ESSENTIAL VULVA FACTS
A lot of women suffer from intimate health issues. Many of them suffer in silence due to embarrassment and shame. A lot of these issues can be avoided with the knowledge of how to best care for your intimate area. We have spoken to the gynecologist and vulva expert Dr Rebecka Kaplan and she claims that the main cause for imbalances is our ignorance of intimate self-care. “Soap-based products are the greatest cause for intimate health issues”, says Dr Rebecka who daily encounters many vulva and vagina problems in women. Even the mildest soaps dissolve lipids which makes it easier for unwanted bacteria and fungus to attach to the mucosa and cause problems.
VULVA & VAGINA - WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
The ignorance is not just about hygiene but also about our own anatomy. Vagina is a word that is often used to include everything "between the legs". But what we usually refer to is the vulva. The vulva is the outer part of the intimate area and the vagina is the internal canal that leads to the uterus. The vagina is self-cleaning. It has an army of bacteria that keep the vagina moist, healthy and with an acidic pH value. And like all bacteria, these also have a smell. This smell is completely natural. We all have different sets of bacteria and thus have our own very unique smell. If the smell changes its character to a pungent or fishy smell it is a sign of a bacterial imbalance.
As unique as our own scent, so is the appearance of the vulva. It can be likened to a flower with two layers of unique petals. These "petals" are called "labia" which is a Latin word for lips. Between the outer and inner labia the remains of dead skin cells, discharge and menstrual blood can be accumulated and cause bad odor and infections if not properly cleaned. "If you take care of your vulva in a proper way you will reduce the risk of developing infections, bacterial imbalances, pain during intercourse, eczema and other concerns," says Dr Rebecka Kaplan.
VULVA - These parts need proper cleansing.
VAGINA - The vagina is self-cleansing.
Most women want to feel fresh in the intimate area and it can be difficult with just plain water. And as we learned before, soap is a big no-no when it comes to cleansing the vulva. A cleansing oil removes dirt and bad odour while the vulva stays moisturised. Mucous membranes are sensitive, so washing with oil also reduces unnecessary friction that can irritate the sensitive mucosa. Since the mucosa is more absorbent than the skin on the rest of the body it’s very important to choose natural and good quality oils. There are cleansing oils on the market that contains mineral oil. These oils are linked to autoimmune joint diseases and should not be used on the skin, and definitely not in the intimate area.