Vulva Wash vs. Water

Vulva Wash vs. Water

By: Dr. Wendy Goodall

A debate old as time, or at least as old as social media, What is the correct way to clean the vulva and vagina? Nick Cannon seems to think most humans with vaginas don’t know the answer to that question. We don’t believe the numbers are as striking as he said, but let’s talk about it anyway.

First, it is crucial to recognize that the vulva and the vagina are two different places. Often the terms are used interchangeably, but the difference is significant in this discussion. The vulva includes the entire external genital region from the mons, which starts beneath the bikini line, to the anus and groin creases on both inner thighs. The labia majora, the labia minora, the vestibule, the clitoral hood, the clitoris, and the openings of the urethra and vagina are all a part of the vulva. The vagina is the inner tube where period blood can come out, penetrative sex can occur, and a baby could emerge. The vagina leads to the cervix and uterus. It is entirely inside of the body, whereas the vulva is external. The vagina is covered in mucosa, a tissue that secretes mucous that can become vaginal discharge. There are also glands like Bartholin and Skene’s glands which are responsible for releasing moisture and lubrication that are normal in the vagina. Lactobacillus acidophilus is a bacteria that is usually found inside the vagina. It is responsible for the acidic pH of the vagina. That acidic pH helps repel vaginal infections like yeast, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infections. That is why Lactobacillus is often referred to as “Good Bacteria.” It’s like the bouncers in Club Vagina, keeping everything balanced and happy and kicking out rabble-rousers like Candida (yeast) and the many bacteria responsible for Bacterial Vaginosis.

When people refer to the vagina as a self-cleaning oven, they are talking specifically about that inner tube. The mucosa, glands, and good bacteria keep Club Vagina happy, healthy, and comfortable. The Lactobacilli are the best bouncers and keep the internal environment balanced like the ecosystem in a rainforest. The vagina does not need to be washed. It doesn’t need to be flushed out with douche and does not require soap. If anything, soaps and floods of water can flush out the good bacteria and leave an opportunity for vaginal infections to set up shop. The skin of the outer vulva is different and requires additional hygiene care. That external skin contains hair follicles and sweat and oil glands. Because of this, the vulva can develop an odor similar to the underarms. Bacteria consume the sweat and produce odor. The vulva should be washed to control the smell and remain comfortable. Since no door or physical partition separates the vulva and the vagina, what a person uses to clean the external vulva, can affect the pH and wellness of the internal vagina.

The pH of the vagina is typically between 3.8 and 5, which is considered acidic. The pH of the rest of the body is around 7.35, which is a neutral pH. Get this: the pH of most soaps is basic, about 9-10. I don’t mean basic as in not complicated. I mean basic like the opposite of acidic. Why is this brief chemistry lesson important? Because since there is no physical barrier between the vulva and the vagina, a basic soap used on the vulva can negatively impact the pH of the vagina, disrupting the health and comfort of Club Vagina.

Honey Pot Co washes are external washes for the vulva and are all formulated to be acidic, which compliments the internal pH of the vagina. Even though they are not intended for use inside the vagina, they clean the outside thoroughly without disrupting the normal pH balance. The Normal and Sensitive Washes can remove sweat and oils that bacteria feast on, but they don’t cause discomfort, itching, or irritation that can come from traditional “soaps.”

The answer to the age-old question: Should you clean the vulva/vagina with soap or just water is: both. The external vulva can be cleaned with pH-balanced soap like those created by The Honey Pot co. The inner labia and vestibule can be rinsed with just water. Nothing belongs inside of the vagina. Not soap, not water, not toxic people. I'm just kidding with that last one. Lol.