Feminine hygiene

Published by Sarah Horrocks
Published on 1 April 2008

The genital area is particularly sensitive and has to be treated differently to the rest of your body. Here's what to do - and what not to do - for impeccable hygiene Down There.

The genital area is particularly sensitive and has to be treated differently to the rest of your body. Here's what to do - and what not to do - for impeccable hygiene Down There.

Do:
-Change your knickers every day.
-Wear big pants rather than thongs or G-strings. Because thongs rub more, they increase the likelihood of getting thrush.
-Wash your knickers at 60°C minimum.
-When you're on your period, change your pad, tampon or cup at least 3 times a day. Never leave a tampon in for more than 4 hours.
-Get regularly checked for STIs/STDs (sexually transmitted infections or diseases).
- After you've had a number 2, wipe yourself from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria.
- Wash your hands before any contact with your vagina.

Don't:
- Wear over-tight jeans or trousers as they can cause irritation.
- Keep wet costumes or bikinis on for too long: the damp encourages bacteria to breed.
- Wear synthetic knickers which irritate more than cotton. Pure cotton pants are the way to go.

How often should you wash?
To avoid the spread of bacteria, you should wash your genital area once a day. However: you should only wash the external parts (vulva, lips and clitoris). The inside of the vagina cleans itself. If you get hot or sweaty, you can up this to twice a day, but no more often. The same applies during your period. You should also wash (external parts only) after every time you have sex. And make sure you dry yourself with a clean towel after your bath or shower to get rid of all traces of damp.

What to wash with?
The vagina contains a combination of bacteria called flora, which has to stay balanced. This is why it's so important not to use abrasive, disinfecting shower and bath products that are too aggressive. Don't use ordinary shower gel: a gentle cleanser is what you need (soap-free and fragrance-free, with a neutral pH that respects the vagina's natural acidity). You'll find lots of feminine cleansing products in your pharmacy or supermarket. Never use any kind of cosmetic products on your genital area (deodorant, oil or cosmetic cream). Feminine wipes are fine to use from time to time, as long as they're mild and alcohol-free.

Vaginal showers
Vaginal showers (normally used after sex to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy to try and get rid of sperm in the vagina) are not only totally ineffective as a method of contraception; they also encourage thrush and infections such as vaginitis. Interior cleansing of the vagina disrupts the balance of the vaginal flora and encourages the development of yeast infections and the spread of bacteria. So be wary of excess hygiene. You might want to wash the inside of your vagina once a month, using water only, after your period. The rest of the time, it's outside only.

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