As a woman, you are likely well aware that your vagina is a delicate and fairly temperamental organ, indeed. We caught up with gynecologist and co-founder of VENeffect Anti-Aging Skin Care Dr. Rebecca Booth to find out how you can keep your vagina and vulva as happy as a — well, a clam.
With intimate apparel, that is. "Vaginal skin is very sensitive," says Booth. "Try to wear only natural fabrics next to your delicate skin, such as 100 percent breathable cotton or silk." Synthetic materials often contain allergens and chemicals that can cause an annoying reaction.
Your vagina is a master of balance, so your main job is allowing it to do its job without interference. "The vagina's best defense is its own natural bacteria," explains Booth. "To support your healthy vaginal bacteria, eat unsweetened organic yogurt or take probiotics often."
Very sadly, junk food can actually throw off the bacterial balance of your vagina because unhealthy bacteria and yeast love sugar. Booth says it's best to avoid sugar, simple carbs and concentrated fruit drinks for vaginal health.
Even if a panty liner keeps your underwear clean from discharge, you're not doing your vagina any favors. Booth explains, "the synthetic materials in the pad's sticky backing do not breathe well, and the results aren't good for the vaginal tissues on an everyday basis."
Exfoliation is great for your skin, no matter where that skin is located. "The vulvar skin is prone to clogged pores and inflamed hair follicles," reports Booth. She suggests using a pH neutral soap, like Vagisil's pH Balance Wash, and an exfoliating hand glove to help avoid painful bumps.
If you're a smoker, it's not just your lungs that are begging for a breath of fresh air. "Tar, nicotine and even secondhand smoke can negatively affect your bacterial balance, which can lead to odor and clogged pores in the vulva," says Booth. Ditch the cigarette smoke so your vagina can breathe easy.
Some women are super prone to yeast infections, and oral antibiotics can actually set off a chain reaction that causes yeast to proliferate. If you must take an antibiotic, explains Booth, load up on yogurt, kefir and other fermented foods to prevent yeast from taking over your vagina.
Find a water-soluble lube instead of relying on lubricant that contains oil, silicone or fragrance. "Oil-based lubricants can actually smother the delicate balance of the vagina," says Booth.
Finally, get to know your gynecologist well, instead of just casually falling into the stirrups every now and then. Booth says that all women need to have a vaginal exam once yearly, a pap smear by at least age 21 and routine screening for sexually transmitted infections. "Your doctor will make sure that everything is in balance for optimal vaginal health," she says.
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