By Bunmi Sofola
There’s currently a growing trend of women searching for the ‘perfect’ vagina. Down-there care has exploded as a movement with celebrities speaking about the procedures they’ve had to give them designer vaginas. Worryingly, some young girls are seeking medical help to change the look of their vaginas. Labia plastics-surgery to reduce the size of the flaps of skin on either side of the vagina opening – continue to rise in popularity, along with less invasive treatments like the non-surgical vagina face lift. Home treatments like ‘steaming’ and ‘vacuuming’ are also gaining traction.
But what impact do they really have? Dr. Shirin Lakhani, women’s intimate health expert and founder of Elite Aesthetics, reveals why vaginas should be left alone, and warns about the dangers of fads… .
Steaming cleaning: We thought this was only for carpets, but more and more women are engaging in the practice of vaginal steaming. This involves squatting over steaming water that contains herbs such as rosemary and basil. It’s meant to help clean your private parts and clear any discharge, but according to Dr. Shirin Lakhani, it can burn the delicate skin and tissues. “I would never recommend this,” she says. “Not only is there a risk of burns, any herbs added can disrupt the natural bacteria and cause irritation and infection.”
Douching: Vaginal douching has a number of dedicated supporters. The process involves flushing water up into the vagina to clear out secretions, usually with a mixture of water and vinegar. Some douche products even contain antiseptics and fragrances. While advocates say that douching leaves them feeling fresher and gets rid of any unpleasant odours, the reality is that it washes out everything that’s inside your vagina. “Not only is there little scientific evidence that douching makes your vagina cleaner,” says Dr. Shirin Lakhani, “it also upsets the natural balance of bacteria, making your vagina more susceptible to infections.”
Fragrancing: Women who spritze their lady garden with fragrance obviously don’t realise that this popular practice can be detrimental to the health of the vagina. The chemicals in perfumes can cause irritation and even infect the delicate area. “Although it is widely believed to be helpful, one of the worst things we can do to our vaginas is to use perfumed products for cleaning, says Dr. Lakhani. “The vagina is a self-cleaning organ – it doesn’t need anything to assist it in the cleaning process. By over-cleaning with perfumed products, you can disrupt the delicate balance which helps to maintain its health. This leads to infections, the most common being bacterial vaginosis.”
Vacuuming: This is a bizarre trend on social media which said women hovering their vaginas in a bid to make their periods end earlier. “Vacuums and vaginas simply don’t mix!” says Dr. Lekhani. “There’s no way this would speed up your period ending, and it can be incredibly dangerous. “The vacuum could easily transmit bad bacteria into the vagina and the suction could cause serious damage to the vaginal walls and labia.”
Intimate sins: Not guilty of vaginal vacuuming or steaming? You still might be committing one of these less extreme practices that can affect vaginal health… . Wearing dirty knickers: “Yeast infecting happen when there’s a spread of bacteria, and if you’re wearing dirty underwear you’re allowing bacteria from the day before to build up,” says Dr. Lakhani.
Scratching an itch: While we can get an itch down there every now and again; we should avoid scratching it. Persistent itching can lead to inflation, wounds and infections.
Wearing skinny jeans every day: “It’s important to give your vagina room to breathe,” says Dr. Lakhani. “Wearing tight or synthetic clothing, such as leggings, skinny jeans and gym clothing can create an environment where problems like thrush are much more likely to develop.
“There’s no such thing as a ‘perfect vagina.’ But if you’re considering a treatment or surgery, weigh up all the risks and only go to a reputable practitioner. Vaginal health is more important than trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal, so let’s start celebrating the fact that all fannies are different!”
5 Myths About Vagina Care
1. Pubic hair is unhygienic: Pubic hair provides a natural barrier of protection for your intimate area. It protects against friction, preventing abrasions and injury of the surrounding skin, as well as helping to prevent bacteria from entering the body.
2. When shaving pubic hair, shaving against the hair is best: You may get a ‘closer shave’ but shaving against the hair can irritate the skin and cause itching bumps and cuts. Also, use a shaving cream to help the razor glide easily and safely over the skin.
3. Your vagina needs to be washed thoroughly: Your vagina is designed to clean itself, so you don’t need to use wipes or douches. If you feel you need more than water, you could use a product such as fremfresh Pure Wash.
4. Your vagina is the whole intimate area: People often refer to their intimate area as the vagina, but the vagina is in fact, just the internal organ. Vulva is the correct term for all of the external organs, including the pubic mound, labia, clitoris and the external openings of the urethra.
5. Your intimate skin is the same as the rest of your body: Your intimate skin has a pH level of 4.5 whereas the rest of your body is closer to 5.5. That means it is essential to ensure you’re only using products specifically designed with your intimate area in mind.