How To Treat Yo' Lady (V): What She Likes And What She Doesn't
As ladies, we don’t talk enough about what’s goin’ on “below the belt.” Why shouldn’t we feel free to express and chat proudly about our ‘fur’ down there? Because after all, it is dutifully protecting us from bacteria like our own built in knight in shining armour. But the thing is, most of us don't understand what our lady parts need or how to give her love. So, what are some basics of vaj health? Let's start from the beginning and talk pH, good and bacteria, how to clean the girly properly and let her shine (if she so pleases). ;)
So, who is pH and what does she do?
The pH level of your vagina, whether acidic or basic, is the basis of understanding if our lady parts are healthy or not!
PH level describes how concentrated hydrogen ions are in a solution. To put it more simply, it’s the acid-alkaline ratio of a substance, aka, how acidic something is. pH level is measured on a scale of 1 (highly acidic) to 14 (highly alkaline). Overall, our bodies are more-or-less neutral at 7. Skincare formulas and other body products such as washes and creams outside of that range can disrupt your skin’s acid mantle by driving its pH level up or down (1) !
So what is an acid mantle? To clarify, it is a thin film on the surface of the stratum corneum (the first layer of skin) composed of fatty acids, lactic acid, pyrrolidine carboxylic acid, amino acids....you get it, acids, thus acid mantle. It’s responsibilities bottle down to two main functions: to protect skin from bacteria, fungi, pollution, etc., at all costs and to maintain the integrity of skin’s moisture barrier and microbiome. (1)
SO, for our vaj, a normal vaginal pH level is between 3.8 and 4.5, which is on the acidic side. However, what constitutes a “normal” pH level can vary slightly based on your stage of life. For example, during your reproductive years (ages 15 to 49), your vaginal pH should be below or equal to around a 4.5. But before menstruation and after menopause, a healthy pH tends to be higher than 4...
So why does vaginal pH matter? An acidic vaginal environment is protective and creates a barrier that prevents unhealthy bacteria and yeast from multiplying too quickly and causing infection. A high vaginal pH level — above 4.5 — creates an environment for unhealthy bacteria to grow, (this is often when you may be bothered by a weird odor or noticing a change in discharge color and consistency). Having a high vaginal pH puts you at risk for infection. So we gotta get back to basics and learn or (relearn) how to tend to our lady parts and give her everything she needs!(2)
How do you keep your vaginal pH levels from freaking out?
For starters, whatever you do, DO NOT DOUCHE YOUR LADY PARTS! Oddly enough, douching/incorrect washing will increase vaginal pH level, and will encourage all of these bad bacteria cells to make a home in your private parts…. (washing too often or not properly can cause odor down there to spike, leaving your smelly and more itchy than you were before!) Our vaginas are rockstars and they clean themselves! So when you're in the shower, use only mild soap and water to wash the OUTSIDE of your vag ONLY (aka the lips and every so often, you can gently clean the vulva)! (2) little known fact: bath bombs can disrupt our vaginal pH (bath bombs normally change the pH of water to have a pH that is much higher than what our vaj likes)
Side note: having sex? Use a condoms will not only work as a barrier to help prevent STD’s, but will also prevent unwanted bacteria! And it’s precisely the bacteria that bad is messing with your pH.
What should I eat to help my vag work like the rockstar that she is?
Food is actually the easiest way to promote health below the belly button! A balanced vaginal pH needs to stay in the range of 3.8 to 4.5. The moment it strays out of balance for too long, bacteria has a chance to thrive and cause discomfort — or UTIs. Cranberry juice (or in pill form) are incredible to help prevent yeast infections (make sure its not the sugary juice, like “cranberry cocktail mix”). Cranberries have tons of antioxidants, and its super powerful acidic compound helps to fight bacteria! Also, oddly enough sweet potatoes seem to be the real MVPs for vaginal health as well as for fertility. They contain high amounts of vitamin A (linked to fertility). These beautiful potatoes also help strengthen the uterine walls of your vag! (3)
Also, PROBIOTICS, PROBIOTICS, PROBIOTICS! They help balance acidity from the inside out. Take probiotics, eat yogurt, eat sauerkraut, drink kombucha, take your daily probiotic! Anything and everything PRO will help keep your bacteria in line. :)
What are the hot products for down there?
You know how some men use beard oil to lovingly tend to their hair on their chin? We have the option to do that for the hair on our vag. There are some wonderful natural oils on the market that help to smooth our hair down there while helping to eliminate irritation and redness.
Fur Oil, anyone?
If it’s good enough for Emma Watson, it’s good enough for us. Emma swears by Fur Oil, which can be worked into your normal daily skincare routine after the shower. Oils that have anti-inflammatory properties can reduce irritation, oils with antimicrobial properties can reduce bacterial growth, and some oils can even increase cell turnover. Finding the right oil for down there can be great for people who are predisposed to ingrown hairs. (4) Fur Oil if made up of Jojoba oil (for deep hydration), Grapeseed oil (which has skin-soothing vitamins A and E), Tea tree oil (anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, to ward off ingrown hairs and inflammation but can cause sensitization) and Clary sage seed oil (reduces inflammation and helps control oil production in pores) (5).
The Perfect V? Sign me up.
Also on the market, there is a full Nordic “vaginal line” of products called, “The Perfect V.” The Perfect V uses ingredients like arctic cloudberry, Bilberry, Elderflower, Lingonberry, Rosehips and Sea Buckthorn. Many of these ingredients have anti inflammatory properties as well as high levels of vitamins A, B, C, D and E to boost healthy skin and eliminate skin redness and discomfort. Good news is that it looks like they've run it by derms and gynos too!
So what did we learn? Biggest thing, overwashing can screw with our vag’s natural ability to clean itself, so leave her alone! And rinse your vag with fragrance free soap (and the least amount of disruptive chemicals). Sometimes, even just water will do. “For vaginal health up inside, you don’t need to do anything,” Dr. Jennifer Gunter, Bay Area OB-GYN. “Leave it alone. It’s like a self-cleaning oven.” (6) Now let’s celebrate the fact that our vag knows how to clean and regulate itself! Ladies we are made of pure magic. Your body loves you. Our lady parts deserve justice so let’s go give it the TLC it craves. PUSSY POWER!