If your vagina were a song, she’d be “Independent Women, Pt. 1” by Destiny’s Child—she can take care of herself. The truth is, your vagina really doesn’t need much help when it comes to staying clean and healthy. Basic maintenance of your lady parts doesn’t require strenuous effort — we’re talking about getting annual well-woman exams, Pap smears and HPV tests every five years, wearing breathable underwear, and avoiding UTIs, among other things.
As you age, your vagina goes through a lot — particularly childbirth and menopause—and you may see changes in appearance and dryness. It’s tempting to turn to the latest trends that claim to nourish your lady parts, but if your vagina is ever making you physically uncomfortable, it’s best to go straight to your doctor rather than hop on any of these hype trains. Unfortunately, some ladies still insist on messing around or tidying up down there in the most, ah, creative of ways. Here are four common moves that can go very, very wrong.
First of all, stay far away from vaginal steaming.
We’re all for the Goop-y philosophy of living your very best, healthiest life. But when Gwyneth Paltrow starts doling out patently bad advice, we’ve got to draw the line. Your vagina isn’t a carpet — you should not steam clean it. Paltrow defined steaming for V as when you “sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al. It is an energetic release — not just a steam douche — that balances female hormone levels.”
Vaginal steaming is one trend that just won’t go away, with some fans who swear by it as well as fierce critics. Model Chrissy Teigen recently got everyone talking about steaming again when she posted a photo of herself steaming her vagina at home.
“Face mask / heat pad / vagina steam no I don’t know if any of this works but it can’t hurt right? *vagina dissolves*” she wrote in the post. While we truly love her commitment to self-care, Teigen might want to skip the steaming next time. Squatting over herbs and hot steam is meant to “cleanse” your V and even relieve cramps and clear out discharge, but it’s actually more harmful than Teigen and many other realize.
Many experts take issue with the practice as it could actually cause irritation down there. “Steaming would be a definite no because you would burn your vagina,” says Dr Raquel Dardik, clinical associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center’s department of obstetrics and gynaecology.
Jennifer Gunter, a Canadian obstetrician and gynaecologist, also took aim at vaginal steaming after interest in the trend resurged following Teigen’s post, listing every reason the practice is ineffective and harmful.
“1) the recommended herbs are often allergens. 2) steam likely stays on your vulva, but if it gets inside the vagina it would take air with it which is not good. 3) the uterus doesn’t need cleaning. 4) steam could not get to your uterus,” she explained in her tweet. Teigen jokingly commented on the post, saying, “Jokes on you I have a huge vagina and the steam easily flows to my uterus,” to which Gunter replied, “No one’s vagina is that capacious!”
Let’s just consider this wacky practice officially debunked.
Self-medicating is always a bad call.
Those over-the-counter vaginal creams or suppositories for yeast infections have their place; this is about the more homespun approach people sometimes try. “You should never try to self-medicate with homemade remedies like garlic or tea tree oil,” says Dardik. At the very least, they won’t make a dent in your misery. At the very worst? Well, it’s not pretty. “I’ve seen chemical burns from some of these Internet suggestions, and a chemical burn inside of your vagina is not something I’d wish on anyone,” says Dardik.
Inserting UFOs (unsanitary foreign objects) seems like a good idea until it doesn’t.
You already know what’s allowed to go into your vagina: tampons, fingers, sex toys, a penis, lube, birth control, menstrual cups — and that’s about it. Give everything else the Monty Python treatment: None shall pass. “Essentially, it comes down to common sense and personal habits. Sex toys, diaphragms, menstrual cups should all be cleaned and washed in-between uses,” says Young. Everything else — cucumbers, bananas, that phallic-looking device in your kitchen — should stay far, far away from your lady parts. Even if you sanitize the heck out of them, their textures alone can cause some serious irritation.
The douching really needs to stop.
Pretty sure you know this already, but just in case: Your downstairs isn’t supposed to smell like a tropical breeze. “These products do exactly the wrong thing to the vaginal microbiome, making it more susceptible to infection,” says Dr Constance Young, assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center’s department of obstetrics and gynaecology.
The female body can really do some amazing things.
We’re not going to give you some spiel about the vagina being a “self-cleaning oven” — you’ve heard it before, and frankly, we like to keep our cooking metaphors separate from our genital care. Buuuut, it’s totally true. Your hoo-ha maintains its own special pH-balanced environment, thanks to the lactobacillus bacteria present in it. When you squirt a douching mixture up there, you’re changing the normally acidic environment to a neutralized one — and inhibiting your vagina from protecting itself.
We know what you’re thinking: If it’s so bad for you, why are there so many products on the market? “It’s all about marketing that’s not based on any science — it’s the equivalent to Febreze, but for a more intimate setting,” says Young. If you absolutely, positively feel the need to freshen things up, stick to the tried-and-true method of (surprise!) unscented soap and water — but only on the outside.
This article was originally published on www.prevention.com