Many of us often confuse the vulva with the vagina. For starters, the vulva is not just another word for the vagina but refers to the outer parts of the vagina such as the clitoris, clitoral hood, inner and outer labia (vaginal lips). The labia is one of the few parts that are actually visible from the outside, exposing the skin in that region to bacterial and fungal infections (especially since it is high in moisture).
Like the skin on other parts of your body, caring for your vulva is essential for good vaginal health. Infections and skin conditions can cause severe discomfort.
Vulva conditions that may require medical attention include the following symptoms:
You may experience just one or a combination of these symptoms. Women often self-diagnose these symptoms as a result of a yeast infection but there are other conditions such as fungal infections and skin dermatitis that could carry similar symptoms.
If you experience persisting symptoms, it is advisable to consult a Dermatologist for treatment. Read on to find out how to care for your vulva the right way and practice good feminine hygiene.
Here are 6 simple tips to keep your vulva healthy and help you feel your best:
While you shouldn’t wash inside your vagina, it’s a good idea to wash your vulva, limiting the washing to 2-3 times per day.
Your vagina contains “good” bacteria that maintain the ideal pH balance in your vagina (less than pH 4.5), which is slightly acidic. This acidic environment makes it hard for “bad” bacteria to infect your vagina. Hence, over-washing can indeed be harmful to your vaginal health.
While some may use fragranced soap to wash their vulva with no issues, it’s still not a good idea. Fragranced soaps, gels and antiseptics contain chemicals that can negatively affect and irritate the sensitive skin in and around the vulva. Though it could be tempting to use fragranced washes to reduce odor and clean the vulva, it is important to know that no vagina is odorless and its smell might change depending on diet and menstrual cycle.
If you want to use soap, choose a soap that is gentle, moisturising and unscented. However, if you are experiencing a smell that is pungent and unpleasant, contact a dermatologist for treatment.
It is not advisable to use scented wet wipes which disrupts the vagina’s natural bacteria that keep it clean and healthy. Stick to dry toilet paper or rinse with water and non-fragrant washes.
Many women wear panty liners to prevent stains and keep their underwear clean. However, wearing panty liners every day can increase your chances of getting a vaginal yeast infection – an unpleasant fungal infection that leads to burning, itching and thick discharge.
Hence, it is advisable to wear panty liners only when you are menstruating and to change them frequently.
Opt for loose natural fabrics such as cotton for your underwear as it is both gentle and comfortable on your sensitive pubic area, as compared to nylon and other synthetic fabrics that can make you sweat more and irritate the sensitive skin around your vulva.
If you suspect that you have an infection, it is recommended that you consult a Dermatologist immediately, and use their recommended washes and ointments, along with any other treatment they prescribe for your condition.
Practising good vulva health is crucial in preventing several common infections and discomfort. Practise these 6 expert tips to care for your vulva the right way and keep everything healthy and happy down there.