Tips and tricks concerning feminine hygiene don’t simply crop up in everyday conversation. In fact, most of us have a whole lot of unspoken questions. With the launch in South Africa of Lactacyd® feminine hygiene wash, gynaecologist Dr. Lizelle Nortje answers some of the questions women frequently ask.
Is it not enough simply to wash my intimate zones with water?
For those who are hypersensitive, water is better than nothing, but water by itself cannot clean the vagina properly. Of course you will splash off some of the day’s accumulated deposits, but you leave behind a significant percentage of the natural discharge and particles that have migrated to the warm, damp vagina region.
Is it enough, then, to wash with regular or neutral soaps?
It is difficult to manufacture pH-neutral bar soaps, which is why they tend to have a high alkaline effect. This alkaline quality strips the natural acidity of the female genital region, causing dryness and, potentially, irritation1.
I’ve never used a dedicated soap before, and I’ve never had any trouble. Why change now?
You could be lucky. Or you could be one of the 50% of women who have bacterial infections, but simply don’t show symptoms.
Do intimate soaps alter the pH of the vaginal region?
No. Liquid vaginal soaps are designed to echo the pH of the external vaginal region with a pH of between 3.8 and 4.53. The skin’s pH is also affected by things like diet, hormones and emotions, so a pH-balanced wash goes a long way to helping keep things on an even keel1.
Can you use intimate soaps when you’re menstruating?
It’s especially important to use them during your period, as the volume of discharge and residue increases. With a pH-balanced soap, there is no concern about “over-cleaning”, which is good news for women who’d like to wash more often at that time1.
Can soaps be applied internally when washing?
No. Feminine hygiene soaps should be used externally only. If there is inflammation or itchiness that doesn’t clear up with proper cleansing, it is best to see your doctor or gynaecologist to have yourself checked out1.
What’s the correct way of washing the pubic area?
Focus on the pubic mound, the skin of the vulva, the angles where the thighs connect with the body, the perineal region (the stretch between the vulva and the anus), and the interior of both majora and minora labia. A small amount of soap on the fingertips should be used, and small circular movements over the area should be made, encompassing all folds, and moving away from the vaginal region. Rinse under running water, and dry well with a clean towel.1
What other vaginal products should I use – panty liners? Wipes? Hygiene sprays?
Ideally, wear only loose panties, made from cotton. Tight panties and synthetic fabrics block ventilation and blood circulation, and the irritation can lead to discharge, which creates a need for panty liners. However, if you feel “unsafe” without panty liners – if your period is imminent, or if you’re experiencing heavy vaginal discharge, panty liners can save you anxiety. Choose good-quality liners that take moisture away from the vagina and that are not backed by plastic – that way, they won’t compound moisture, heat and other conditions that favour the proliferation of microorganisms1.
Can children use intimate washes?
Infant pH is lower than adult feminine pH, so don’t use it on infants. Beyond that, however, there are no restrictions; and the sooner girl-children understand the basics of vaginal hygiene, the better1.
Will Lactacyd® cure a vaginal infection?
On its own, no. But it will help create the right environment for the treatment your healthcare provider recommends to be most effective4.
For more information please visit the Lactacyd website: http://za.lactacyd-info.com
(Press release, August 2011)
Brazilian Federation of Ob & Gyn Associations (FEBRASGO), Practical Guide to Clinical Procedures, Female Genital Hygiene, 2009
Vaginal discharge by The Mckinley Health Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 2008 www.mckinley.uiuc.edu Accessed March 2009
3Garg K.B. Metabolic properties of lactobacilli in women experiencing recurring episodes of bacterial vaginosis with vaginal pH ≥ 5. Eur. J Clin. Microbiol Infect Dis (2010) 29: 123-125
4 “Lactacyd FH Wash as an adjunct to standard treatment in mild vulvovaginitis” Aug. 2001, Data on file