These days, there’s a lot of noise about intimate cleansers, feminine wash, and vaginal douches vs. regular soaps or just plain water. But, not all feminine hygiene products are created equally - while they tend to be put under the same "feminine hygiene" category, some products are actually harmful, while some are helpful.
Women from all walks of life have different opinions about which routine works best for them and which they would recommend to their friends, so we wanted to help you make some sense out of all the information floating around these days and help you make the right (and safest!) choice for you.
Vulva and Vagina 101
First, let's start from the beginning: what is the vulva, what is the vagina, and what is the difference?
The vulva is anything you can see, it is the entire outer area of female genitalia, including:
- The outer labia (everywhere hair grows, scientifically known as the labia minora )
- The inner labia (the inner “lips”, scientifically known as the labia minora)
- The clitoris and clitoral hood (skin folds that protect the clitoris)
- And last but not least, the opening to the urethra (hardest to see most times!).
The vagina, or vaginal canal, is the internal canal that leads to your cervix…aka where you put tampons and where babies come from…following? Great!
Which do you cleanse – Vulva or Vagina?
This is the million-dollar question…luckily, it’s an easy one. The vagina is the area of the female genitalia that is a “self-cleaning” oven…It produces discharge which helps your body clean and “flushes” the vaginal canal daily of unnecessary bacteria, yeast, sperm, or anything else that may be lurking there.
Since the vagina is self-cleaning, it is not necessary to use feminine wash inside your vagina, as this would disrupt the natural vaginal flora – or the healthy levels of bacteria and yeast – that exist inside of a healthy vagina. When the natural vaginal flora is thrown “out of whack”, your pH levels inside the vagina are also thrown off (normal vaginal pH is 3.8-4.5), and this can lead to bacterial infections (most commonly, bacterial vaginosis), yeast infections, and more. So are we cleaning the internal vagina? No ma’am.
The vulva, on the other hand, is where you can use cleansers, soap, and feminine washes. If you imagine your vagina as a self-cleaning oven, your vulva would essentially be the oven doors. Oven doors tend to get baked-on food, grease, and fingerprints all over them. Most people clean their oven doors with a cleaning agent…this would be the same for your vulva. So…are we cleaning the vulva? Yes ma’am.
How to choose the best feminine wash or cleanser for your vulva
Now here’s where it gets tricky. There are so many products on the market that it’s hard to figure out what to choose. Here are 5 quick tips on how to find a great feminine wash for your daily feminine hygiene routine:
- Be sure the feminine wash is pH balanced. Regular soap is highly alkaline, while the vulva skin (and vagina) prefer to be acidic. A feminine wash that is pH balanced has a more acidic formula and would be more gentle to your vulva
- Choose a feminine wash that is unscented or fragrance-free. Most fragrances are made from chemicals that are well known for irritating sensitive vulvar skin. Your vulva was not made to smell like a Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity. Unscented is the way to go.
- Pick a feminine wash that has a gentle formula. No one wants to get burning sensations or feel like dry sandpaper down there. A wash product with a gentle formula will feel soothing and moisturizing, like the Kushae Gentle 2n1 Foaming Wash.
- Look for a feminine wash that is OB/GYN approved. This is harder to find, but there are great choices including the foaming wash from Kushae.
- Avoid any feminine wash that has dangerous ingredients like sulfates, parabens, and glycerin. Sulfates have been linked to skin irritation, parabens have been linked to ovarian cancer, and glycerin is a sugar product that feeds and potentially increases yeast production…we definitely don’t want that!
Top feminine wash products to avoid
Douches of any kind are used to “flush” or cleanse the vaginal canal, the very place we now know is a self-cleaning oven. Not only are douches unnecessary, but they can be very dangerous. If there is an infection present, douches can potentially push the infection further up into the cervix by the force of the liquid spraying from the douche bottle. No Bueno.
Soaps are not pH friendly for vulvas and they tend to be highly fragranced. Skip the possibility of being dry and irritated down there and avoid soap altogether if you can.
Sorry ladies, but we are clear that rinsing with just water is not enough to cleanse the vulva. Want to know where “just use water” came from? Years ago, when women couldn’t find a product gentle enough to use, they (and physicians) decided water was the answer. Thankfully, now we have OPTIONS! Think about it: just like your ENTIRE body, the vulva has hair, hair follicles, oil glands, and often accumulates sweat. If you’re not just “rinsing” the rest of your body, why do that with the vulva? (Now, if you are just rinsing your body…your good…class dismissed). But for the rest of us…think about this, too…If water was enough to clean, why are rivers and lakes still polluted? So, to effectively remove sweat, odors, and oils from the vulvar skin, a gentle, natural cleanser, like the Kushae Gentle 2n1 Foaming Wash is recommended.
So next time you’re in the shower, think about what you’re doing for your hygiene routine. Are you just rinsing, using soaps, or have you found a feminine wash that is gentle, safe, and moisturizing? Let us know!