August 24, 2023
When you have pain in your vulva or vagina, it can be deeply unsettling. The discomfort can affect everyday activities – like working out or going to the bathroom – and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to be intimate with a partner.
The good news is that some vulvar and vaginal disorders are common, treatable and even preventable. Taking steps to practice good hygiene can help resolve some common symptoms or lessen your chance of developing vulvar and vaginal conditions like bacterial vaginosis or vulvar dermatitis. Follow these tips to improve your vulvar skin care.
Use soft, white unscented toilet paper, for example, Cottonelle Clean Care toilet tissue.
Do not use wipes (adult or baby).
Rinse your vulva after urination.
Urinate and rinse your vulva after sexual activity.
Use 100% cotton menstrual pads or tampons or use a menstrual cup. Seventh Generation makes chlorine-free pads.
Wear white, 100% cotton underwear.
Avoid wearing pantyhose, thong underwear and tight-fitting clothes.
Remove exercise clothing and wet bathing suits promptly.
Do not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets in loads with underwear.
Use perfume-free, dye-free detergent; All Free and Clear is also protein enzyme-free in addition to those.
Wash your vulva with only warm water.
Use hypoallergenic, unscented soap when necessary.
Don’t shave your genital area.
Rinse your genital area at the end of your shower to wash away any shampoo, conditioner or other products that may have run down your body.
Following a shower, use mild moisturizers without perfumes. Some examples are Vaseline, Desitin and coconut oil.
For sexual activities, use a water-soluble lubricant like Yes or Slippery Stuff.
Avoid exercises that place pressure on the vulva, like cycling.
Limit intense exercises that create a lot of friction.
Don’t swim in highly chlorinated pools.
Avoid hot tubs.
If you’re following all of those tips but still suffering from vulvar rashes, itching or other discomfort, examine other products you may be using to see if they have irritants or allergens you may be sensitive to. Some common ones are:
- Antiseptics (iodine, hexachlorophene)
- Body fluids (semen, saliva or sweat)
- Condoms containing lubricant or spermicide
- Contraceptive creams, jellies, foams, nonoxynol-9, lubricants
- Emollients (lanolin, jojoba oil, glycerin)
- Rubber products, including latex
- Tea tree oil
- Topical anesthetics, like VAGISIL (benzocaine, lidocaine, dibucaine)
- Topical antibiotics, like NEOSPORIN (neomycin, bacitracin, polymyxin)
- Topical antimycotics, like MONISTAT (nystatin)
- Topical corticosteroids
- Vaginal hygiene products, including perfumes and deodorants
When your symptoms are persistent or get worse, consider seeing a vulvar and vaginal disease specialist. The University of Kansas Health System has the only specialized vulvar and vaginal disease care team in Kansas and the Kansas City region. In-person visits with the vulvar and vaginal specialists are at the Quivira Medical Pavilion in Overland Park, Kansas. Virtual consultations are also available.