1. When showering avoid all harsh or perfumed products such as soaps, shampoos, bath oils, bubble baths, feminine hygiene sprays, moisturizing lotions or creams. These can upset the normal pH of the vaginal area.
2. Clean the areas around and between the labia majora and labia minora but do not use soap or cleansers inside the vagina itself or around the vaginal and urethral openings, as these are very irritating and can set the stage for an infection.
3. Wash with water frequently. You can use a squirt bottle after going to the bathroom and dry gently by patting rather than wiping.
4. Wipe yourself from front to back after a bowel movement (from your urethra toward your anus).
5. Do not use toilet paper made of recycled paper, the recycling process uses harsh chemicals.
6. If you feel that you must use a cleanser, use an unscented, soap-free skin cleanser or mild soap once a day only. Make certain that you rinse thoroughly and always dry the vulva thoroughly. When washing your hair in the shower, shampoo often runs down to the vulvar area. Make sure that the vulva is well rinsed of shampoo.
7. Do not use vaginal douches (unless it is herbal douches used to check issues such as candida).
8. Do not submerge in hot baths. Baths should be at a moderate temperature.
9. Use white towels or washcloths. Keep your towel and washcloth separate from others.
10. Do not shave or wax the vulva.
11. Avoid tight-fitting clothing.
12. Always wear white cotton underwear, not simply a cotton gusset line or crotch. Synthetic underwears do not allow for good air circulation.
13. Wear loose clothing, preferably made of natural material products such as cotton, wool, and linen. Natural fabrics allow better air circulation to the skin.
14. Wear only loose-fitting pajamas or boxers, and no underwear at night.
15. Wash new underwear before wearing them.
16. Avoid stockings, pantyhose or panty girdles.
17. Avoid all perfumed detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets and bleaches. Wash laundry with gentle unscented soaps. Avoid was products labeled “whiter” or “brighter” or “improved”. They often contain harsher chemicals.
18. Do not shave or wax the vulva.
Sanitary Napkins and Tampons
19. Change sanitary napkins and tampons frequently.
20. Use sanitary napkins or panty liners only when you are menstruating. Using panty liners daily will cause irritation. Change underwear more frequently instead of using napkins or liners.
21. Use cotton, unscented, non-deodorized sanitary napkins and tampons. A dry weave is a plastic lining used in some sanitary napkins and should be avoided.
Heat and Moisture
22. Avoid excess heat; it can cause moisture and humidity which could irritate the vulva.
23. Try to avoid sitting or crossing the legs for a long period of time as this does not allow for much oxygen circulation.
24. Avoid using plastic mattress covers, electric blankets or waterbeds.
Hot Tubs and Swimming Pools
25. Consider avoiding hot tubs and swimming pools if you have an itch or irritation on the vulva. Chemicals are used to keep hot tubs and swimming pools free of bacteria.
26. Change out of swimsuits soon after swimming. Rinse and dry the vulva thoroughly.
27. Contraceptive spermicides, mousses, foams, sponges and condoms can cause irritation. If you have a sensitivity or allergy to any of these, you may have to consider another form of birth control.
28. If you use a diaphragm, vaginal dilators or sex toy, make sure to clean them well with gentle soap and water after every use. Rinse and dry well.
29. If a lubricant is used during sexual intercourse, chose a water-soluble one that is free of added colour or perfumes.
30. Saliva, beards and mustaches may cause irritation.
31. Never have genital contact after anal contact.
32. After sexual intercourse always wash and dry the vulva area.
33. After sexual intercourse always empty your bladder. This helps flush away any germs that may enter into your urethra and bladder, thus preventing bladder infections.
Irritations and Infections
34. If you have a mild itch/irritation, which seems to temporarily respond to over the counter antifungal/yeast medications, you may have an allergy/sensitivity to some local products rather than a yeast infection.
35. There are many reasons and conditions that cause irritation, pain, and discomfort of the vulva. If you experience any of these symptoms, notice a discoloration of the skin or lump in the vulvar area, consult your physician.
If You Have Incontinence
36. Use protective pads designed for incontinence, they are meant to absorb urine. You will probably notice less odour and skin irritation if you use these products instead of using pads designed to absorb menstrual blood.
37. Change soiled pads and undergarments promptly.
38. Use disposable wipes or wash clothes after emptying your bladder or bowels, they are more gentle than toilet tissue. Always wash from front to back.
39. Fragrances, alcohol, and alkaline soaps should be avoided.
40. Consider using a moisturizer (moisturizers either seal in existing moisture, or add moisture to the skin, they include creams, lotions or pastes) or a barrier product (barrier products protect skin from contact with moisture, and decrease friction from protective pads.) Use products designed for incontinence, they are available at most major drugstores. Apply to clean skin only.
41. If needed, consider using plant-based creams, lotions, moisturisers and oils.
1. Maintaining Vaginal Health – health.cornell.edu
2. Vulvar Care – Prepared by the Gynecology/Oncology Clinic Nursing Staff of the Ottawa Hospital – Shirley E. Greenberg Women’s Health Centre, Riverside Campus July 2005
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