It's an area in health and wellness that is shrouded in mystery and plagued by misinformation: vagina care. With a slew of treatments and products on the market promising to sooth different types of concerns "down there" – the elusive question remains: do we really need a beauty routine for our most intimate regions? And while many gynaecologists would argue that the vagina is a self-cleaning organ that needs barely any intervention, there's a whole industry that begs to differ. Here, we explore a few of the options currently on the vaginal health and care market - with no caveat except to say that these are merely options for those so inclined. To help you navigate, we sought the guidance of some experts, in a bid to debunk common misconceptions and provide you with evidence-based tips that may enhance your intimate well-being, should you desire it.

Misconception 1: Vaginas Need Harsh Cleansing

Contrary to popular belief, harsh cleansing is not necessary for vaginal health. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ that can maintain and restore hygiene with minimal need for manual washing. According to Dr Denise Willers, an OB-GYN, the vagina contains good bacteria called “lactobacilli” which helps defend against infection, minimise odour and disrupt a healthy pH balance. Dr Willers cautions against douching (soaking, cleansing and washing the inside of your vagina with water) or using products inside the vagina, as these practices can increase the risk of irritation and inflammation. However, the vulva (external genital area) will require cleansing because it does not have the same self-cleaning functions as a vagina.

Dr Kimberly Langdon, says using warm water and your fingers/or a wash cloth will suffice to clean the vulva area. But if you wish to use feminine hygiene products, ensure only the least abrasive option is chosen. It’s important to avoid products with fragrance; strong foaming properties; and high pH levels (for reference, the preferred level for vulvas is between 4 – 4.5).  A gentle product, widely approved by gynaecologist is the Dove Beauty Bar for Sensitive Skin because it is fragrance free and pH balanced. Similarly  OB-GYN’s also frequently recommend using Cerave cleansers due to the simple and soothing ingredients that won’t likely disrupt the vagina’s healthy bacteria.

Misconception 2: Vaginas Should Smell Like Flowers

Often, we assume vaginal odour indicates an infection. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ smell because a healthy vagina has its own natural scent that can vary from person to person. In fact, a mild, musky odour is normal for the vagina. However, according to Dr Mary Jane Minkin, if you notice: a strong fishy odour; coppery scent; or chemical-like smell (e.g. ammonia or bleach) emanating from your vagina, accompanied by itching or unusual discharge – this may indicate an infection.

Tip: If you do not have an infection and personally wish to find a quick-fix solution to mask the smell, opt for feminine wipes that are pH balanced and fragrance, oil, paraben and sulfate free. Dr Sarah de la Torre recommends Attn: Grace Flushable Wet Wipes because they are formulated with 99% water and aloe vera. Meanwhile, the Summer’s Eve fragrance-free cleansing cloths are a firm favourite with Dr Sherry Ross as they’re designed to not disrupt the pH. 

Misconception #3: Vaginal Tightening Creams Provide Long-Term Results

Everyone has different ideas of what they want their vagina to look and feel like, and some may have no opinion at all about vagina aesthetics (as long as it’s healthy that’s all that truly matters). However, if vaginal laxity and volume loss is something you want to address – vaginal tightening creams are not the most effective solution. These topical creams may provide temporary effects due to their moisturising properties, but they don’t result in long-term anatomical changes. Instead, there are non-surgical treatments that offer more significant results such as are Vagina fillers and PRP injections.

  • Vulva fillers: According to Jelena Vucica from The Cosmetic Lounge, Vulva fillers are fervently requested behind closed doors. Small amounts of dermal fillers (comprised of hyaluronic acid) are directly injected into the labia majora to lift sagging tissue and produce a plumper, tighter and smoother appearance. “As women age, lose a lot of weight, or give birth, their labia may change shape and become less full, deflated and floppy, this treatment is proving a good solution for people who are concerned about this,” Jelena says.
  • Vaginal PRP treatments: PRP treatments, also known as vampire facials, are most commonly used for the face – but it’s also gained serious momentum for vaginal rejuvenation. PRP is created from your own blood! Essentially, blood is drawn from you. Then, it is placed in a centrifuge which separates the blood into three different layers: the red blood cells, white blood cells and the platelet gel plasma. The platelet gel plasma is what your practitioner will use – as this contains growth factors which stimulate collagen production. When injected into the vagina, it helps tighten the vagina, gradually boost volume and thicken the skin. This treatment produces a more subtle effect than fillers, as it’s not immediately adding volume, but boosting your skin’s own capacity to regenerate.

Misconception #4: Vaginal Tightness Equals Sexual Pleasure

There’s a general consensus that vaginal tightness is directly linked to sexual pleasure. Vaginal tightness can vary among individuals and does not necessarily determine sexual pleasure. Factors like the strength of pleasure receptors, natural lubrication, arousal, emotional connection, and communication with your partner play more crucial roles in sexual satisfaction. Below are some treatments and exercises that can help enhance the feel-good sensors and natural lubrication in this area.

  • Cliovana is a non-invasive treatment of the clitoris that aims increase women’s arousal levels and their orgasm frequency and intensity. During the treatment the therapist uses a variety of techniques including cupping and sound wave therapy to stimulate blood flow and increase cellular regeneration. This can result in heightened sensation, frequency and strength of orgasms.
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises: Incorporating pelvic floor exercises into your routine to support pelvic muscle strength and tone. Exercises like Kegels can help improve overall pelvic floor function and potentially enhance sexual sensation for some individuals. See this helpful video by Dr Jo, a physiotherapist, for 5 of the most effective pelvic floor exercises.
  • PRP injections: Whilst PRP can help with the vagina’s aesthetic, it can also treat the overall sexual wellbeing of women. Jelena Vucica, says PRP is a highly-requested treatment to “increase pleasure receptors and enhance libido”. The injections boost the moisture walls of the vagina resulting in more natural lubrication, and also increases sensitivity which leads to greater arousal from stimulation.

Misconception #5: Vaginal Steaming Cleanses the Vagina

The internet is ablaze with viral raves about the power of vaginal steaming in cleansing the vagina. However, Dr Talia Crawford emphasises that vaginal steaming can actually be harmful and disturb the vagina’s natural pH balance. Steam can also lead to irritation, inflammation, burns, and an increased risk of infections.

Story by Kristina Zhou

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