When it comes to vaginal health, there’s a lot of advice (and misconceptions) floating around social media. From jade eggs and yoni pearls to douching and V-steaming—various detoxing trends are recently being touted as beneficial for your vagina despite little to no scientific evidence to support the claims.
Here, two gynecologists give the scoop on whether your vagina needs ‘detoxing’ and what you should do to maintain a healthy vagina:
First off, should you detox down there?
“No, the vagina does not need any sort of detox. In fact, no part of the human body needs detoxing. That’s what our liver and kidneys are for,” says Dr. Staci Tanouye, board-certified gynecologist in private practice.
“Most OB-GYNs like to refer to the vagina as a self-cleaning machine,” says Dr. Natalie Crawford, board-certified OB-GYN and host of As a Woman podcast. It has a microbiome—just like your gut—and good bacteria (lactobacilli) that help regulate the pH and vaginal environment. So when you try to clean your vagina, you are only getting rid of these good bacteria and increasing the risk of bacterial and yeast infections and vaginal irritation, Dr. Crawford explains.
The vaginal discharge is also part of your vagina’s natural cleaning mechanism, tells Dr. Tanouye. This discharge is typically a mixture of normally sloughing skin cells, bacteria and mucous, she adds.
Besides, douching, steaming or any other form of detoxing can seriously injure your delicate bits. “There are cases of topical burns seen after steaming or chemical burns after douching with certain products,” tells Dr. Crawford. Detoxing could also alter the pH of your vagina which can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria (bacterial vaginosis) or yeast, causing vaginal irritation, discharge, itching and pain, explains the fertility physician.
Moreover, “perpetuating the idea that deep cleansing is necessary or it can improve your vaginal health is harmful in itself in that it promotes the idea that the vagina is inherently dirty,” Dr. Tanouye points out.
Bottom line: Never douche your vag, insert egg-shaped objects into it or steam clean it like dirty drapes and rugs in order to cleanse it or promote hormonal balance. Your vagina can do that all on its own.
So, what should you really be doing to maintain a normal, healthy vagina?
“The vagina often needs no intervention to maintain a healthy state. So, in terms of vaginal health, less is more,” says Dr. Tanouye. Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind:
- Wash your vulva with warm water. It’s best to clean your vulva (external genitalia) with warm water. Or, if desired, a very mild, unscented soap, suggests Dr. Crawford.
- Wear cotton underwear. Choose underwear made from natural fabrics like cotton or bamboo as they are more breathable and absorbent than synthetic ones that might trap heat and sweat, creating a perfect breeding ground for yeast infection. In addition, always change into a clean pair of underwear after a workout, as soon as you can.
- Do not clean your vagina. “Your vagina doesn’t need to be cleaned and doesn’t need to be made fresh with fragrance. Please avoid all douching, steaming or inserting products into your vagina that are not for pleasure, for menstrual hygiene (like menstrual cups/discs, tampons, etc.) or for contraception (diaphragms, the ring, etc),” says Dr. Crawford.
- Visit your gyno if something feels off. If you notice any unpleasant symptoms such as itching, irritation, abnormal discharge or strong odors to the discharge, you should get it checked by your gynecologist at the earliest, recommends Dr. Tanouye.