9 ways to keep your vulva and vagina in tip-top shape

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It used to be that taking care of your vulva means removing excess hair through shaving, waxing or laser hair removal. At most, you would also add on a pH-balancing feminine wash to eliminate any odours. However, intimate skin care has been big business in recent years.

There are now vulva masks and serums that promise to enhance the look of your lady bits. Even Emma Watson is a fan of Fur Oil, a multi-purpose oil that helps condition skin and soften pubic hair.

But, are all these products necessary to keep your vulva and vagina clean and healthy? Here are nine things to know about the delicate area and the proper ways to care for them.

1. Know your lady bits 

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While we use the term “vagina” loosely, vagina actually refers to the internal organ. The area that is exposed externally is known as the vulva, and includes your labia, clitoris and the opening to the vagina.

And most feminine grooming products are formulated for use on this external area, not inside your vagina.

2. A bacteria colony lives (and thrives) down there 

Like the skin on the rest of our body, there’s a delicate balance of good bacteria that reside on the vulva. The existence of this microbiome helps keep your vulva healthy as it regulate its pH and helps stave off potential infections.

3. Your vulva is very sensitive 

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Before you start applying skincare products on your vulva, it’s important to read the labels clearly. This is because the area is extremely sensitive and the skin is thinner than elsewhere on our body.

As a general rule of thumb, anything harsh, or anything that contains alcohol, artificial fragrances, sulphates and parabens should be avoided. Always check with your gynaecologist before you give any new product a go on your vulva and do a patch test just to be safe.

4. Your vulva needs very little 

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Despite the popularity of intimate grooming products, the truth is the vulva is probably one of the easiest areas to look after. Thanks to the above-mentioned microbiome that exists, the vulva is perfectly capable of regulating itself and keeping it in tip top condition.

In fact, if you consult your gynaecologist, he or she will probably tell you that all you need to wash your intimate area is just water. If you use harsh cleansers that contain sulphates, artificial fragrances or dyes, these chemicals have the potential of causing irritation as they throw off its natural balance.

And if you insist on using a feminine wash, make sure you opt for one that respects your vulva’s delicate pH.

5. You don’t have to worry about pollutants 

Unlike the skin on your face or body, the vulva rarely (if not never) sees the light of day. This means that it’s not exposed to environmental factors like UV rays and pollution.

Instead, since most of us don’t go commando, your vulva is in constant contact with your undergarment of choice, plus the heat and dampness that exist.

If you think of it this way, there really isn’t much need to deep cleanse or detox the area. All you have to do is to keep the area clean and dry (moistness enables yeast to thrive), so be sure to change out of gym clothes after a workout session.

6. Chafing can cause other problems 

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While it isn’t exposed to the elements, the vulva undergoes constant chafing over the course of the day. And this is worsened if you wear thongs frequently. To minimise any discomfort that can arise from chafing, it is important to stick to comfortable underwear that are made of non-bleached cotton.

7. Ingrown hairs can be managed 

Remember those pesky bumps that hurt? When we remove our pubic hair via waxing or shaving, there’s a chance that when the hair grows back, it curls back under the skin. Couple that with accumulated sebum within the hair follicle and you get a painful bump known as an ingrown hair.

While they tend to resolve by themselves, there are ways to manage them. Most importantly, you shouldn’t try to pick at them because similar to pimples, that can lead to infection and scarring. Instead, apply a gentle anti-inflammatory product like tea tree oil.

Or try Fur Oil, about $85 for 75ml. Made with jojoba and grape seed oils, it hydrates the sensitive area without greasiness. At the same time, it also contains clary sage and tea tree for an anti-bacterial and astringent effect to soothe skin, prevent ingrowns and speed up the healing process.

8. You don’t have to clean it with soap every day 

You may feel like you have to wash your vulva with soap each time you take a shower but that’s not necessary. In fact, if you clean the vulva too much, you can end up stripping the skin of its natural oils which protect you.

It’s perfectly okay to skip the soap and just wash with water for one or two days. And if you need to wash up after sex, try to keep the usage of soap down there to just once a day.

9. Avoid using scented pads and tampons 

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When it’s the time of the month, you may be self-conscious of the smell of menstrual blood and try to mask it with various scents. However, these scented products may contain harsh perfumes that are bad news for your sensitive vulva and vagina and can cause irritation or allergic reactions.

No matter what type of pads and tampons you use, always go for the fragrance-free options.

This article was first published in CLEO Singapore.