5 Ways You're Hurting Your Vagina

by Teresa Newsome

Vaginas are a lot of work — or at least, that’s how it seems. There’s all the hair removal (if that's what you're into) and period maintenance. Taking care of one is kind of a thankless, messy part-time job. But the vagina is a pretty amazing thing, despite all the maintenance that some of us go through for it. And even though all that work gets old fast, many of us still do it religiously. But should we? The hard truth is that a lot of the stuff we do to our vaginas in the name of hygiene and beauty is unnecessary. In some cases, it’s even dangerous.

Emergency rooms have seen a five-fold increase in lacerations and other vaginal injuries caused by hair removal alone. I know, I know — It's scary. Most of these injuries were caused by shaving. And when you think about it, it’s surprising that those of us who shave haven’t all landed sunny side up on a doctor’s table in the ER. I mean, we’re regularly standing in perilous positions, often in slippery showers, holding sharp razor blades to our lady parts. And that’s just one of the myriad ways in which we’re not being good friends to our vaginas. We also put them through a lot in the name of fashion, sex, and family. Here are some examples of ways we’re damaging our vaginas, with suggestions on how to make nice. Because life is better with a happy vagina.

1. Grooming

Body hair, especially pubic hair, is such a divisive issue, both in terms of feminism and fashion. When I worked at Planned Parenthood, a magical midwife told me that women would save themselves so much heartache if they just trimmed their bikini lines instead of ripping everything out. Skin infections, ingrown hairs, wax burns, chemical burns, nicks and cuts, relentless itching — these are the things you put your lady bits through in the quest for smoothness. Not to mention the occasional "OMG, I hope this is a pimple and not herpes!" You do you, of course, but maybe be a little careful next time you're doing some grooming down under.

Panasonic Bikini Trimmer and Shaver, $16.79, Amazon

2. Soap

The same magical midwife told me that the vagina is like a delicate flower: It only needs water. The whole system is set up to be self-cleaning. It's cool to use mild soap on the outer parts of the vulva, but you don't need to get way up in there. Harsh soaps can cause irritation to sensitive tissues, plus they can be drying, which throws off your whole delicate moisture balance. It's a can of worms best left unopened.

See also: douching. It just screws everything up, because it washes away the good, necessary bacteria and yeast. That's like sending infection a pretty invitation with a bow on it. Plus, it can force bad bacteria up into your reproductive tract. It's just not cool, and most major medical experts advise against it.

Dove Sensitive Skin Soap Bar, $9.44, Amazon

3. Tampons

Tampons are the double-edged sword of vagina ownership. They're both the best and worst thing ever. The price for their convenience is that they can make your vagina cry tears of sadness. They suck up all your internal moisture, making you feel dry and uncomfortable. They cause microscopic tearing. But that doesn't mean you need to stop using them. Aside from toxic shock syndrome (which, while serious, is rare), they don't cause any long-term health problems. Still, if you want to give your vajay a vacay, then maybe try out a menstrual cup or some some soft cloth pads.

DivaCup Menstrual Cup, $27.99, Amazon

4. Sweaty Fabrics

Your vagina doesn't have lungs, but you should treat it like it does. Vagina lungs. Now that's an awesome mental image. If you wear really tight pants, non-breathable fabrics, or wet bathing suits for a long period of time, you're creating the perfect conditions for a yeast infection or bacterial infection. It's the kind of pants party you don't want to throw.

5. Unprotected Sex

Unprotected sex. It's so tempting! But it only seems like a good idea until you wake up with herpes. And while many STDs are treatable and getting one certainly doesn't make you "promiscuous" or worthy of any other archaic stereotypes, it's not really fun. Your vagina doesn't like it.

Durex Variety Pack Condoms, $14.55, Amazon

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Images: James Nord/Flickr; Giphy (5)