Feminine Hygiene - Tips
Intimate Hygiene - the process of sanitising the intimate area, which aims to contribute to a woman's well-being, comfort, safety and health.
Many women do not consider intimate hygiene as distinct from their regular hygiene routine. However, proper intimate hygiene requires specific habits which are essential in the control and prevention of infections, since the female intimate area is delicate and prone to them.
The vagina has an acidic pH, more acidic than the skin of the rest of the body, which helps keep the good bacteria (the lactobacilli) healthy and keep the bad bacteria in check. Following proper intimate hygiene habits can prevent disturbances in the pH balance and therefore help prevent vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis (BV).
If you have a vaginal infection or feel discomfort, washing with normal soaps can make symptoms worse.
The intimate area is unique and requires specific care. If you wash your intimate area using the same soaps or products you normally use on the rest of your body, if you wash internally (using vaginal showers) or if you over-wash, you can upset the pH balance of your vagina and intimate area, causing or exacerbating problems such as bad odour, vaginal dryness or recurrent vaginal infections.
The vagina naturally cleans itself by producing a lubricant that carries the 'dirt' away with it, so it's best simply to wash yourself from the outside with warm water and mild, unscented products specially developed for the intimate area.
These products help maintain the natural pH balance while cleansing gently but effectively.
If you feel you need to wash quickly or freshen up during your period or after exercise, try using specially designed wipes.
The appropriate number of washes is between 1 and 2 times a day and you should do this especially after exercise. Make sure you dry yourself well after each wash and if you feel the need, you can also change your underwear to keep it fresh and clean.
5 tips for choosing the best intimate hygiene product:
- Prefer a soap-free washing solution with lipid and moisturising agents that respect the protective hydro-lipid film.
- Check that there are no antiseptics in the product, as these can destroy the lactobacilli. Located at the level of the vulva, before the entrance to the vagina, these micro-organisms are necessary for the balance of the vaginal flora.
- An active ingredient with soothing and calming properties is recommended.
- The pH of an intimate hygiene product should be between 4,8 and 8 in case of mycosis. Choose a product formulated for daily use.
- Finally, do not underestimate the sense of well-being that the product can provide (comfort on application, feeling of freshness, cleanliness, etc.).
Hygienic wipe or intimate cream?
The intimate wipes are formulated for use without rinsing. Very practical before a doctor's appointment, after sport or while travelling, for example.
For women prone to vaginal irritation or dry skin problems, there are gentle intimate creams to apply after going to the toilet or at any time of the day.
A slightly alkaline product (pH>7) is recommended for intimate hygiene for women prone to mycoses.
Vaginal discharge is normal?
It is perfectly normal to produce a light or white discharge. The glands of the cervix produce a natural lubricant that keeps the vagina moist and helps the natural washing process. This natural lubricant flows along the vagina, helping to maintain a clean, healthy environment. In other words, discharge is the vagina's natural way of washing itself and is a sign that you have a healthy vagina.
However, you should be aware of any changes in your discharge, as it should not smell, itch, hurt or burn, or change colour. These changes can be a sign of infection, in which case you may need to see your doctor.
Each person is different, so each woman may produce more or less discharge than others. They may also produce different amounts of discharge depending on when they are in their menstrual cycle. For example, before your period, you may have more discharge than usual, and it may be thicker.
What you MUST do…
- Wash the external vaginal region using an intimate product;
- Frequently replace tampons or panty pads;
- Opt for cotton underwear;
- Consult a gynaecologist if you notice any abnormality;
- Always clean yourself from front to back, in order to avoid the spread of bacteria;
- Pay attention to hair removal/epilation methods. Laser methods are the most recommended.
- Sex and Hygiene - Make sure you empty your bladder after having sex. Taking this precaution helps remove bacteria that have spread into the urethra (the tube connecting the bladder to the part just above the vaginal opening) and so prevent cystitis..
What you SHOULD NOT do…
- Use non-specific scented wipes for intimate hygiene or toilet paper with perfume;
- Excessive and unnecessary washing;
- Do not use antiseptic/antibiotic products on a regular basis. Use them only in the event of an infection;
- Do vaginal showers, and do not direct the water pressure directly into the vagina;
- Take immersion baths frequently and avoid whirlpools;
- Stay too long with the same tampon;
- Use sanitary daily pads too often;
- Wear synthetic underwear.
Ana Margarida Neto
(Pharmaceutical - Biotifar Pharmacy)
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