While suddenly discovering your vulva or vagina is puffy, painful or swollen is never a fun experience, it is a pretty normal one. Could it mean you’re allergic to toilet paper?

There can be a lot of reasons why swelling or irritation happens: An infection, injury, or even intense sex. And yep, experts agree that toilet paper can also cause some of these issues. “Toilet paper can irritate your vulva and your vagina, especially if you have sensitive skin,” says board-certified ob-gyn Pari Ghodsi, M.D. Michael Ingber, M.D., a urogynecologist at The Center for Specialized Women’s Health, agrees, noting that toilet paper actually can cause all kinds of infections if you don’t use it properly.

Don’t freak out—odds are you’re already using toilet paper in a very safe, effective way. We asked the experts what below the belt issues toilet paper is most likely to cause and what to do about them.

Contents

Allergic Reaction

Technically, you can be allergic to certain chemicals, like fragrance, used in your toilet paper. This can cause a case of vulvitis, a condition which often shows up as itching, burning, redness or swelling. If you notice these symptoms after using a new type of TP (especially if it’s scented) switch brands.

Yeast Infections

This is a common reason to avoid scented toilet paper. The chemicals used to create the fragrance can disrupt the normal pH of your vagina and lead to a yeast infection, says Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago. If you think your toilet paper might be the cause of repeat infections, switch to a hypoallergenic type, Ghodsi recommends.

Microcuts

Yeah, wiping too roughly or with a harsh toilet paper can create little cuts on your vulva. “The tissue in that area is very delicate, so you should make sure you’re not being too rough when you wipe,” says Shepard. These microcuts can lead to irritation, swelling, and even an infection if they’re not treated appropriately, Ingber says. That’s why experts also recommend that you dab instead of wiping whenever you can.

UTIs

It might seem weird that the stuff you use to clean urine off can also cause a UTI, but here’s the deal, per Ingber: The female urethra (the spot where pee comes out) is short, and bacteria don’t have to travel far to get into your bladder. When you wipe from back to front, you can push fecal particles, which can contribute to a UTI, forward and into your urethra where they can travel up to your bladder and cause an infection. That’s why Ingber (and most doctors) recommend wiping from front to back, which keeps that bacteria in the back where it should stay.

Puffiness

A lot of toilet papers have fragrances, dyes, and other chemicals that can irritate your skin and cause you to puff up or notice a swelling, says Ingber. And, he points out, if your toilet paper is white, it may contain bleach, which can bother your vagina. Excessive wiping can also cause you to puff up, Ghodsi says. If you notice swelling, one option is to try a softer toilet paper.

If you notice your vagina is having issues like any of the above and you recently changed toilet paper brands, the first step is to stop using the new one, says Ghodsi. If the problems persist, it might be time to visit your doctor—she can prescribe something to help with the symptoms and look into whether something else more complex than your toilet paper brand is the culprit.

The Truth About Toilet Paper: Why Your Vagina Is Itching

To summarize: you vagina prefers grey cheap toilet paper, while your anus needs something soft and gentle. Bidet and wet wipes are compromised, too. Oh, my!

Why Your Vagina Is Itching

The skin around your vaginal opening (vulva) is pretty sensitive, in fact, it is very easy to irritate it and cause so-called vulvovaginitis. No wonder, it is estimated that half of all women older than 24 years will experience vulvovaginitis at least once. Standard symptoms of vulvovaginitis include vaginal swelling, dryness, extreme itchiness, and pain during sex. What’s worse, it’s sometimes hard to tell that your vagina is simply irritated because of the pigmentation of the skin around the genitals. Moreover, almost half of the cases of vulvovaginitis have no clear cause. These factors make it harder to diagnose and prevent the annoying symptoms.

Often, women misdiagnose themselves with a yeast infection and use OTC medications in vain. In fact, studies have shown that 50% of women who use OTC antifungal medications do not have yeast infections and have vulvovaginitis instead. In this case, an OTC yeast medication can instead further aggravate the symptoms.

Vulvovaginitis can result from bacterial, viral, or yeast infections, or from contact irritation or allergy. This means that if you developed the symptoms after using a new product around the intimate area, try first to eliminate it and see if the symptoms disappear. That being said, if symptoms persist you need to check with your doctor to make sure it is not something more serious, like an STD, for example.

Possible causes of vulvovaginitis:

  • Soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Lotions, cremes, and even nail polish if they come in contact with the vaginal area
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet napkins (baby toilet wipes)

Which Toilet Paper Is Better For Your Vagina

Toilet paper is a number one necessity in all households. Some have very strong preferences when it comes to choosing toilet paper, others don’t care much. But almost everybody hates the super-thin greyish cheap toilet paper in public bathrooms. However, it might be that the cheaper brands are better for you. Many expensive brands could, according to a study, contain formaldehyde a chemical that not only causes irritation but is also a cancer-causing agent.

“The thick, absorptive, strong, bleached, and expensive brands are more likely to contain formaldehyde than the thinner, cheap, “grayish” brands.”, concluded the researchers. Therefore, if you frequently experience uncomfortable signs of vulvovaginitis and your doctor can’t figure out what’s wrong with you, try switching to the cheap toilet paper and see if it helps. However, don’t rush into buying sandpaper-like brands just yet and read further.

In fact, some turn to reusable (!) cloth toilet paper or bidet solutions to avoid the irritation a regular toilet paper could cause.

