How well do you really know your own vagina and vulva?
Gone are the days when vulva care was all about hair removal. Be it waxing, shaving or laser hair removal, our focus remained on keeping our fuzz tame or non-existent. And at best, the conscientious might also include a pH-balancing feminine wash to eliminate odour. Fast forward to present day and the term “personal grooming” now encompasses so much more — who can forget Two L(i)ps’ Blackout Activated Charcoal Mask, which was launched last year? The brand is looking at making waves again in the vulva grooming area, recently launching a series of “skincare” products for the vulva, including a peptide cream, a vitamin C serum and a hyaluronic acid serum. And it is not alone: the popularity of intimate skincare brands continue to grow all over the world. Even Emma Watson is a fan of Fur Oil, a multi-purpose oil that helps condition skin and soften pubic hair.
Which brings us to the question: is this all necessary? (Even though we do agree that the idea of kicking back for 15 minutes while our vulva is reaping the benefits of a mask, does elevate our self-care routine.) Here, we highlight the seven facts about your vulva how you should really take care of it:
Know your lady bits
While we use the term “vagina” loosely, the vagina actually refers to the internal organ. The area that is exposed externally is known as the vulva, and includes your labia, clitoris and the opening to the vagina. And most feminine grooming products are formulated for use on this external area, not inside your vagina.
A bacteria colony lives (and thrives) down there
Like the skin on the rest of our body, there’s a delicate balance of good bacteria that reside on the vulva. The existence of this microbiome helps keep your vulva healthy as it regulates its pH and helps stave off potential infections.
Your vulva is very sensitive
Before you start applying skincare products on your vulva, it’s important to read the labels clearly. This is because the area is extremely sensitive and the skin is thinner than elsewhere on our body. As a general rule of thumb, anything harsh, or anything that contains alcohol, artificial fragrances, sulphates and parabens should be avoided. Always check with your gynaecologist before you give any new product a go on your vulva and do a patch test just to be safe.
Your vulva needs very little
Despite the popularity of intimate grooming products, the truth is the vulva is probably one of the easiest areas to look after. Thanks to the abovementioned microbiome that exists, the vulva is perfectly capable of regulating itself and keeping it in tip-top condition. In fact, if you consult your gynaecologist, he or she will probably tell you that all you need to wash your intimate area is just water. If you use harsh cleansers that contain sulphates, artificial fragrances or dyes, these chemicals have the potential of causing irritation as they throw off its natural balance. And if you insist on using a feminine wash, make sure you opt for one that respects your vulva’s delicate pH. Vagisil pH Plus Intimate Wash ($15.90 for 240ml), are pH-balanced, hypoallergenic and gentle enough for everyday use.
You don’t have to worry about pollutants
Unlike the skin on your face or body, the vulva rarely (if not never) sees the light of day. This means that it’s not exposed to environmental factors like UV rays and pollution. Instead, since most of us don’t go commando, your vulva is in constant contact with your undergarment of choice, plus the heat and dampness that exist. If you think of it this way, there really isn’t much need to deep cleanse or detox the area. All you have to do is to keep the area clean and dry (moistness enables yeast to thrive), so be sure to change out of gym clothes after a workout session.
Chafing can cause other problems
While it isn’t exposed to the elements, the vulva undergoes constant chafing over the course of the day. And this is worsened if you wear thongs frequently. To minimise any discomfort that can arise from chafing, it is important to stick to comfortable underwear that is made of non-bleached cotton.
Ingrown hairs can be managed
Remember those pesky bumps that hurt? When we remove our pubic hair via waxing or shaving, there’s a chance that when the hair grows back, it curls back under the skin. Couple that with accumulated sebum within the hair follicle and you get a painful bump known as an ingrown hair. While they tend to resolve by themselves, there are ways to manage them. Most importantly, you shouldn’t try to pick at them because similar to pimples, that can lead to infection and scarring. Instead, apply a gentle anti-inflammatory product like tea tree oil. Or try Fur Oil (about $62 for 75ml). Made with jojoba and grape seed oils, it hydrates the sensitive area without greasiness. At the same time, it also contains clary sage and tea tree for an anti-bacterial and astringent effect to soothe skin, prevent ingrown hairs and speed up the healing process.