How to best care for your lady parts in summer

For most of us, summer means sun's out, fun's out. But the heat, humidity, and heavy, clingy, and wet air can be miserable on your body. You sweat. You feel sticky and icky. The elements this time of year can be especially uncomfortable for your lady parts. 

There are plenty of annoying and localized skin problems when it gets all sorts of balmy or just straight up hot as all get out. Luckily, there are equally as many techniques and products that allow you to properly care for your lady parts and to remain comfortable and fresh "down there" during the stifling summer months. 

Avoid tight pants or undies

I spoke to Dr. Jennifer Stagg, a naturopathic physician and author of Unzip Your Genes, who told me that it is best to avoid pants, shorts, and undies that are very tight fitting through the crotch, as well as avoiding things like sitting around in a tight and/or wet bathing suit for extended periods of time. 

"This type of environment can promote vaginal infections," she said. If you want to be lazy while lounging on hot summer days, do so in loose, roomy, and dry pants and underthings.

Wear cotton briefs

Choosing your summer undies is a critical effort in order to maintain freshness… down there. A spokesperson for lingerie brand Brook There suggests opting for cotton briefs in warm weather because the natural fibers can wick moisture away from skin. Sure, materials like silk and satin may be slinkier and sexier, but these fabrics can trap moisture and create a breeding ground for bacteria and infection.  

Thongs are also bad idea during the dog days of summer. They might be your go-to for wear with leggings, but that friction can be a real hassle and can keep your lady parts from feeling their most fresh and comfortable. 

Dr. Amir Marashi, a Vaginal Reconstruction and Rejuvenation Specialist at New York Center for Aesthetic Rejuvenation, told me, "Wear cotton underwear when you can or any fabric that is breathable. But cotton is usually best. You don't want the area to sweat. Yeast likes to grow in an area that's moist and dry and where there is food aka [where there is] sweat."

Go organic

Holistic doctor Svetlana Kogan, M.D. suggests swapping out your trusty Victoria's Secret undies for an organic pair instead. "Go organic with your underwear and any other clothing item which makes direct contact with your skin — things like your cardigan do not have to be organic," Kogan told me.

Kogan's reason for going with organic materials is critical. She said, "I advise this in order to avoid dangerous pesticides and insecticides used in growing cotton. Dichlorotriphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), which was banned in the U.S. in 1972, has been detected in imported cotton fabric."

She further explained that the chemical mixes with sweat and sebum (oil), both of which are increased during the summer heat, and can lead to sicknesses.

Go commando

The folks at Brook There also recommend going commando when sleeping. Research studies have shown that lowering your skin temperature increases the depth and quality of your sleep. One way to lower your skin temperature is to sleep in the nude. So, yes, you can crash out sans any clothes. But if you crank the AC during those brutally hot nights, keep an extra blanket handy because, duh. You can also ditch undies when wearing a long tee and boy shorts, a nightgown, or even light linen PJs.

Moisturize

Moisturizing the area is also not only acceptable, but advised. Just be careful what you use. Dr. Ronald D. Blatt, a board-certified gynecologist, Chief Surgeon and Medical Director of the Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery and the Manhattan Centers for Women's Health, told me that "intimate skin requires special moisturizing. Facial or body moisturizers can cause irritation and discomfort when applied to the delicate skin of the outer vaginal area." 

Therefore, you should keep the region carefully lubricated to avoid dryness and irritation. But be sure and do so by looking for products specifically formulated for this area. 

"Your vagina will feel less dry, better to the touch, and look better too with less flaking from irritation due to beach sand, tight bikini bottoms, chlorine, etc.," Blatt said.

Stay safe from the chafe

The heat, sweat, and friction of summer are a miserable combo. You can keep skin safe from chafe — look, a poem! —  with the variety of products on the market that are available at your local drugstore. 

