Water, soap and water, or a special ‘intimate’ wash – which is really the best treatment for your genitals?
Do you wash your genitals with water, soap and water, or a specially formulated ‘intimate’ wash? The vast majority will answer that you use your usual soap and water. Is this the best way to care for your nether regions? The answer may surprise you.
We tend to think of our genitals as being naturally dirty and in need of a good wash, but the truth is that your private parts probably harbor fewer bacteria than your mouth! Obviously it’s good to keep things clean and wash regularly, but you’d be better off washing with just plain warm water or a specialized wash than just your regular shower gel.
Why you should toss the soap
The vagina is designed to be self-cleansing – its natural PH balance is maintained without your assistance. Using regular soap (inside or outside) messes with that balance and can lead to irritation or infection at worst, and at best it will simply dry out the area, which is naturally supposed to be moist. Gynecologist Dr Lizelle Nortje explains that the most soaps are alkaline, which “strips the natural acidity of the female genital region, causing dryness and, potentially, irritation.”
A recent health tip explained the dangers of what is known as ‘douching’, a method of cleaning your vagina and vulva with soap. This process is almost unanimously discouraged by doctors and gynecologists, as it disrupts the natural balance of the vagina.
You might wonder why you should refrain from using regular soap when it has never caused you problems before, however it is possible to have a bacterial infection and not exhibit symptoms. It could also be that you’ve become so used to the effects of regular soap that you don’t realize that it’s making you uncomfortable or causing irritation.
So how should you be washing?
If you shower regularly, and particularly after exercising or sex (especially where lubricants or spermicidal have been used), warm water should be sufficient to keep you fresh and clean ‘down there’. If, however, you don’t feel comfortable with just water, it would be wise to invest in a feminine hygiene wash that has been formulated with your natural PH balance in mind.
A soap like Lactacyd (R55, 120ml), a mild liquid cleanser created especially for the sensitive genital area, is ideal. Gyna-guard (R49,95, 140ml) is another popular brand. Look out for these at pharmacies and Wellness Warehouses.
Don’t forget, whether you wash with water or a cleanser, make sure you wash in a front-to-back direction – this will help you avoid Urinary Tract Infections. You should also never use any kind of soap, even an intimate wash, internally. If you feel itchy or irritated internally, it is best to see your doctor or gynae.
How else can you look after your genital health?
Dr Nortje recommends wearing cotton underwear, as synthetic fabrics (especially tight-fitting panties) block ventilation and blood circulation. She also advises against wearing panty liners when not necessary, and avoiding poor quality ones with plastic backing.
If you’re a fan of lubricant (and you should be!), make sure you’re using one that’s been clinically proven to be safe for sex (i.e. no improvising with body lotion or anything else at hand!). Water-based lubricants are best as they most closely resemble your natural lubrication.
Dr Oz (of Oprah fame) also recommends going ‘commando’ at bedtime. For one thing, he says, wearing no underwear to bed means improved ventilation for your genitals, but it also means one fewer barrier between you and your partner getting intimate!
Keep pouting ladies, remember to look after those lady bits!