Intimate women’s health expert Dr Shirin Lakhani’s top tips on how to care for your vulva
There is a huge market in feminine care out there but you don’t need to use specialised products to clean your vulva and vagina, according to an expert.
Dr Shirin Lakhani, founder of Elite Aesthetics in London, explains that vaginas are self-cleaning, and so you don’t need to use anything else to assist in the cleaning process.
In fact, she says, because they are sensitive, over-cleansing with perfumed products or douching can disrupt their delicate balance.
This can lead to health problems, including infections, and can affect your sex life.
There is a huge market in feminine care out there but you don’t need it. Intimate women’s health expert Dr Shirin Lakhani reveals that vaginas are self-cleaning
Dr Shirin Lakhani says: ‘Our vaginas are sensitive areas. I would recommend washing once a day with water and avoiding perfumes, dyes, preservatives and harsh chemicals.’
Here FEMAIL reveals seven top tips about what you should and shouldn’t be doing…
1. AVOID SPRAYS AND DOUCHES
There is little scientific evidence to suggest that douching makes vaginas cleaner.
Many products contain fragrances, which can potentially irritate the vagina and cause inflammation, itchiness and pain.
Douching can also upset the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina, making it more susceptible to infections.
Dr Lakhani explains: ‘If the pH increases and becomes less acidic, the vagina can be prone to infections, including bacterial vaginosis or thrush.’
Plus, if a person already has a yeast infection or other bacteria vaginal infection and tries flushing out the area with a douche, it can actually push the bacteria further up into the cervix and worsen the infection.
2. DON’T PUT UP WITH SYMPTOMS
Dr Lakhani says: ‘We’re in an age now where we don’t have to put up with symptoms.
‘Women shouldn’t be embarrassed to say they want sexual pleasure and safe non-surgical treatment of incontinence or atrophy, which can be absolutely life-changing.’
She explains that if you have sore skin around your vulva, the best thing to do is use saline, which is made by adding two teaspoons of salt to a litre of water, and apply on a wad of cotton wool.
‘Don’t be embarrassed to go and see a GP – we have seen it all before and we want to help and open conversations about intimate health.’
3. AVOID PERFUMED PRODUCTS
There are various hot spots on your body where putting perfume can make it last longer, but the vagina isn’t one of them.
‘I think that one of the worst things that we can do to our vaginas that is widely believed to be helpful is to use perfumed products for cleansing,’ explains Dr Lakhani.
‘They are an irritant and not at all necessary.’
The vagina has a natural odour, which doesn’t mean that it is unclean, but that it is natural.
4. IF SOMETHING IS IRRITATING YOUR VULVA, YOU COULD BE ALLERGIC TO IT
It is estimated that half of all women older than 24 years of age will experience at least one episode of vulvovaginitis discomfort.
The symptoms can include a change in colour, odor, or amount of discharge from your vagina, vaginal itching or irritation, and pain during sex.
Dr Lakhani says: ‘It could be down to allergies, as it is actually quite common to be allergic to toilet paper, lubricants, latex condoms, antiseptics and even semen.’
She advises getting tested for allergies by your GP, who can advise how best to proceed.
There are usually alternative products that are made without whatever irritant is causing your discomfort.
5. DON’T PUT UP WITH LEAKING
It is estimated that one in three women in the UK are affected by urinary incontinence.
This can have a devastating impact on women’s confidence and self-esteem.
Dr Lakhani says: ‘With the many patients I see on a weekly basis, I know just how common this condition is in women, especially after childbirth.
‘But women don’t need to put up with this and there are many treatments out there.’
She cites the non-surgical BTL Emsella Chair treatment, which promises the equivalent of 11,400 kegel exercises per 30-minute session, as an example.
Dr Lakhani advises visiting your GP if urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, as simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can ease discomfort or stop the problem.
6. TREAT DRYNESS – BUT AVOID MOISTURISERS
Vaginal dryness can be caused by many things from the menopause, to not being aroused, and diabetes.
You should avoid using moisturisers if they are perfumed as they can cause more irritation.
The NHS advises using unperfumed soaps and washes around the vagina and specialised vaginal moisturisers. In addition, foreplay before intercourse can also help.
Dr Lakhani also refers to Platelet-rich plasma (PRP), where your platelets are separated from blood and then injected back into the body.
‘The treatment has been nicknamed the ‘O shot’ as it’s said to improve sensitivity and the ability to orgasm.’
She explains: ‘PRP tricks the body into believing it has been injured so it releases stem cells which regenerate tissue.
‘We find it can help with everything from the skin condition lichen sclerosus to stress incontinence and sexual dysfunction such as inability to climax.’
7. DEAL WITH IN-GROWN HAIRS AND SHAVING RASHES
Ingrown hairs cause red, often itchy bumps where a hair has grown back into the skin.
They are often caused by waxing and can be very uncomfortable.
Dr Lakhani says: ‘The best thing to do is stop removing the hair in that area until the ingrown hair goes away.’
She advises applying a warm compress on the area and when the hair emerges, gently pulling on it using sterile tweezers.
‘Don’t pull the hair out completely,’ she warns, ‘until the area is healed, as the skin will heal over the skin again.
‘Try not to break through the skin as it could cause an infection.’
Shaving can also create irritation in the form of rashes, which present as red bumps, burning sensations, and intense itching.
Treatments for shaving rashes include warm baths, to open up the pores and relieve swelling, cold compresses can also be soothing, as is wearing loose cotton clothing to avoid irritation on the affected area.