Intimate hygiene – what you need to know

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There’s no doubt about it, intimate hygiene is important. However, excessive cleaning of this body area can be harmful, despite the advertising industry wanting you to believe otherwise. What exactly constitutes healthy feminine hygiene? Here’s what you need to know.

Intimate hygiene tip #1: Lukewarm water it is!

A growing number of brands are offering intimate care products available in a wide variety of scents. However, gynecologist generally discourage their use, because many of these products can contain perfume which disrupts the sensitive vaginal flora. Excessive use of such products thus leads to higher risk of infection such as thrush. Keep it simple and just use lukewarm water to clean your vulva.

The vagina has its very own cluster of helpful bacteria which help to keep it clean. The bacteria lactobacillus, which produces lactic acid keeps the vagina acidic at a pH level of 4 to 4.5. A low pH is important to prevent harmful fungi or bacteria from settling in the area. Soaps and perfumed shower gels can disrupt this natural acid mantle, making it easier for infections to arise.

Intimate hygiene tip #2: Hands off the washcloth!

When it comes to facial cleansing most of us are aware that towels require regular changing to reduce the growth of germs. Things aren’t much different when it comes to cleaning your vagina. It’s best to avoid using a washcloth. However, if you decide to use one anyway regularly wash it by placing it into boiling water for three minutes to ensure proper disinfection. And here’s another tip: clean your vulva gently – your mucous membranes will thank you for it.

Intimate hygiene tip #3: Front to back

This well-known piece of advice is as relevant today as it always has been. There’s a right way to wipe your bottom ladies! Always use toilet paper to wipe from front to back after visiting the loo. The reverse can lead to harmful gut bacteria entering your vagina which can cause infection. 

By the way, a similar rule applies to sex: don’t immediately go from anal penetration to vaginal sex without changing the condom in between or having a quick wash.

Intimate hygiene tip #4: A quick trip to the toilet

Never mind if it’s unromantic – a quick trip to the toilet after intercourse helps to avoid bladder infections by flushing out bacteria which may have entered the urinary tract through your urethra.

Intimate hygiene tip #5: Cotton is best!

Lingerie is sexy and can make all the difference on a hot date with a special someone or even yourself. However, most lingerie is made from synthetic fibers, which are less breathable than cotton fabrics. This can cause an increase in heat and moisture, providing an environment in which bacteria and fungi thrive. Cotton underwear is breathable and thus should be your preferred choice for regular wear.

By the way, panty liners are also made from synthetic materials which can impair air circulation. Natural moisture produced by your vagina can’t escape, which can cause infection and unpleasant smells. Play it safe and opt for specialist period panties or cotton panty liners instead. It may take some time to get used to, but is a much healthier, sustainable and more comfortable option for your precious vagina. 

Intimate care for men

The vagina is not alone in requiring some specialist intimate care. The penis can benefit from a good hygiene regime too. Luckily, intimate hygiene doesn’t differ too much between the sexes. The fundamentals apply for men too: use lukewarm water, avoid scented shower gels with high pH values, and wear fresh underwear every day.

If you’re not circumcised, pull back the penis’s foreskin during washing to reduce smegma. Smegma is a naturally occurring mixture of sebum, shed skin, urine and sperm and makes for the perfect breeding ground for germs and unpleasant smells. This doesn’t mean men with circumcised penises are off the hook as bacteria can accumulate here too. In short: practice good daily intimate hygiene!


Author: Frieda Hintze

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