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Repeat after us: Do. Not. Douche.
Scrubbing up in the shower is a pretty intuitive process…until you get to your most sensitive areas. What kind of soap should you use? Are you doing too much—or maybe too little? Misguided information on how to clean your vagina could leave you anywhere between itchy skin and a full-on yeast infection. Yikes. We all know that when things are uncomfortable down there, things are uncomfortable everywhere. Here’s how to cleanse your vagina to keep it happy, healthy, and feeling fresh.
While the external part of your nether regions (a.k.a. the vulva) needs some TLC, the internal portion (a.k.a. the vagina) does a pretty good job of taking care of itself. “The vagina has really great mechanisms within it to keep it clean and have its own little healthy ‘ecosystem,’” says Jessica Shepherd, M.D., a gynecologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago and founder of Her Viewpoint.
Typically, the vagina has a pH level of about 3.5 to 4.5 (pH is measured on a scale of zero to 14). When you use hygiene products like body wash, which have generally have a pH of about eight, this can throw your pH balance out of whack, leading to itchiness, irritation, and odor. “Unscented soaps are always better because they don’t have [fragrances] that could be irritants,” says Shepherd. What’s more, bar soap is generally a better choice than body wash because it usually doesn’t have as high of an alcohol content or as much of a scent, says Shepherd. Just make sure to keep an eye out for constant itching, dryness, a change in discharge, or an increase in yeast infections—these are signs that you may need to use a more delicate soap.