How Clean is Too Clean?

By Riva Preil

Believe it or not, people sometimes overdo it with regards to vaginal hygiene.  This is especially true with regards to individuals with vulvar disorders (ex. eczema, lichen sclerosis, urinary tract infections, or yeast infections).  A common misconception is that the disorder is a result of inadequate cleansing of the vulva, thereby leading to itching, irritation, and pain.  However, over scrubbing of the perineum and vulva may actually exacerbate vaginal irritation.  It is important to gently cleanse the vagina without using irritating chemicals.  Most scented soaps, scrubs, powders, and detergents are detrimental to vaginal health; instead, one should opt for unscented products.  Furthermore, gentle fingertip cleansing should be performed rather than using a washcloth.

In addition, it is important to be mindful of clothing, because lower extremity garments often affect vulvar irritation. Tights pants and jeans, thongs, spandex, and pantyhose are often the culprits of triggering a flare up.  When possible, one should wear cotton underwear, loose pants (ex. sweatpants while working out instead of leggings), and thigh-highs or knee-highs to prevent pain.  Hopefully, incorporation of these minor tips can create a major improvement in one’s quality of life.