We are told daily by TV and magazines that women need soaps, sprays, pads, and perfumes. So what is the truth? The human body has its own protection. The goal of our daily care is to keep our bodies functioning as they should.
Our skin protects us from the world. Although we need to clean our bodies of dirt and germs, the skin needs its natural oils to work well. Gentle washing with mild soaps and warm, not too hot, water is all that is needed. Buffing or other rough treatment should be used only on tough skin like our feet. Daily moisturizing with a cream containing a sunscreen will protect our skin from the sun's harmful effects, like skin cancers and wrinkles. Apply this to all areas not covered by clothes.
The skin of a woman's private area also works to protect her from germs. There are natural oils and discharge that keep this area healthy. The skin and the lining of the vagina is very sensitive. Any chemical or perfume can break down the natural protection of this area and even help start infections. Gentle daily cleaning on the outside skin is all that is needed.
The vagina produces a natural cleaning liquid, that works its way out of the vagina daily. When women remove or absorb this with douches, tampons, or pads, they are removing the best protection against infections and odor. Regular use of such things as minipads can even make our body form more discharge trying to protect itself. Limit these pads to the times when you may spot with your period.
Everyone's private area has a normal odor that cannot be removed or covered no matter how much we try. Deodorants and perfumes added to pads and tampons may cause allergy problems on this sensitive skin. If the odor is strong or the discharge yellow, this may indicate that something is wrong. An exam by your healthcare provider may be needed to find the cause.
Women in menopause may notice that the natural moisture of the vagina is gone. Sex, and even walking, can become uncomfortable because of this dryness. The skin cannot protect itself and may need more wetness. There are several ways to take care of this. Hormones, taken regularly, can help with this problem. Over-the-counter gels and inserts have also been made to help women with this type of dryness. Be sure to use only those that are unscented.
If these agents do not improve the problem, see your healthcare provider.
Vaginal and vulva infections affect many women at some time in their lives. Symptoms may include external redness or itching of the vulva, increased discharge or itching of the vagina, pain or discomfort with intercourse, or burning of external genital organs with urination. The most common causes are yeast and bacteria which are found all around us; in the air, on articles we touch, and also as a normal part of our body make-up.
Here is a list of things you can do to help keep ther vulva and vagina healthy:
- Do not use perfumed or colored soaps. These can be products such as Irish Spring, Cashmere Bouquet, and some Avon products.
- Do not use deodorant tampons.
- Do not use tampons alone throughout your entire menstral cycle.
- Do not use bath oils, powder or bubble bath.
- Do not use vaginal deodorants or douches. The body has its own cleansing system. Should any foul or unusual discharge occur, call the Student Health Service or your doctor.
- Do not use panty liners.
- No not use dryer fabric softeners such as Bounce. Products usch as Downy do not seem to cause as much irritation.
- Do not use harsh detergents.
- Do not use colored or perfumed toilet paper.
- Do not wear nylon underwear - even if it has a cotton crotch it doesn not allow for ventilation. Wear cotton underwear and cotton crotch pantyhose.
- Do not wear tight fitting slacks. This does not allow for proper air circulation.
- Do not spread bacteria from the rectum to the vagina. Wipe yourself from front to back.
- Do not rely on home remedies to get rid of problems. Call the Student Health Service or your doctor for more information.
- Clean diaphragms and spermicide applicators theoroughly after use.
- Dry the vulva well after bathing or swimming.