Admin.Jane is the technical brain behind TJP, and as such, she regularly checks our link activity, visitor stats, search terms that bring us visitors, maps of where our visitors come from, etc. She recently found that someone in the UK found us by searching for “how to wash your vulva”. Unfortunately, Google sent her to my Want a Raise? Wash Your Vulva, Dammit! (Part 1) post.
Hearing this all but broke my heart. I’m sure that visitor eventually found the needed information, but such a thing is not going to happen again.
Here’s what every female (and every male caring for a female) should know about keeping the vulva clean:
Women naturally have a genital smell, just as men do. The vagina’s natural state is to have both good and bad bacteria as well as the fungus typically called yeast. Fluids are also supposed to exit the vagina through the vulva during both menstruation and non-menstruation. When healthy, the vagina is a self-contained and self-cleaning environment that maintains its own health without much input from its owner.
The female genital smell is a spectrum, just like all other human smells. Some will be weaker, and some will be stronger. While Western corporate culture has entire (shamefully successful) business plans built upon making females ashamed of it, I cannot stress enough that there is nothing abnormal about the female genital smell. Even if it’s strong, it’s perfectly healthy if it’s not an unpleasant smell. If you find it unpleasant or are concerned others might, a healthcare practitioner should be consulted in order to verify whether or not an illness is present. The practitioner will also be able to confirm if the smell is within the normal spectrum.
NOTE: “Vulva” is the entirety of the external female genitalia. Everything observable from the outside is referred to sa the vulva.
The only cleaning that healthy female genitalia need is washing once daily. Open the thumbnail link on the right in a new window for a labelled photograph (NSFW) that will define the terms used below.
To wash properly, use your fingers and soap/shower-gel to gently but thoroughly rub the clitoral hood, labia majora, labia minora, perinium, and anus as well as all of the crevices around and amongst these parts to remove dead skin cells and daily discharge which can harbor bad bacteria and lead to illness.
Be sure to spread and move the labia majora and labia minora around a bit to ensure that all the surface area is cleaned. Wash from the base of the vaginal orifice upwards (toward the clitoral hood) and the from the base of the vaginal orifice downwards (across the perinium) and then towards and around the anus. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and pat completely dry (or use a cool hair dryer). Thoroughly rinsing and rying the vulva completely is very important.
Some women don’t handle soap in this sensitive region because soap is, by nature, a bit harsh. The purpose of soap is to break chemical bonds in order to remove non-living stuff from the body. If you experience discomfort after using soap and are sure that you’re rinsing completely, try organic and/or and fragrance/dye-free cleansers. I am a personal fan of Oil of Olay Beauty Bars and Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Wash for sensitive areas of my body, so don’t don’t think that you have to buy something really expensive if you happen to have super-sensitive vulva.
Exercise, menstruation, summer, and sex might cause the need for more frequent vuvla washings than once each day. If you feel grubby, by all means wash! Just don’t go overboard on it or you’ll be wasting your time and could cause yourself unneeded irritation (remember the “smell” paragraph above). Irritated vulva is no joke — Don’t do it to yourself unnecessarily!
Note that there has been no mention of soap/cleanser inside the vagina or douching. This is important! Both are not only unnecessary, but can and will unbalance that natural female internal genital environment. This can cause a wide range of painful conditions requiring your doctor’s intervention.