Sometimes it’s an interesting intellectual exercise to step back and ask how and why a modern practice became so commonplace. Take toothpaste. Generally hailed as a wonderful, necessary invention in our modern age, it is a relatively new practice to use it. People have been cleaning their teeth for thousands of years, but they didn’t need toothpaste to do it. As it turns out, part of the reason why it became so common was because the industrious creators of Pepsodent thought to add sodium lauryl sulfate and mint oils to their formula. Ironically, these irritate the gums and create a tingly sensation in the mouth, which make people think that their mouth is cleaner. These aren’t really necessary, but these were key ingredients that made people think they now had a fresh, clean mouth, and sales soared. Now everyone knows you need minty toothpaste in order to have a clean mouth.
Just like everyone knows you need special products to wash your lady parts so they don’t smell.
Did you know that in the early 20th century Lysol was used as a douche? Ouch! Most modern women are aware that douching is not a healthy practice, though I was surprised to find that 1 in 5 American women still douche, probably for contraceptive reasons (douches don’t prevent pregnancy, but some people still think they do), or for “hygiene” reasons. In case you aren’t aware, the risks of douching include increased vaginal infections, increased risk of STD’s, and a very serious condition known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) where bad bacteria infect your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. This can lead to infertility or pre-term birth among other things.
So, what’s a good feminine hygiene product marketer to do now that the gynecologists have chipped away their market with their silly studies? Of course you have to continue to imply that women smell and that without special products to “freshen” themselves, no one will want to sit near them, be their friend, and certainly no man will want to touch them. You’ll want to acknowledge the concerns of the medical community by saying your product is “pH balanced”, and if you’re smart, you’ll even use buzz words like “Natural” and “Organic.”
Enter, the modern day feminine “Freshness” products. One popular product line of feminine products offers NINE different variations for your every “Freshness” need. You’ve got washes, sprays, powders, wipes, night time formulas, and of course if you didn’t get the memo about how bad douching is for you, they still sell that but now it’s on the very bottom shelf at the store.
And how many of these should you be using?
You guessed it. None. No soaps, washes, wipes, or sprays.
What should you use to keep your vulvar area clean and fresh? Plain old boring, nearly free, water.
It turns out that our bodies are pretty smart and have built in cleaning capabilities. Using sprays, wipes, powders, or heaven forbid, douching, really throws off the natural bacterial balance in the vagina. The result is an increase of bad bacteria which can cause an odor, irritation, and infection. So then what do you do to combat that? Why, buy more sprays/wipes/washes of course! See how well that works?
One other unwanted side effect of trying to be more “fresh” is that women often end up with unwanted vaginal discharges. If you’ve ever noticed a lotion or hair conditioner type of discharge on your toilet paper or your undies, this is often the culprit. Try to switching to just washing your vulvar area with plain water and you may find that unwanted discharges naturally resolve themselves after a few weeks.
While we’re at it, you should check your period products as well. Avoid any tampons or pads that are scented.
And I can’t believe I have to say this in 2018 , but don’t buy things like lavender scented toilet paper. Did you know scented toilet paper has made a comeback? My grandma liked to buy things in bulk, so when we visited her, we were still using pink, potpourri scented TP in the 90’s. Just say no to flowery scented toilet paper.
In short, just let your vagina do what it knows how to do. You don’t need all that stuff. If you’ve cleared all the “freshening” products out of your medicine cabinet/shower and switched to unscented everything for a few weeks and you still feel like you have odor issues, it’s time to visit your gynecologist.
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