There are quite a lot of questions that any teenage girl or a young woman may wonder about the best way to take care of her sensitive area. “What habits should I have for my hygiene?” “What should I watch out for?” “Should I wash during my period? “
If you do not have the right habits or use products that are not suitable, you may disrupt the normal flora of your genitals and lose natural protection by “good” germs, making it easier for irritation or even vaginitis to occur. During teenage years, cleanliness of the sensitive area is even more important. When we talk about good hygiene, we are not just talking about taking frequent showers, but there are various rules that must be followed carefully.
The sensitive area can be cleaned up to twice a day, as excessive cleaning may also destroy the physical flora. However, there are times when you will need to wash more often, such as during or after exercise. In these cases, prefer plain water and wipe and dry the sensitive area carefully, using a clean towel. For cleaning the sensitive area, the best is not to use strong antiseptics, as gentle cleaning products are enough and do a great job. You can use special cleaning products for women’s genitals, which have the right pH and do not disturb the normal vaginal flora. Try to avoid products that have strong fragrances, as they can cause irritation and allergies. In general, it is advisable to avoid all scented products intended for the sensitive area, such as scented wipes, vaginal deodorants or exfoliating products. Also, it is generally suggested to wash only with bare hands, as very often germs grow and multiply on sponges.
The inner vagina has a self-cleaning mechanism. Thus, you do not need to do vaginal washes because the liquid (even plain clean water) can push germs from the vagina into the uterus and fallopian tubes. In general, vaginal washes may be useful in some special cases, which will be recommended by your gynecologist.
Many mistakes are made after using the toilet. Try to clean your genitals “front to back” (from the vagina to the anus). Otherwise, you may carry germs from the anus to the vagina. As long as toilet paper is concerned, it is better to prefer white-colored ones, without additional fragrances that contain irritants.
If you experience symptoms that suggest infection, such as unusual vaginal discharge, bad odor, itching, or skin irritation, you should not neglect it and contact your doctor. Remember that delay can give germs time to grow even more and make symptoms worse.
It is recommended to wear cotton underwear and comfortable clothes. Synthetic fabrics do not allow air to circulate and thus increase the humidity of the sensitive area, due to sweat. This is the “perfect” environment for fungi and other germs to grow. It is probably known that during summer when there is enough humidity and heat, you should change your underwear more often, as well as not stay in a wet swimsuit after bathing. Also, rubbing with tight clothing can cause injury to the skin of the genitals and facilitate the transmission of germs.
One of the most frequently asked questions by teens and young girls are “when to change their sanitary napkins or tampons”. When you have your period you should change often, about every 4-6 hours, regardless of whether the blood flow is small and whether the sanitary napkin or tampon has already filled up. If left for many hours they can cause skin irritation, bad odor, or even infections. Of course, you should not forget to wash your hands to change a sanitary napkin or tampon. Finally, remember that if you are already sexually active, you should arrange an appointment with an adolescent health physician or gynecologist, to discuss your questions with confidentiality and to have advice on sexually transmitted diseases prevention (eg. warts, chlamydia, herpes, AIDS, hepatitis, etc.). The basic rule is that you must use a condom in every contact and for the whole duration of sexual activity, from the beginning to the end. A condom is the best way to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, and that is why you should always use one.
EXPERT GROUP «ALL ABOUT SEX»
- Charis Asvestis, Andrologist-Urologist
- Chrysoula Iliopoulou, MSW/MEd Psyhcotherapist, Clinical Sexologist
- Vasia Bouba, Psychologist MSc
- Athanassios Thirios, Adolescent Health MSc
- Efthalia Tzila, Child Psychiatrist MSc
- Artemis Tsitsika, Asoc. Professor of Pediatrics-Adolescent Health, University of Athens
- Panagiotis Christopoulos, As. Professor of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, University of Athens