Caring for your vagina-Burning Questions

As a women’s health doctor I regularly treat cases of vaginitis (an infection in the vagina that can be caused by yeast or bacteria) and am used to answering lots of questions about vaginas in general. I am still surprised at the misconceptions about vaginas.

Burning Question #1– How do I clean my vagina and make sure it is pH balanced?

  • Unless you have an infection (for which you should always see your healthcare provider) you should think of your vagina as a mostly self-cleaning body part. Use water and if you must a very small amount of very gentle soap on the labia (outside bits) only. You do NOT need to douche or clean the inside of your vagina ever.
  • I mean it, DON’T DO IT.

Burning Question #2– What is this discharge coming out of me? Is it normal?

  • If you have copious, irritating, itchy, smelly vaginal discharge, see your healthcare provider.
  • However, if you have a small amount of discharge that doesn’t cause itching, burning, or irritation, especially if it comes and goes, this may be normal, physiologic discharge that can happen in relationship to hormonal changes such as around ovulation, before or after menstruation, or in response to arousal.
  • Some discharge is meant to be there, and is helpful for conception (if you are trying to conceive a child).

Burning Question #3– Is it BAD to shave/wax/pierce/tattoo my labia?

  • Just like with any other body part, you can cause irritation with hair removal, especially with shaving. If you are less than scrupulous about getting new razors, you can develop an uncomfortable case of folliculitis (an infected hair follicle). Ingrown hairs can also be uncomfortable. However, hair removal isn’t necessarily BAD – just vagina-owner preference.
  • It is designed to be there, remove at your own risk.

Burning Question #4– If I use scented products, is that bad for my vagina?

  • Yes. Scented body products in general aren’t the best for skin but especially so for the vagina. They can easily irritate the tissues. Also, vaginas aren’t meant to smell like flowers. There is a normal body odor that they have. However, if you are concerned about an unpleasant smell, ask your healthcare provider to test your vagina for an infection.