by Sarah Thomas

It can be embarrassing for some women to talk about the scent of their vaginas, but it’s normal and healthy to have a slight odor down there. Most of the time, it’s not the vagina’s fault. It’s simply the result of living a full and busy life, which can involve workouts, sex, skipped showers, periods, leaky bladders, and so on.

Don’t buy into a societal dialogue that it’s “not normal” or that a vagina just “smells bad.” Unless you have an infection, there’s no need to stress over vaginal odor or try to “fix” anything about your private parts.

From practicing good hygiene to using deodorant for sensitive skin, here are a few things you can do to help with bothersome odors that crop up from time to time.

Trim It Up

Women shouldn’t feel obligated to shave. However, keep in mind that the more pubic hair you have, the more surface area you have for bodily fluids and bacteria to hang out in, which can lead to odor. The fact is that pubic hair can trap bodily fluids such as residual urine, vaginal discharge, blood, and semen. Trimming your pubic hair reduces the surface area for bacteria, thus helping to reduce odor. Pubic hair serves a purpose for wicking away sweat and keeping good bacteria around, but if you sweat a lot in that area, you might find shorter pubic hair to be beneficial. Gynecologists often do recommend a trim down south.

Wipe from Front to Back

To prevent bacteria from spreading from your bum to your vagina, be sure to wipe from front to back after a bowel movement. This will help keep your vagina free of bacteria that could cause odors and a possible urinary tract infection. Some people like to follow up with a wet wipe to make sure they are thoroughly clean. But either way, the best technique starts with good wiping skills.

Do Not Douche

To preserve your vaginal health, stop the douching madness! It disrupts the pH balance in your vagina and increases the risk for chronic infections like bacterial vaginosis. Douching can also push bacteria up into your reproductive organs, like the uterus and fallopian tubes, and cause pelvic infections and scarring. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, don’t mess with it by trying to flush it out.

Use Only External Products

If you want to use a product down there for odor control, only use something that’s designed to be used externally—on the outside of your vagina. Don’t insert any products inside of the vagina. For example, try a hypoallergenic deodorant that can be rubbed onto the clitoral hood, labia majora, and continue back further to the perineum (the space between the rectum and vaginal opening). But do not apply the product internally into your vagina or around the urethra.

A few other tips to help prevent odor include:
  • Dry off completely after getting out of the shower.
  • Avoid wearing thongs.
  • Wear breathable, cotton underwear.
  • Change your underwear after you exercise. 

Last, if you think something is wrong (itching, stinging, pain) or it doesn’t smell right down there, be sure to make an appointment with your gynecologist.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas