult store called The Tool Shed, told Bitch Media that her customers have reported severe itching and burning from the cheap sex toys that are made with this material.
So how do you play safely? Instead of going for the cheap toys out there, invest in a phthalate-free toy that is made of silicone, good-quality plastic, or stainless steel. Additionally, make sure you're properly cleaning your sex toys after each use to avoid any bacteria build-up.
4. Body Art
5. Hair Dye
Your pubic hairs are much more sensitive than you might think (way more sensitive than the hair on your head), so dyeing them in the first place isn't a great idea. It's also worth considering that any time you dye your hair, dye drips from the hair onto the skin below, no matter what you do — and the smallest amount of dye on your vulva or in your vagina could result in pain and irritation. So steer clear of pubic hair dyes — your pubes are a lovely color just the way they are.
6. Tea Tree Oil
7. Anything That Has Been In Or Around Your Butt
8. An Electric Toothbrush
Women have been known to use these vaginally for their vibrating pleasure. But while they might do the trick just fine on your clitoris (you know, if you're running super low on options), don't explore what it's like to use an electric toothbrush internally. Electric toothbrushes are household products that weren't made to be inside your vag, and with all the bacteria from your dirty mouth living on them, they could easily cause irritation or, worse, fissures and infections in or on your vag.
9. Oil-Based Lubricants
Dr. Minkin strongly advises that you keep all oil-based lubes — including vaseline — out of the bedroom. They are difficult to wash out of the vagina, and they're usually made of glycerin, which is essentially like glucose/sugar. That means it turns your vag into a breeding ground for bad bacteria, putting you at risk for a yeast infection. To make matters worse, oil and latex don't get along, meaning it could wreck the efficiency of your condom, landing you with an unwanted pregnancy or an STI.
Instead, opt in for silicone- or water-based lubes, which are much easier on your vag and won't interfere with condoms. When in doubt about lube (or anything else), ring up your OBGYN or a nurse who works at the office. They'll be able to give you a solid idea of what's good and what's unworthy of your vagina's time.
Want more women's health coverage? Check out Bustle's new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you're afraid to ask.
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