Developing good hygiene habits can help women stay healthy. Every day, women shower, brush their teeth, and comb their hair to keep their bodies healthy and help themselves feel clean.
Yet there are parts of our routine that we may not realize affect our vaginal health. Many women aren’t thinking about their vaginal health when doing these habits, but they may actually contribute to yeast infections, toxic shock syndrome, and more.
Wiping back to front
On the toilet, wiping from the anus toward the vagina can spread harmful bacteria. The U.S. Office on Women’s Health says wiping back to front can increase the risk of urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis in women. If you can’t reach around to wipe from front to back, try wiping one section at a time with different pieces of toilet paper.
Staying in a wet swimsuit all day
While it can be tempting to spend a pool party in the same bikini all day, if you stay in a wet swimsuit, you increase the chance of a yeast infection. The resource website for the Ohio-based University Hospitals says the moisture, heat, and pool chemicals residing in the wet swimsuit can promote an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina and vulva.
Sleeping in a thong
Tight-fitting or sweaty underwear can contribute to a yeast infection, according to the Office on Women’s Health. Wearing breathable cotton underwear overnight may help air out the vagina overnight. In fact, the medical website Healthline suggests not wearing any underwear while sleeping.
Yogurt has good bacteria that can promote healthy pH levels. Yet if you’re lactose intolerant, vegan, or just not interested in yogurt, fear not; there are a number of other foods that have healthy probiotics that can help. Pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha may be beneficial, as well.
Cigarettes can affect more than just the lungs. A study published in the December 2018 issue of the journal Scientific Reports says cigarette smoking has been associated with bacterial vaginosis and bad vaginal odor.
Leaving a tampon in all day
Even if you don’t have a chance to replace a tampon all day, trying to make your last tampon last longer than eight hours is a major risk factor for toxic shock syndrome (TSS). According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Toxic shock syndrome is a deadly disease caused by a toxin that can result in fever, shock, and problems with several body organs. Replacing tampons regularly and/or using menstrual pads are healthier alternatives.
While it’s great to be clean down there, being too eager to clean may actually be damaging. The Center for Young Women’s Health (from the nonprofit Boston Children’s Hospital League) recommends cleaning outside that area on the vulva and labia. Never try to scrub the vagina internally with soap.