For one, it can make your pubic hair feel softer.

Genesis Rivas
Jul 06, 2021 @ 4:28 pm
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Credit: Courtney K, Getty Images

When most people think of a skincare routine, they typically think of cleansing their face, using a serum or two, applying moisturizer, and if you want to make your dermatologist proud, using lots of SPF. More likely than not, you probably haven't given much thought to giving your vulva a skincare routine of its own. More and more brands are coming out with their version of vaginal skincare products, including moisturizers, oils, scrubs, and so much more. Do we need them, though?

When it comes to such a sensitive area, we have a few questions: what need, how often we need it, and what the potential benefits are. Not to mention, skincare isn't cheap, which makes us question if we need another list of products to add to our shopping cart just for down-there.

To answer all of our questions and concerns, we tapped three gynecologists to get the lowdown on the best way to take care of your vagina and whether it needs a skincare routine of its own.

What's the best way to clean the vagina?

The vagina is self-cleansing, so it doesn't need an additional product to help it do so. "Between normal vaginal discharge and the group of healthy bacteria inside the vagina, a person's body is well equipped to keep things balanced, healthy, and at the correct pH," explains Pennsylvania-based gynecologist Dr. Kelly Copeland.

However, the vulva isn't as proactive. "The vulva needs special attention given the exposure of bacteria, sweat glands, and hair," explains gynecologist, women's health expert, and co-founder of URJA beautyDr. Sherry Ross. While there are products formulated specifically for the vagina, more often than not, the brands that keep popping up on your Instagram discover page create products for the vulva.

Do we need a skincare routine for the vulva?

There are pros and cons to having a skincare routine for down there, but all gynecologists agree that it is necessary to clean your vulva to keep your vagina healthy and maintain its pH balance. 

"Disruption of this balance can make your vagina more prone to vaginitis, which is a term that's used to describe vaginal infections, inflammation, or anything that causes a change in the normal vaginal flora," says California-based gynecologist and founder of LaMariaDr. Manuela Maria Vazquez. "My approach to vaginal skincare is less is more. If you don't have any complaints, let your vagina be."

Dr. Vazquez and Dr. Copeland both agree that the only routine you need is soap and water on your vulva—not in your vagina. So, the answer is no, you don't need a 10-step regimen for this area, but the skin around it and your pubic hair could benefit from gentle products.

If you're someone who likes to indulge in self-care via skincare, you might enjoy creating a more extensive routine for down there. "The vulva should have the same feminine hygiene ritual as we do for our face," says Dr. Ross. "It needs to be cleaned, hydrated, and moisturized with the same love and attention." If you're into it, it's necessary to know the pros and cons of vaginal-friendly skincare. 

What are the benefits of vaginal and vulva-friendly skincare products?

According to Dr. Ross, the benefits of applying skincare on your vulva, which includes the labia majora and labia minora, are to prevent dry skin, acne, and irritation. For those who experience frequent infections, you might also benefit from taking extra care of the area. "If you are someone who suffers from recurrent vaginal infections, have certain vulvar skin conditions, or suffer from vaginal dryness, you may need to use certain topical medications or creams to relieve symptoms," says Dr. Vazquez. However, she says you should consult with a physician if that's the case.

Another benefit, according to Dr. Copeland, is you naturally perform frequent body check-ins when doing your skincare. "A pro of vulvar care is that you are monitoring the external structures as often as you are washing them, making it less likely for a new lump or bump to go unnoticed," she says.

What are the potential cons of vaginal-friendly skincare products?

The biggest consequence of using these skincare products is the risk of disrupting the vagina's healthy natural balance, but that only happens if you're using the wrong formulas.

"We generally recommend that you avoid products that have parabens, glycerin, petroleum, alcohol, perfumes, or synthetic fragrances in the formula," says Dr. Vazquez. "The majority of these are irritants that can dry out your tissue or put you at higher risk for infections." Using the wrong types of soaps that aren't gynecologically safe can also cause irritation and bad odor, adds Dr. Sherry.

Additionally, harsh soaps or other heavily-scented products can throw off the vagina's pH levels and healthy bacteria, says Dr. Copeland. This imbalance can make you more susceptible to skin or mucosal irritation and an overgrowth of yeast and unhealthy bacteria. So, for example, if you're going to take a bubble bath, opt for using one that won't throw off your pH.

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The final takeaway:  

As we said before, you don't need a skincare routine for your vagina or vulva—our experts say that using a gentle soap with lukewarm water is more than enough. However, if you want to give it a try to avoid potential skin concerns on your vulva, go for it.

For example, the next time you're at the gym or you're on your period, and you want to keep things fresh, you may want to try a vaginal health product, and Dr. Vazquez says that makes total sense. "While there is no need for them, it's understandable when someone doesn't feel as "fresh" as they usually do and decides a cleansing wipe may give them a little extra pep in their step," she says.

Ultimately, it's all fair game as long as you're using a formula that's safe for the area, applying it exactly where recommended on the packaging, and free of any potential irritants. So, if the next self-care Sunday you want to try a new vagina mist, do you.