Feminine Hygiene Washes

For aeons, the vagina has been a conversational topic that prompts expressions of disgust, mockery, and ignorance, particularly from men.

That is what feminine hygiene companies exploit to advertise their products. They aim at a fear that we smell and fear that our sexual partners will mock us because of what our vaginas and vulvas smell like.


The industry has worked hard to heighten these anxieties, riding on our insecurities to peddle their perfumed products which claim to make you smell like a bouquet.

Truth is, our intimate areas don’t require these artificially scented cleansing agents. In fact, these products are actually more harmful than good.

Understanding your vajayjay

Much like your eyes, your vagina is a delicate, self-cleaning organ. It’s lined with a mucous membrane, as well as a mix of bacteria (i.e. the vaginal flora) that protects against infection. Together, they keep the vagina healthy and hygienic with secretions that wash away harmful microorganisms.

Like your skin’s slightly acidic pH level, your vagina has a low range of 3.8 to 4.5, but the fragrance in scented washes makes it alkaline. This imbalance prevents the growth of good bacteria, so your intimate area won’t be able to fight off infections.

A medical study conducted in April 2018 found that feminine washes “make women 3.5 times more likely to catch a bacterial infection and 2.5 times more at risk of a yeast infestation.”

You can also end up with a host of gynaecological issues such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and bacterial vaginosis, a condition that causes abnormal discharge, itching, and odour—thwarting the intended effect completely.

Tl;dr, you don’t need vagina washing products, much less scented ones.

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How to shop for feminine hygiene products

Intimate cleansers aren’t necessary, but in some cases—say you had an intense workout session or your chain-smoking partner just went down on you—you might want a wash down south.

Excess moisture can create a breeding ground for bacteria and foul odour, which is why some women get recurring yeast infections. When harsh pollutants like smoke are present, it could also dry out and mess with your vagina’s good bacteria, so reach for a pH-balanced cleanser when you see fit.

These three cleansers we’ve selected contain gentle surfactants to refresh your intimate area without upsetting the vulvovaginal balance. They also utilise plant extracts like aloe vera, calendula, and green tea to moisturise and soothe.

From left to right:
Healthy Hoo Hoo Gentle Feminine Wash
YES CLEANSE Organic Intimate Wash
Sliquid Balance Splash Gentle Intimate Wash in Naturally Unscented

If you’re developing a reaction and your first suspect is the new intimate wash sitting in your bathroom, stop using it immediately.

And if the problem hasn’t improved within 24 hours, purchase an over-the-counter steroid cream from Watsons or Guardian and apply externally. Head to the doctor’s if that doesn’t help.

Avoid Scented Feminine Hygiene Washes

So the next time you’re picking up a feminine wash, steer clear of products with the word ‘scented’ tacked on the packaging. If there’s no indicator on the label, check the ingredient list for ‘perfume’, ‘parfum’, ‘fragrance’, and ‘aroma’ to be sure.

Meanwhile, remember these words by Eve Ensler, playwright of The Vagina Monologues: “My vagina doesn’t need to be cleaned up. It smells good already. Not like rose petals. Don’t try to decorate.”

This article was first published on 11 September 2018 and last updated on 28 June 2024.

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