Whether it's a yeast infection or a lengthy period, vaginas (while amazing in many ways) need a lot of care to remain healthy and happy. While many problems are unavoidable — and completely normal to experience at least once in your life, like strange discharge or bacterial vaginosis — some can be prevented. To find out more, I reached out to some health experts to learn about the most
common vaginal health don'ts, and the things we can do to turn it all around.
"A healthy vagina needs the same hygienic attention as any other part of your body, similar to the way we care for our face," says
Sherry A. Ross, M.D., author of she-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period.
According to Dr. Sherry and other experts, there are tons of everyday rituals you may be doing that are actually disrupting your vagina's pH balance and causing irritation, from the kind of laundry detergent you're using to whether or not you're exfoliating if you choose to shave or wax down below. The catch? You may not even know they're to blame.
And while the vagina is built to be a resilient,
self-cleaning machine, it's important to keep these sensitivities in mind to prevent irritation and sensitivity where you can. Here are seven of the most common mistakes you might be making every day, plus the products you can use to leave your vagina feeling happy and healthy.
Leaving Tampons Or Menstrual Pads In Place For Too Long
SckoonCup, $28, Amazon
One of the biggest mistakes made in vaginal healthcare — especially related to menstrual health — is forgetting to change tampons. Instead of stressing about it, you may want to consider switching to an
eco-friendly silicone cup like this one. Molded to fit all types and featuring angled suction holes for maximum capacity, this natural menstrual cup holds up to 100 percent more menstrual flow volume than a normal tampon and can stay in place for up to 12 hours. Prudence Hall, M.D., founder of The Hall Center recommends natural menstrual cups because they're "very convenient to wear" and mean you "don’t have to worry about tampons."
Washing Clothes With A Scented, Non-Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent
Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Free & Clear, $26 (2 Pack), Amazon
"While it can be difficult to predict, some laundry detergents, particularly scented detergents, can contain chemicals that are irritating to the vulva and can be associated with redness and discomfort known as contact dermatitis," says Joshua Klein, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of
Extend Fertility. This natural laundry detergent from Seventh Generation could be the perfect option for those with sensitive skin, and because this detergent doesn't feature any dyes or fragrances, it's also good for the environment too.
Douching Or Using Any Kind Of Scented Soap
Vagisil Prohydrate Internal Vaginal Moisturizing Gel, $12, Amazon
never recommended because it can be damaging to the vagina — it messes with your natural pH balance — but scented soaps can also irritate the sensitive areas of skin down below, leading to itching, dryness, and discomfort. Instead, "Using a gentle, non-fragranced soap and natural skin moisturizer daily is ideal, especially ones made specifically for the vagina," says Dr. Sherry. Specifically, she recommends Vagisil Prohydrate, a perfume- and estrogen-free moisturizing gel that helps restore hydration and works with your body's natural lubrication to provide dryness relief.
Wearing Underwear Made From Synthetic Or Non-Breathable Material
Forgetting To Wear Sweat-Wicking Underwear To The Gym
ExOfficio Give-N-Go Bikini Briefs (Sizes XS-XXL), $15-25, Amazon
Cotton underwear is great for everyday wear, but if you're going to the gym and planning on working up a sweat, you need a pair of
moisture-wicking underwear like this. According to Dr. Klein, too much moisture down below can affect the vagina's pH balance and lead to skin irritation, as well as increase the risk of infection. This breathable underwear was designed to eliminate sweat quickly and keeps you dry.
Not Exfoliating Sensitive Areas Before Shaving Or Waxing
SheaMoisture Lemongrass And Ginger Body Scrub, $11, Amazon
If you choose to wax or shave, you shouldn't forget to exfoliate, especially when it comes to your most sensitive regions. "Exfoliating that area either three days before or three days after shaving or waxing helps prevent ingrown hairs that can lead to a boil or an abscess," says
Lakeisha Richardson, M.D. For those who plan on shaving or waxing down there, Richardson recommends a hand and body scrub like this one from SheaMoisture, which features invigorating lemongrass and moisturizing shea butter and helps protect skin from irritation. According to Richardson, just spread a dime-sized amount of a gentle exfoliating scrub onto your favorite loofah and you should be good to go.
Using The Wrong Kind Of Lubricant
Astroglide X Premium Silicone Based Lubricant, $9, Amazon
According to Dr. Sherry, not all lubes are created equal — in fact, warming gels and scented lubricants are a common vaginal irritants that people may not realize are problematic at first. This non-irritating
silicone lubricant by Astroglide is a better option because it's safe on skin, long-lasting, and super-slippery, which means you won't have to worry about it drying out too fast and potentially leading to vaginal redness or swelling. Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.