Keep it Clean

Written by Jen Bell

  |  Reviewed by Staci Tanouye, M.D.

The best way to keep the vagina and vulva clean is to wash the Labia Majora (outer lips) and the outer portions of the Labia Minora (inner lips) with water alone or a mild cleanser as needed when you’re in the bathtub or shower. Never put soaps or other cleaners in between the labia minora or up inside the vagina, also known as douching. This can mess with the balance of healthy bacteria inside. The vagina cleans itself automatically, so just let it do its thing!

5 Ways to Achieve a Healthy Vulva:
  1. Washing the vulva is simple and can be done well with just a hand, some warm water and using a mild and fragrance-free soap (only on the outer folds). A washcloth can also be used. The reason to clean between the inner and outer lips (labia) is to remove smegma, which is a normal substance the body makes but can lead to unpleasant odor if not rinsed away regularly. Also, most natural scents come from sweat glands, which lie in the folds between the vulva, inner thighs, and buttocks.  Focus on cleaning these areas when you bathe or after you perform an activity that makes you sweat. Dr. Staci T, our favorite Tik Tok Doc, explains washing your vulva in this video.
  2. Avoid scented products. Shaving creams, scented soaps, vaginal hygiene sprays, and scented pads or pantiliners can irritate the vulva.  Marketing of products like these that can make teens feel self-conscious about their natural body scents is problematic.
  3. Change underwear daily or soon after any activity that makes you sweat a lot.  Wearing underwear made of cotton keeps your vulva dry and helps it breathe. Keeping sweaty underwear, swimsuits, tights, leggings, tight pants or jeans on can be uncomfortable and lead to irritation or infections. At night, consider not wearing underwear and/or wear pajama bottoms that are loose-fitting and allow your vulva to breathe.
  4. Pubes have a purpose.  As hair begins to grow on the mons pubis and the vulva, some people feel pressure from peers, partners, or the media to shave or wax it. It’s important to remember that hair grows here for a reason – to protect the vulva.  Shaving or waxing if off just because someone else thinks that’s a good idea is actually a bad idea. There is nothing wrong with letting your hair grow naturally. If you do want to groom your vulva, trimming the hair is safest.  Waxing or shaving can cause small cuts or ingrown hairs that can lead to irritation or minor skin infections. BLOOM encourages you to groom your vulva how you want to – not how your friends, a partner, or media suggest.
  5. Wipe front to back after bowel movements so that feces is moving away from the urethra and vagina. This will prevent any harmful bacteria from entering and causing an infection.