- Drugstores are filled with products like douches and scented sprays that claim to make your vagina cleaner and better-smelling.
- Although these products are marketed as healthy, they are unnecessary and can cause irritation or worsen vaginal infections, gynecologist Donnica Moore told INSIDER.
- Moore said the vagina is self-cleaning, so special products aren’t needed to keep it healthy.
- If you think your vaginal odor smells different than usual, Moore recommends seeing your gynecologist right away.
Take one walk down the feminine hygiene aisle at your local drugstore and you’re bound to find a large selection of products that claim to balance your vaginal pH and make your genitals smell fresh and clean.
Although these products have been popular for decades, they aren’t necessary for maintaining a healthy vagina. In some cases, they can even cause irritation or worsen existing bacterial infections.
Every vagina has its own natural fragrance
Advertising might make it seem like the vagina is supposed to smell fresh, but according to gynecologist Donnica Moore, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. “There is no need for your vagina to smell like a garden,” she told INSIDER.
That’s because the vagina’s odorous discharge is what allows it to naturally clean itself, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“You don’t need any special products to cleanse to vagina in any way, including soap, unless your doctor tells you otherwise,” Moore said.
Douches claim to flush toxins out of the vagina, but can cause irritation and worsen infections
A popular vaginal cleaning product is the douche, which works by expelling a liquid, like water or a vinegar-water mixture, into the vagina. Oftentimes, these products contain added fragrances, which Moore said are problematic.
Fragrances can potentially irritate the vagina and cause inflammation, itchiness, and pain. Plus, if a person already has a yeast infection or other bacterial vaginal infection and tries flushing out the area with a douche, it can actually push the bacteria further up into the cervix and worsen the infection, according to Moore.
Some people claim douching makes them feel more clean during their menstrual cycles, but there are safer ways to do this. “To those women, I say take a shower or use a bidet, which has been used for this for hundreds of years,” Moore said. She also suggested using a menstrual cup rather than a tampon or pad if menstrual odours are bothersome.
Feminine sprays are also unnecessary and can cause infections
Similar to douches, feminine sprays are scented products meant to freshen up the vagina. They aren’t sprayed directly into the vagina like a douche, but they can still cause irritation on the vulva, or vaginal lips, and external genitalia.
Scented sprays can also mess with the vagina’s natural pH, which helps regulate healthy bacteria. Water is enough to wash and clean the external parts of the vagina effectively, mild unscented soaps are also fine to use, according to Moore.
Most importantly, it’s a bad idea to use vaginal cleaning products if the vagina’s odor seems off. “If you feel that your vagina is giving off a discharge or odor that is not normal for you and is particularly unpleasant, you need to call your doctor, not go to the drugstore and see what’s in the vaginal floral section,” Moore said.
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