At least once in your life, almost every woman is tempted to buy feminine intimate hygiene products. These hygiene products are manufactured to clean your vulva and not your vagina. The vagina refers to the internal organs, while the vulva refers to the external genitalia of a woman’s body which includes the labia, clitoris, urethral opening, and vaginal opening. Now cleaning this area is quite tricky as there are many misconceptions regarding the cleansing process of your vulva.
Before diving into what is good and what is bad about feminine intimate hygiene products, it is important to look into the nature of your vulva and vagina. The question is, does your vagina need cleaning at all?
First of all, it is worth noting that the vagina self-cleans itself. Yes, you heard it right. Your vagina is designed to self-clean itself to protect itself from foreign infections. Now you might be getting the question: how does it really do it? You might have heard the phrase that all vaginas are acidic. And yes, this claim is true; all vaginas are actually acidic, ranging from PH levels 3.8 to 5.0 for a healthy vagina. Just imagine orange juice just to get a gist of what we are talking about here.
The next question is, why is the vagina so acidic? Like all living surfaces, your vagina also consists of a microbiome. A microbiome refers to a collective community of microbes that reside in your vagina. And these microbes, as the name suggests, cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Your vagina includes a collection of “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria in it. Your vaginal microbiome includes many types of bacteria; however, a healthy vagina is dominated by the Lactobacillus. Now, Lactobacillus is considered a “good” bacteria in your vagina as it releases a compound called lactic acid that is very helpful in keeping the vagina healthy. Lactic acid actually helps pathogens and anaerobic bacteria from entering the vagina.
This still does not answer the question; why is the vagina so acidic? Usually, bacteria and pathogens that are harmful to your vagina thrive in PH levels that are more than 5.0. By keeping the vagina at the right acidic levels, these bacteria do not get a chance for rapid growth, which leads to vaginal infections. So you get the reason why your vagina is naturally healthy.
But how does all this link up to feminine hygiene products?
Do you need feminine hygiene products?
The short answer is no. You do not need feminine hygiene products to keep your vulva clean. Many women are often insecure about their vulvas and the odor and discharge of their produce. What you need to keep in mind is that having an odor is completely normal. Vaginas are not supposed to smell like anything, and having a musky or fleshy smell is quite normal. This smell may vary from woman to woman, depending on her age, menstruation, sexual activity, etc. Having a discharge is also normal, and it is all connected to your sex hormones; estrogen and progesterone. These hormone levels fluctuate in your monthly cycle, resulting in different types of discharge on different days of your cycle. Healthy vaginal discharge is usually clear, thick, milky white, or slippery, according to the days of your cycle. It is worth noting that this type of discharge is totally normal, and it has nothing to be insecure or worried about. However, having an unpleasant odor that lingers around for a long time with abnormal discharge may indicate a possible infection which will require you to pay for a doctor’s visit. Other than that, having a mild smell and discharge is completely normal for vagina owners.
However, many women have fallen into the rabbit hole of perfect marketing when it comes to feminine hygiene products. You must have seen an advertisement or two about these products that promise you a clean, fresh vagina that smells like roses. Chances are, these pretty pink bottles are lying to you.
Feminine hygiene products and the risk of infection
The long story short is that feminine hygiene products may throw the PH levels in the vagina off the charts, making it a comfy breeding ground for harmful pathogens and bacteria. While a feminine hygiene product is less harmful compared to a body wash, it is still harmful to use one. As the vagina is a self-cleansing organ, you really do not need to clean it other than washing it regularly with warm water. You can still use a mild soap down there if you need a sense of cleanliness in your vagina. However, keep in your mind that scented soaps and the so-called feminine hygiene products are your enemies.
Using feminine hygiene products will increase the probability of getting a common infection, such as the ones below.
- Bacterial vaginosis – This causes a gray discharge and a fishy smell.
- Trichomoniasis – This is caused by a sexually transmitted parasite, and it is a common infection that results in a fishy smell and greenish discharge.
- Yeast infection – This causes intense itchiness in the vulva as well as white and thick discharge.
When to see a doctor?
If you have been using the so-called feminine hygiene products, it is better to check for symptoms of infections in your vagina. Sometimes these symptoms may require you to visit a doctor.
- Abnormal discharge that is either white, gray, or greenish in color
- Irritation in the vulva
- Swelling in the vulva
- Burning sensation whenever you urinate
- Discharge that has a chunky, cottage cheese-like texture
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- A strong odor that smells like fish
Feminine hygiene products are all about marketing since you do not need anything else other than warm water to clean your vagina properly. Feminine washes not only throw off the PH balance of the vagina and affect the microbes, but it also raises the risk of vaginal and urinary tract infections in women.