I personally use Monistat's Chafing Relief Power Gel before I toss on leggings for my Saturday and Sunday task of walking dogs at my local shelter. It is already blazing at 8 a.m. so I need any and all additional protection. This stuff fights the friction and soothes the inevitable irritation that I experience. Plus, it also moisturizes my skin, so that's an added bonus that I dig. I rely on this stuff when I rock skinny jeans, too. I admit that I can't give up tight pants in summer, despite recommendations to the contrary. 

As Melanie Axelrod from Monistat noted, "There is an uncomfortable skin irritation from chafing in the hot summer weather. A chafing gel protects skin with a breathable, moisture-control barrier that leaves skin feeling smooth and chafe-free."

Utilize area-specific wipes

Don't rely on basic body or baby wipes. Instead, grab a specialized product like Goodwipes, whose adorably named Shea Coco Down There Wipes were designed for the private part because they are gentle, soothing, and can refresh your most intimate bodily locale after the gym, using the bathroom, or before or after sexual activity. You never have to worry about not being fresh. Plus, they are flushable and biodegradable, so you can use them without worrying about your environmental footprint.

There are also plenty of other brands that have wipes for the region, including Always, Pure Touch, and Vagisil, which are available and easily accessible at local drugstores.

Exfoliate

Exfoliating dead skin cells isn't just for the face or the elbows. Dr. Blatt also recommends waxing and/or shaving to keep the region clean and pretty. Really? Yes! He notes that you can banish the residual discomfort or itch from razor bumps, ingrown hairs, or other general irritation by exfoliating. 

"After waxing and shaving the bikini area, use a gentle exfoliant and follow that up with a moisturizer," Blatt told me.  "Look for products that are specific for this delicate area. Shave at night while your body has time to recover from any trauma caused by the waxing or shaving."

Roberta Perry of Scrubz Body concurred, telling me, "If you want to keep your lady parts totally clean… polish them! It really is as simple as that. Gentle, oil-based exfoliation not only takes the dirt away, but polishes and moisturizes the bikini area for an incredible, no in-grown hair, irritation free shaving experience, too!" So, yeah, exfoliate your private parts, people.

Rinse after a workout

To keep your lady parts fresh in the summer, you need to take things a step further than fabric choices. Yes, Dr. Bobby Buka advocates for loose-fitting, breathable fabrics like linens and cottons, but with a twist.

"Bacteria love the summer, so the more warm, wet environments you create, the higher your rate will be of contracting staph and strep on your skin's surface!" he warned. "A quick rinse after a heavy workout prevents bacterial counts from getting out of hand." It really is that easy to rinse and towel off in order to get fresh.

Don't wear a wet swimsuit long after leaving the pool

Blatt also cautioned against freaking out if the smell of your vagina changes due to the sweat and heat of the summer. "Not to worry, almost everyone's does," he said, but suggests getting into the following habit: "Always get out of your wet swimsuit as soon as possible and shower immediately if you can. You may consider changing your panties in the hot summer more than you usually do, as well."

Dr. Marashi agreed, saying, "After coming out of the water, take a shower and then wear a coverup and not the swimsuit. Don't live in a swimsuit all day, that is a breeding ground for yeast and can create complications. Many yeast infections are created this way."

Wash carefully and specifically

Careful washing of your private parts is essential, as well. Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills and a clinical instructor at the University of Southern California, warns against using heavily fragranced soaps or harsh cleansers in the region. She explained that you need to wash with care. "Apocrine glands secrete a sweat that, when combined with skin bacteria, can lead to body odor. These glands are present in the armpits, as well as the areola and pubic area," she told me. "Keeping the vulvar skin clean will reduce bacteria that can lead to malodor."  

However, do not wash your vulva and vagina with harsh, fragranced soaps. "Washing the vulva gently in the shower is fine to remove external dirt, sweat, and bacteria. Harsh and fragranced soaps can lead to contact irritant dermatitis and even contact allergies," Shainhouse said. 

