The Scary Truth about Feminine Hygiene Products
One of my favorite memories is having a “spa day” at home with my mom and sister. I still enjoy putting raw honey on my face and décolletage (as recommended by my esthetician) as I leisurely float around the house in a comfy robe as part of my “spa day”. The routine hygiene of having a mini facial and a relaxing day at home makes me feel I am doing something good for my body.
Having these kinds of hygiene and self-care routines allows us to check in with our physical and mental health on a regular basis. There’s a lot of relaxation and wellness to be found in offering positive input to body and mind in the privacy of your own home.
As you develop your own personal self-care habits, however, please know that not all hygiene is created equal. In fact, what we sometimes absorb in popular culture as “feminine hygiene” is misunderstood as accurate medical advice. Take, for example, the new vulvar dry washes, vaginal shampoos, and feminine wipes advertised to women as an “essential” part of routine vaginal hygiene. Are these necessary, routine, or even helpful? Read on to learn the truth.
In a store near you, vulvar and vaginal products suggested for feminine hygiene include not only vaginal douches and vaginal shampoos, but also feminine wipes and vaginal dry washes (a spray-and-go option). This new school of vulvar and vaginal products marketed for Millennials and the Gen Z set includes smart fonts and perfect Pantone colors, touting something about pH balance or ideal flora. These all sound healthy and good for us, right? Turns out, they are not as healthy as the marketers wants us to believe.
As much as I appreciate smart packaging, we all know it’s what’s inside that counts. In fact, those vaginal shampoos and douches can cause more harm than good. In terms of vaginal douching, studies show that repeated douching increases the risk for reproductive tract infections. Despite a few studies showing a small potential benefit, the majority of the evidence reveals adverse effects of douching.
Take the case of pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious pelvic infection that can cause hospitalization and long-term complications. Douching may allow for an easier environment for bacteria to grow in the pelvis, causing a serious infection that can or scar your tubes, leading to infertility and chronic pelvic pain.
As for vaginal shampoo, it’s a myth that this is part of our healthy feminine hygiene. Your vagina should never be washed with shampoos and do not need douches unless specifically prescribed by your doctor. Your vagina is perfectly capable of cleaning itself “naturally” in the form of normal vaginal discharge.
So, you do not need to subscribe to monthly installments of vaginal shampoo, which could actually disrupt your vaginal flora causing yeast or bacterial infections. To feel relaxed and clean without the risks, skip the douches and vaginal shampoos, and take a nice lavender-scented bubble bath instead.
What about a vaginal dry wash or scented spray? Each of us has a normal vaginal scent. During your period, yes, your vaginal scent may be blood-tinged—all perfectly normal and healthy. Using a scented dry wash complicates your vulvar and vaginal health by adding perfumes and other irritants to this very sensitive skin, and can lead to long-term vaginal pain from skin and/or nerve irritation.
Scented sprays may also mask your vaginal scent, which can lead to health problems. If you are not noticing an unusual or excessive scent, you may miss the telltale symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. It’s important to discuss symptoms like these with your doctor, since they need to be addressed with antibiotics, not with a dry wash.
The newest line of products, feminine wipes for your vulva, advertises keeping you feeling clean on the go. The healthiest way to keep your vulva clean is by washing with warm water. No pretty pastel package needed. The best thing to do if your vulvar skin is slightly irritated is to remove all scents and soaps and to keep your vulvar skin dry after bathing, swimming, or sweating. If the irritation continues, again, discuss this with your doctor instead of using a pre-packaged scented wipe.
It’s important to understand that advertisement should never be construed as health advice. Here’s the truth: The use of douches, shampoos, and scented or artificial chemicals at the sensitive vaginal area can lead not only to serious vaginal or pelvic infections but also to long-term genital pain or irritation. No one wants that. So, say goodbye to “feminine hygiene” products and let your body take care of itself, naturally.
Hopefully, after reading this, you can now return to a regularly scheduled “spa day” and invest in the self-care and bona fide hygiene routines that are healthiest for your body.
Here are some easy, safe, and nearly free “spa day” ideas you can try at home:
- Take a warm bath/shower
- Use some lavender or rose essential oils
- Sip on herbal tea
- Wear a fuzzy robe and slippers
- Turn off your phone
- Light a candle
- Read your favorite novel
Enjoy your spa day!
~Portland Acupuncture Studio