Guidelines for Vulvar Skin Care
Campus Health Services, Cardinal Station
Guidelines for Vulvar Skin Care
Our goal: To promote healthy vulvar skin by decreasing and/or removing any chemicals, moisture and friction (rubbing). Any name brand products listed have been suggested for use because of their past success in achieving this goal.
Use a detergent free of dyes, enzymes and perfumes:
- On anything that comes in contact with your vulva: underwear, pants, towels, or pj’s.
- Use 1/3 to1/2 the amount recommended in top-load washers which leave significant detergent residue.
- If you use a stain removing product on undergarments: rise well, then wash to remove as much of the product as possible.
DO NOT use fabric softener:
- This does not get rinsed out and leaves irritating residue.
- Try dissolving ½ cup of baking soda in your water first: this is an irritant-free fabric softener.
DO NOT use dryer sheets.
- They are toxic and leave an irritating residue full of chemicals (Google “Toxic dryer sheets”)
- Try Ms. Meyer’s brand Dryer Sheets in combination with dryer balls. These add a natural, chemical free scent, decrease static, dry your clothes faster and are non-toxic!
(Check out: Scientific American Dec 10,2008: Fabric Softener vs. dryer sheets” for more info on these toxins!)
We DO NOT recommend complete hair removal from the vulvar area. WHY?
There are medical purposes to this hair!
- It decreases friction/irritation.
- It gives off pheromones.
- It keeps moisture from being trapped against your skin. (Think about what skin is like after a bandaid is on it for a couple of days, then think about vulvar skin trapped with tight clothing and no room to breathe or distribute the moisture!)
Removing hair completely increases your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
- There is more friction and irritation, causing increased STI transmission by opening pores and making tiny breaks in the skin where STIs can enter.
- Shaving can spread an STI once you have it, even before you have symptoms! (A tiny wart, HIV or herpes virus particle can easily spread to other open pores and enter the skin.)
Leave a small area of hair in the middle, over the vulva, or trim, if you prefer to remove some hair.
Water keeps the vulvar area clean and healthy, and in pH balance. It’s ALL you need!
- DO NOT use soap directly on vulvar skin.
- Do not use: ANY scented cleanser, wipe, or body wash in the area. This includes products for “feminine hygiene.” If you “must” use soap in the area, try unscented Dove bar.
- Do not use antibacterial soaps: these kill the normal bacteria needed for pH balance.
- Do not use bubble baths, bath salts, or scented oils. Use Baking Soda, 4-5 tablespoons in warm water bath if you need to soothe the area.
- Do not rub the area with a washcloth or towel. Pat it dry or use a hairdryer on cool if you need to dry or decrease the moisture in the area.
- DO NOT DOUCHE!! Baking soda soaks can help if you have an odor. If not, see your doctor!
DO use unscented ORGANIC tampons and pads. Change them often and regularly.
- Spritz a hypoallergenic/aroma-therapeutic spray on your legs if you want a scent in the area.
- Use a hypoallergenic cotton pad/tampon. It’s not only the scent: Many women are sensitive to the “weave” of some pads, or chemicals in super-absorbent pads.
If you’re comfortable wearing a tampon, consider using a menstrual cup such as The Keeper, Moon Cup, or Diva cup.
- It’s gentler on your body because it doesn’t absorb your flow, but captures it instead.
- It’s also gentler on the earth and your wallet because you can reuse it for up to 10 years! No landfill waste! $35 one-time cost compared to $750-1000 for tampons and pads!
- Avoid all over the counter creams or ointmentsexcept A & D Ointment, Liquid Silk lubricant, or Good Clean Love lubricant.
- Wear white, all cotton underwear: even a trace of lycra, “Coolmax” or other supposed moisture wicking synthetic fabrics may irritate some women and contribute to recurrent vaginitis.
- Avoid tight clothing and panty hose/tights as much as possible. If you must wear them, wear cotton underwear under them and change into loose clothing in the evening (loose all-cotton pants, or a cotton skirt/dress without undergarments. Consider thigh-highs.
- Change out of damp or wet clothing after swimming or exercise, even if you are taking a break and plan to return to the activity later in the day.
- Keep an extra pair of underwear with you if you tend to become damp, especially in hot months.
Avoiding dryness and irritation during intercourse:
- We DO NOT recommend condoms with spermicide. These have been shown to cause irritation that can increase STI transmission, in particular, HIV.
- Use a hypoallergenic water based lubricant such as Good Clean Love or Liquid Silk. They do not rub off like KY Jelly. They are instead absorbed locally and will decrease irritation and moisturize/soothe the area. They cost a little more but a very small amount will last a very long time and should be worth the comfort they provide.
In general, a healthy diet high in natural fiber and low in added sugars (fruit is healthy “sugar” so eat fruit!) will help maintain a healthy state.
- Consider taking a probiotic supplement, eating foods such as unsweetened yogurt that contain probiotics, and/or using a vaginal probiotic (VagBacLac or similar) to help prevent and treat yeast infections.
- Maintain hydration with 6-12 glasses (6-8 oz) of water per day, minimum!
If you have been told you have a yeast infection or a bacterial infection, go to FamilyDoctor.org (http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor) and search on either term for more information.