Home Health THE DOS AND DON’TS OF FEMININE HYGIENE

THE DOS AND DON’TS OF FEMININE HYGIENE

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You pay attention to your health, making sure you get enough sleep, eat right, and exercise on the regular. But are you taking care of your needs south of the border? Your vagina is a complex, amazing organ, but it’s often severely misunderstood, especially when it comes to fad beauty trends and treatments. Here’s the lowdown on your down low.

To Reduce an Infection: Yogurt Douches

Vaginal yeast infections, caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida, are a common health concern, causing itching, burning, and discharge. In addition to using OTC antifungal creams and suppositories, some women insert yogurt into the vagina. “Yogurt contains strains of the good bacteria Lactobacillus, so you can use it vaginally,” explains Minkin. A 2015 Iranian study found women who used a mixture of yogurt and honey had better results in reducing yeast infection than those who were treated with a standard antifungal aid.

To Reduce Vaginal Pain: Topical Creams

Vulvodynia is a burning, stinging irritation or rawness around the genitals that can occur in one 
area or the entire vulva. Treatments vary, but one to try is a topical antifungal cream, says Minkin. Also, avoid irritants (such as scented shampoos and detergents) and use cotton underwear, pads, and tampons. If the pain persists, see your doctor. The pill may also cause trouble. “Sometimes if we give the body back some estrogen and testosterone through a topical cream
and take patients off the pill, it can help,” she adds.

Vaginal Steaming

WHAT IS IT?

A blend of herbs, such as mugwort, rosemary, wormwood, and basil, is placed in a basin of hot water. The idea is to sit or crouch (unclothed) over the basin and allow the steam to enter your netherlands. The theory is that the steam helps soften and open the vaginal tissues, allowing the medicinal properties of the herbs to be carried up into the uterus. Some women say it’s a relaxing way to relieve menstrual cramps and get rid of unwanted odors.

WHY AVOID IT?

There’s really no reason at all to clean out your vagina in the first place. “Billions of bacteria work in balance in the vagina. In very few cases do you need to clean anything out, least of all with steam that can burn an extremely sensitive area,” explains Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine. Plus, it’s possible to develop an allergic reaction to the herbs in the steam. “That can create itching, stinging, and other discomfort,” Minkin says.

Lightening Treatments

WHAT IS IT?

Vaginal bleaching (aka genital bleaching) has gone mainstream with more women using whitening products to change the color of their vulva (the external opening of the vagina) and labia (the “lips” surrounding the vagina). At the VSpot MediSpa, which specializes in sexual health and beauty treatments, clients are offered the “VSpot” treatment, which lightens the area around the anus and vagina with a combo of in-office peels and at-home lightening products.

WHY AVOID IT?

“Women may have an impressionable idea of how things should look, but this is one area that just isn’t worth changing,” says Leah Millheiser, M.D., director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “All labia are different and beautiful in their own way.” Beyond the expense of purchasing the creams and the treatments, there’s also the very real possibility of developing a reaction to the lightening agent, says Millheiser.

Rejuvenation and Cosmetic Surgery

WHAT IS IT?

Surgical procedures like vaginoplasty, G-spot amplification, and “revirgination” promise enhanced sexual gratification for you and your partner. Vaginoplasty works to tighten a vagina that may be loose or slack from childbirth or aging through traditional surgery or with radio frequency waves or lasers. In revirgination, the hymen is actually surgically reconstructed; with G-spot amplification, collagen is typically injected into the anterior wall of the vagina. Other procedures also work to change the shape and appearance of the labia.

WHY AVOID IT?

Medical institutions like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stress that these procedures are not only invasive but also mostly unnecessary. “Women should be informed about the lack of data supporting the efficacy of these procedures and their potential complications, including infections, altered sensation, adhesions, dyspareunia [painful intercourse], and scarring,” notes one recent position statement from ACOG. “Most of these procedures only last a few months and are not covered by insurance, so you are paying a lot of money for something that’s unproven and has potential complications,” Millheiser says.

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