health

The lesson we weren't ever taught: How to actually clean your bits.

Summer's Eve
Thanks to our brand partner, Summer's Eve

Half the population has one, but vaginas are still kind of a taboo topic, aren’t they? We’ll wax lyrical about any other body part but when it comes to down there most of us will dodge, duck and weave out of the conversation.

Unless you’re Gwyneth Paltrow, that is. The Hollywood superstar-turned-wellness guru not only preached about the controversial practise of vaginal steaming, she even released a candle that smelt like her nether regions when lit (hmmm?).

But here’s the thing – those out-there routines are the ones that make headlines. There’s a lot of vagina cleaning guidance out there but most of it is misinformed.

So, we thought we’d help break through the myths and offer up the facts on how exactly you should be cleaning your vagina.

Fact: It actually does a pretty good job all by itself.

For starters, there’s actually no need to steam your bits. Not only does it sound seriously dangerous but the vagina is – drum roll please – self-cleaning.

Yep, there’s actually no real reason to clean inside there because discharge, which all women get to varying degrees, is essentially a clean-up, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Your vagina is dispelling a mix of fluid and cells and leaving you with a pristine space between your legs. Magic.

If the discharge is abnormal – which would be a change in scent or appearance along with itching or pain, then that might be worth talking to a doctor about.

How should I wash ‘down there’?

What you shouldn’t ever really do is give your vagina a good ‘ol wash with your standard soap or body washes. These aren’t tailored for use in intimate areas where the pH is at a different level to the rest of the body.

It’s super important to keep your vagina’s pH at an acidic level. That includes the external part of your genitals – your vulva – as well. Otherwise it can deplete the levels of Lactobacillus, the good bacteria that contains essential probiotics for our vaginal microbiota, which is helpful for preventing  infections like bacterial vaginosis and thrush. So, a simple warm water rinse is actually enough – no soap and definitely no scrubbing. Be gentle!

What about feminine washes?

Intimate wash and feminine wash, call it what you will but the idea is the same: There are tailor-made washes to clean down there.

That’s if you want to, because, like we discussed above, the vagina is self-cleaning. These washes are made only for external parts of the vagina, not for internal use.

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But if you look around, there’s a lot of intimate washes on the market right now and it’s a little overwhelming. It’s also important to note that no two washes are created equally.

If the pH level in a product is too high or too low, it could strip away the natural protective layer of our skin – which is called the ‘acid mantle’ – which leaves you open to irritation, itching and discomfort.

If you’re wanting to use a wash, look for one that is hypo-allergenic, pH balanced for your delicate vaginal tissue, and gynaecologically tested. Nothing with soaps, dyes or parabens, and ideally not tested on animals either.

Summer’s Eve washes hit the above criteria. Their washes have been specially formulated to emulate the pH environment that is most optimal for natural microflora present on the external parts of the vagina, along with aloe vera and prebiotics. Remember, it’s external use only – not for inside your vagina.

You Beauty Panel members trialled Summer's Eve and shared their thoughts. Images: Supplied.

Mamamia's You Beauty panel tested the Summer’s Eve range and had some positive feedback.

Anna, 26, said she used it after the gym and she would "definitely buy again".

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Cassandra, 33, said: "I used this product daily in the shower, as part of my usual body washing routine. It’s very non-offensive, easy to use, and gives an appropriate gentle clean."

Lauren B, 24, said: “This product left me feeling fresh and clean for the entire day.”

Using vaginal washes is a personal choice. They can be used during or after periods, during travelling and exercising, or after shaving or waxing.

With the right product, you can do it every day, once a week or once a month, depending on when you fancy giving your magical self-cleaning vagina a little extra TLC. As long as the vagina is yours, so is the decision.

Should you ever douche?

To douche or not to douche, that is the question. But first, what exactly is douching? It’s essentially the art of flushing inside your vagina - like literally internally - with water in the belief it makes it cleaner.

Here’s what you need to know: Some health professionals say it makes zero difference to cleanliness. Others say to avoid, as it’s not actually that great for the vagina’s natural flora and can cause bacterial infections.

But still, a lot of women swear by it and it’s actually a personal choice. The most important thing is to avoid cosmetic douches, which are often heavily fragranced and can cause irritation and pH imbalance that could lead to pain, irritation and/or infection.

Whatever your call, make sure you’re informed and if in doubt, why not ask your doctor? They’ll give you the low down on douching your down low.

A vagina with a smell isn’t an unclean one.

One of the biggest vagina myths is that when your bits start to have that fishy smell, rather than your natural odour which is totally OK, that it’s down to cleanliness issues. That is absolutely not true. We repeat, not true!

The vagina is self-cleaning. It’s all good! Unusual odours can actually be the result of too much washing, especially with products that aren’t pH balanced. It could also be down to your choice of undies, so opt for cotton.

Odour is normal. But if it's odour along with other symptoms, don't hesitate to book in with a healthcare professional.

There's no need for it to be taboo.

Summer's Eve

Try Summer's Eve Daily Freshness Wash today. Available at Chemist Warehouse and other leading pharmacies.

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