Also, do not wash inside the vagina or vaginal canal. It has a natural, self-cleansing mechanism.

Use coconut oil

Coconut oil is a miracle ingredient. You can put it on your toast or slather it on your arms and legs — or other places — as a natural moisturizer.

Life and wellness coach KJ Landis told me,"After the fun in the sun, I always turn to coconut oil, which can be absorbed into the body quite readily, so it will not harm the body or sit on top of the skin like other oils. The body is natural and the coconut oil is natural. Natural understands natural."

Therefore, coconut oil is perfect for lady parts. "It is calming and soft and soothing," Landis said. "If I give it a few minutes, it absorbs into the skin and will not ruin the clothing that I put on top of me after the shower."

Mists are good, too

Summer activities can be rough on the genital area skin. "Sweating and swimming can lead to changes in the pH of the area, which is supposed to be slightly acidic, just like the face," said Dr. Cindy Jones, a biochemist and herb farmer with extensive experience in physiology, toxicology, microbiology, cancer research, and cosmetic science. She recommends using a hydrosol mister on the genitalia after being out in the sun for a refresh, just as you would do to your face. 

"Hydrosols are distilled directly from plants and are the aromatic water that comes from distillation. They are pH balanced to the skin and contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatories to help calm the skin." 

Dr. Buka also suggested lavender or rosewater misting as "a super refreshing secret weapon for summer." He recommends lavender for its "antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, from cooling it down to treating sunburns when you've stayed out too long in the grueling, summer sun" and pointed to rosewater as "a cooling and cleansing agent that has a soothing effect on skin." It also has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which prevent acne!

Use corn starch

If you're looking for more ways to beat the heat, you can look to the pantry for a foolproof tip. "Using natural corn starch can lessen the way sweaty thighs sometimes stick together," Sunny Rodgers, a clinical sexologist, certified sex coach, and ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association, told me. 

"Use a clean makeup brush to apply a thin layer of cornstarch on dry inner thighs to help eliminate sweaty drag. Cornstarch under breasts can also help alleviate excess sweat!"

Try yogurt masks

Masks aren't just for the face and yogurt isn't just for eating. Rodgers also looks to the kitchen for another way to care for lady parts. "I recommend using a natural, plain, sugar-free yogurt as a mask for your lady parts," she told me. "This will not only soften and condition your skin and hair down there, it can help repair the bacterial and pH balance in this area. This is extremely important since swimming pool chemicals can alter your natural pH balance and can sometimes lead to yeast infections." 

Who knew that swimming could cause so many changes to the body? You just need to know how to properly counteract it.

Shower first and last

Most of us wake up and shower before facing the day, but there are plenty of people who skip a morning shower in favor of an evening one in order to rinse away the dirt of the day. That's a no-no, according to Beatrice Dixon, founder of The Honey Pot Company and creator of all-natural feminine care products. 

Dixon, who started the company to educate, support, and provide women around the world with the tools and resources that promote feminine health and wellness, told me, "Take a shower at the beginning and end of the day to help minimize external bacteria and candidiasis that occur from seat and friction."

Change pads and tampons often

Dixon also suggests to change menstrual protection products more often when it's hot and muggy out, since "bacteria builds with heat and moisture." 

While most of us change our pads and tampons regularly when our flow is at its heaviest, it's best to keep that routine going when it's super hot out, even if your period is petering out or you are on the last day of your cycle. It's all a matter of going that extra mile and changing your underwear and period products more often in the sweltering season.

Be committed

Keeping your lady parts fresh and feeling your best during the steamy summer isn't difficult. There are plenty of products, panties, and methods at your disposal. The key is being incredibly diligent, putting in the extra time, and being committed to doing all the things that will keep your clean and comfortable. 

Whether you are preparing for intimacy or just want to feel your best and fresh, all you need to do is come up with a routine that suits your lifestyle. You owe it your lady parts to keep them in optimal shape.