Exercise Caution When Using Deodorant 'Down There'

Contrary to popular belief, feminine hygiene is a myth. What's ironic is that in nearly every drug store or supermarket, there is an entire aisle of products dedicated to keeping vaginas "clean" and "fresh." From powders to sprays to soaps, there is no shortage of products promising to maintain vaginal wellness. There are even treatments that claim to enhance vaginal health, such as Goop's "V-Steam," which Gwyneth Paltrow once asserted could "cleanse your uterus" thanks to special ingredients like mugwort steam, per The Los Angeles Times. "It is an energetic release — not just a steam douche — that balances female hormone levels," the actor wrote on the company's website in 2015.

Now there are less intimidating products that cater to the so-called feminine hygiene that are also less expensive and more widely available. One of them is vaginal deodorant, which supposedly helps to make your genitals smell nicer. But are they really necessary? And furthermore, are they really safe to use down there?

Vaginal deodorants can be harmful

According to gynecologist Traci Johnson, the vagina is akin to a "self-cleaning oven." Speaking with WebMD, she said that the organ functions "like your eyes [that] have natural tears and natural lubrication," and that it "has glands that are there that promote its well-being, and your body kind of cleans it on its own." Therefore, there really is no need to use any product to "clean" it, as it already does so organically.

While the vagina is often symbolized by flowers, there is also no point in trying to make it smell like roses. "Vaginas are supposed to smell like vaginas," gynecologist Jennifer Lincoln told The Washington Post. "It's not going to smell like a piña colada, nor should it." She added that more often than not, people with vaginas have been conditioned to think that they should do more than leave their genitals be. "When people come to me with concerns about controlling vaginal odor, the first question I ask is, 'Why do you feel that you need to?'" she continued. "It could be that you're self-conscious because it's been normalized for women to think this, but there's actually no odor beyond your normal scent."

What's more, anything with fragrance, including vaginal deodorants and sprays or scented pads and tampons, can cause irritation and sometimes even infection, says Lincoln. "Never ever put anything with fragrance on or near the vulva," she opined. "You're just asking for a skin reaction." 

How to keep the vagina healthy

Given that the vagina can clean itself, you don't have to do much in terms of cleansing. If anything, the only thing you really have to clean is the vulva, which is the skin surrounding the vagina. "The vulva is skin, and it's skin that needs to be washed just like any other skin on the body," clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology Lauren F. Streicher, M.D., explained to Healthline. "A mild, fragrance-free soap with water and your fingers in the shower are more than adequate enough."

It's also advisable to wear undergarments that are breathable so as not to trap bacteria in the genital area. If you live an active lifestyle and sweat quite frequently, make it a point to change undergarments and wash your vulvar and vaginal region with water. Plus, after peeing and pooping, it's also important to wipe and clean the anus and vagina separately. The last thing you want is to contaminate your vagina with germs from your rectum, which may lead to infection.

If you really think you need to use feminine hygiene products, it's always best to consult a professional first. "If they are thinking about it then they should their OB/GYN about it and see what their take on it is and what they should except and if they recommend it or not," said Dr. Johnson.