1. The Fabric of Your Undies Matters!
Let’s start with the basics: Your underwear. Natural fibres, like cotton, modal or bamboo, allow our skin to breathe. They wick away moisture and keep you feeling fresh. Plus, they reduce the risk of irritation and rashes. Some even have a natural anti-bacterial effect like the lovely modal/ beech wood pulp fibres.
Dr. S.N. Basu, senior director, Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Max S.S. Hospital says, “Vaginal moisture, which tends to accumulate around the vulva region, can cause skin irritation and infections in and around the vagina.”
Day-to-day activities like working out, spending long hours in tight-fitted clothing, or even enduring a humid day can trap moisture, leading to potential discomfort in our intimate areas. Such environments can increase the risk of bacterial growth and subsequent infections. Therefore, the right underwear becomes crucial.
Tips: After a swim or exercise, change immediately into dry, breathable underwear. Go for fabrics that consist of 80% or more natural fibres. Even synthetic options should have a natural inner liner. If expecting sweat, humidity or long hours with your legs crossed at a desk, natural fibres are ideal. And if it's extra sweaty? A midday underwear swap works wonders. Always opt for underwear that's not too tight, allowing your skin to breathe.
2. Gentle Washing: Not All Cleansers Are Created Equal
Many women seek freshness and resort to daily washing routines, especially after long days of work. While the intention is good, excessive washing or using the wrong products can disrupt the vagina's natural pH. This disruption can lead to dryness, itching, and sometimes even an unpleasant odor.
The 'smell' down there is one of women’s most common worries. Understand that while vaginas have a natural pleasant scent, a sudden strong odor might indicate a pH imbalance often due to external elements or an improper diet that feeds the bad bacteria in your gut (more on that later).
Tips: Ladies, it's crucial we avoid the allure of intimate douches and washes. While they might smell like a field of lavender, they can disrupt the natural balance of your ‘V’.
At the end of your day, rinse your ‘V’ with plain water. Avoid douching or heavy fragranced soaps, as these can exacerbate imbalances. The SLS’s (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate etc.) that make soaps frothy and soapy tend to have a drying and irritating effect with prolonged use. They also strips your skin of its necessary protective oily layer.
When you take daily showers, remember that water in itself has a drying effect. Consider minimizing the frequency of your showers to a few times a week or the duration of the showers. You can instead use a loofah to give your underarms and intimate areas a swift cleanse with water to stay fresh.
If needing more than water to rinse, try using diluted apple cider vinegar, which may help in restoring pH levels.
And remember, your Vagina is like a self-cleaning oven – it mostly takes care of itself! Try not to interfere with its process by giving it unnecessary outside influence.
3. Post-Wax Care: Addressing Those Troubling After-effects
While waxing gives that smooth feel, it can also leave the skin very vulnerable. There’s a reason that our bodies naturally produce hair growth down there. Bikini and Brazilian waxes can also lead to ingrown hairs and possible infections if not cared for properly. If done too frequently, it can leave the skin thin and sore long after the treatment is over.
Tips: A soothing aloe vera gel application (the pure aloe which you keep in the fridge, made only from the non-irritating inner leaf and without preservatives) post-wax can alleviate immediate irritation.
For ingrown hairs, a homemade sugar scrub can gently exfoliate the area, just don’t do it right after your shave, or you’ll exacerbate the issue. You can mix equal parts brown sugar and coconut oil and gently massage the outer area (the bikini line and Mons Pubis – the top area above your vulva). Nourish the skin afterwards with pure virgin coconut or olive oil.
Also, consider wearing undies that have a loose band around the crotch/thigh area after shaving, so the band doesn’t irritate the open pores of the skin.
4. Diet's Direct Effect: Feed Your 'V'... Through Your Mouth
Sounds strange? Let us explain. What we consume directly affects our body, including our vagina. Some foods, especially those high in sugars and processed ingredients, can lead to an overgrowth of yeast.
Both the gut and the vagina have their unique microbiomes, which are communities of microorganisms that live within these environments. These microbiomes play crucial roles in maintaining health and preventing infections.
Consuming a diet high in sugars and processed foods can lead to an overgrowth of yeast in the gut and that same yeast can migrate or influence the balance of microorganisms in the vaginal area.
If you do observe a correlation between your diet and symptoms in your V, try looking into regrowing your good intestinal bacteria through proper diet and live probiotic supplementation.
Tip: Consider adding garlic and fresh oregano to your diet, which are natural antifungals, or cranberries, known for preventing urinary tract infections.
Foods rich in probiotics like plain yogurt, kefir and fermented foods in smaller doses at every meal can help maintain a balanced bacterial flora.
Live probiotics with specific strains like L. Rhamnosus and L. Reuteri can support the colonization of good bacteria in your vagina and can give very fast results in healing.
Lastly, look to your hormones and your monthly period to check whether you are in balance, as estrogen levels can also greatly affect your vaginal health.
5. Embrace the Good Bacteria
The vagina houses good bacteria that help to maintain its pH balance and protect against invaders, as mentioned above. Lactobacilli is the primary bacteria in a healthy vagina and it produces lactic acid, which maintains the vaginal environment at a low pH.
However, there are many factors that can disrupt this balance. These include excessive douching, soaps, antibiotics, intercourse without protection, and even things like certain types of birth control and other medications.
Tip: Always pee post-sex as this can help flush out potential harmful bacteria and reduce the risk of UTIs.
Bear in mind that some birth control pills can influence the vaginal environment and its pH. Should this be the case, there are many other preventative birth-control options out there, that don’t mess with your hormonal balance. Consult an expert for info on this matter.
6. Regular Check-ups: Your Safety Net
Even with the best care, sometimes issues continue to bother us. It’s essential to know when to get checked and when to seek expert advice. If issues don’t go away over time, there might be an underlying hormonal imbalance that needs to be addressed to help heal your ‘V’.
Tip: If there’s persistent discomfort, itching, or any other symptoms that cause concern or pain, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional. Remember, it's always better to be safe than sorry.
Ladies, intimate health is paramount. Every choice, right from the underwear we choose to the food we consume, plays a crucial role in maintaining our intimate well-being. Being informed and making smart choices is the key. Remember, it's the small steps that lead to big changes and lasting happiness down-under.
Stay radiant and shine on!