We’re all just doing our best. And no one likes to be told they’ve been doing something wrong for their whole entire life.
But chances are you’ve been washing your vulva wrong for literally your whole entire life and it’s time we talked about it.
Dr Ginni Mansberg, a doctor who specialises in women’s health and appeared on Australia’s Embarrassing Bodies, told Mamamia there is one golden rule when it comes to cleaning your lady bits. And it was one we had never heard before.
If hair doesn’t grow there, Dr Mansberg said, don’t wash it with soap.
“If you wash with soap, a standard cheap as chips soap… particularly if it’s got a lot of scent, because soaps are very alkaline, it disrupts the chemistry of the vulva and the vagina and destroys the protective acid mantle that has been put there by the good bacteria, which allows both thrush and bad bacteria to grow.”
Some women (me… I’m talking about me) were under the impression that when health professionals disavowed soap, they meant don’t stick the soap up into your vagina region which seemed like very reasonable advice.
But the whole ‘it’s self cleaning leave it alone and let it do it’s thang’ also applies to the vulva – which according to my calculations – is the outside bit.
Here’s the thing about the vulva.
Like the vagina, the vulva has a balance of both good and bad bacteria that helps protect it. There is an ideal pH balance that our pink bits maintain without any interference.
LISTEN: I provide probably the best vagina-related recommendation ever in Mamamia Out Loud history. Post continues below.
But here’s the thing.
If we’re washing our vulva with soap, then we’re disrupting the natural pH balance. And what happens when you disrupt the pH balance?
Your vagina becomes more prone to infections like bacterial vaginosis and thrush.
COOL. (Not cool).
It takes the vagina/vulva 24 hours to restore it’s natural pH balance, so if you’re washing your bits with soap every day – or possibly twice a day – they never achieve optimum balance.
So the more you clean, the more likely it is you will develop a problem.
“You find a lot of women fall into the trap of the more smelly they are, the more they wash with soap, the more smelly they are,” Dr Mansberg said.
So, if you think your vagina smells bad, the first thing to do is stop using soap for a week, and see what happens.
"But that's blasphemy!" I hear you ask. "I have to wash it with something! That's ridiculous."
Well... I obviously yelled that exact question at Dr Mansberg, and she advised we use a pH balanced soap (think Cetaphil or Dermaveen). They're fragrance free and gentle on skin, meaning they're not disrupting anything. Both are super affordable and can be purchased at Priceline or most supermarkets. And they don't have VAGINA AND VULVA SOAP written on the front which is a major selling point.
Go forth and be kind to your vulvas. They will thank you for it.