Which Toilet Paper is Better For Your Anus

“It’s important to use a soft tissue to avoid cuts and bruises that could open the skin and lead to infections,” Manhattan OBGYN Daniel Roshan explains. Dr. Roshan urges his patients to splurge on a gentle toilet tissue. If you have hemorrhoids I’m sure you won’t even consider switching to a cheaper toilet paper. So back to the one laced with formaldehyde, I guess?

Quite frankly, when it comes to personal hygiene it’s tough to find a middle ground. Folks who are wiping poorly, infrequently, or overzealously might experience itching and irritation. Excessive wiping with dry scratchy toilet paper can lead to micro-tears in the anal tissue, causing bleeding and discomfort.

What About Wet Wipes?

Wet wipes seem like a great alternative: many have soothing plant extracts, for example, Aloe Vera or Witch Hazel and claim to be suitable for sensitive skin and dermatologically tested. However, upon further examination, customers still could get an allergic reaction. The culprit seems to be the preservative mixture of methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI).

MCI is not the only ingredient you should be watching out for. For example, a study evaluated 54 different wet wipes with a total of 132 ingredients and concluded that “there are many potential allergens in personal hygiene wet wipes”.

Granted, you could be allergic to the most innocent and natural ingredients or develop a new allergy as time goes by. Therefore no cosmetic product could be 100% hypoallergenic and it’s always better to perform an allergy test on your wrist prior to using a new product on your more sensitive areas.

Oh, and of course, what are you planning to do with that poopy wipe? If the packaging claims that wipes are flushable, most likely they’ll still clog your pipes. Consumer Report team gave up after trying to dissolve “flushable” and “septic safe” wipes even with a help of a kitchen mixer. Their verdict: do not flush “flushable” wipes.

Many physicians suggest moistening toilet paper with water as an alternative which could be great if only water wasn’t so wet. I mean, it’s great that water disintegrates toilet paper quickly but you don’t want your TP to fall apart while you using it.

Bidet Is Bad For The Vagina

So if toilet paper irritates private parts with formaldehyde and wet wipes are full of potential allergens and clog your toilet, how about an old-fashion bidet instead? What could be better than running water after all, right? Well, wrong.

A study that looked at 268 women found that “normal microflora (Lactobacillus species) was not present in 42.86% of bidet toilet users, compared to 8.77% of non-users. Fecal bacteria were detected in 50 of the 268 cases (18.66%), 46 cases in users (92%) and only 4 cases in non-users (8%). Contamination by other pathogens was 4 to 6 times higher in users than in non-users.”, basically “habitual use of bidet toilets aggravates vaginal microflora, either by depriving normal microflora or facilitating opportunistic infection of fecal bacteria and other microorganisms,” concluded the researchers. Contrintuitevily, if you use a bidet you can be more prone to BV and therefore UTIs.

Why WipeGel

After a frustrating search for a portable, a flushable and skin-friendly solution I decided to work with a formulating chemist to create my own product that takes wiping to the next level. We put together five main ingredients to make wiping with any toilet paper better for your vagina and anus. A drop of WipeGel added to any toilet paper instantly turns your scratchy dry piece of paper into a luxurious, absolutely flushable wet wipe.

The moisture of the gel smoothes out the surface of the toilet paper and feels great against your skin. The gel is tested to spread nicely on the toilet paper without compromising the integrity of any TP brand.

Ingredients of WipeGel:

  • A hefty amount of witch hazel (30%)
  • A prebiotic blend
  • A vegetable-based natural preservative (it’s classified by INC as perfume because of its natural almond-like smell)
  • Other stuff: water, carbomer (to make it gelly) and less than 0.01% of sodium hydroxide to start the thickening of carbomer. That’s it!

WipeGel Is Great For Your Anus

It is so good for your anus that it even could be used as a hemorrhoidal wipe. While witch hazel is amazing for your skin on so many levels, it is also recognized by FDA as a potent vasoconstrictor that helps soothe the pain associated with hemorrhoids. Witch hazel contains several compounds with potent anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, which may be useful in treating a variety of conditions ranging from acne and scalp sensitivity to hemorrhoids.

Can you use witch hazel if you do not have hemorrhoids? Of course! Some people apply witch hazel directly to the skin for itching, pain, inflammation and minor skin irritations.

Witch hazel contains chemicals called tannins. When applied directly to the skin, witch hazel might help reduce swelling, help repair broken skin, and fight bacteria.

WipeGel Is Friendly To Your Microbiome

Harsh chemicals and strong preservatives alter your skin flora. And as you know, once you remove most of the bacteria, the pathogenic ones are usually faster to recover. As the result, whenever you clean something really well expect an overgrowth of opportunistic and pathogenic bacteria next. Pathogenic bacteria cause not only bad smell but also infections. As you know, when you take antibiotics, it is wise to start a probiotic regimen and enhance your diet with prebiotics to restore beneficial flora. Our prebiotic blend is a food for good bacteria but pathogenic and opportunistic bacteria can’t digest it.

In clinical studies, our prebiotic blend helps beneficial skin microbiota to recover faster and stronger after it has been exposed to a 40% solution of ethanol used in the tests. Without a prebiotic, four hours after application of ethanol solution, the skin microbiota recovered for 19% of its original balance. With prebiotic, the skin microbiota recovered for 92.2%. The prebiotic has been also extensively tested in intimate products, baby products, and products for sensitive skin with excellent safety results.

One bottle of WipeGel will last you several months and equals approximately 400 wipes.

If you try it, do let me know your thoughts!

People are so bad at wiping their butts, doctors have coined a condition to mock them for it.

It’s called PAS, or “polished anus syndrome,” and it comes from, in part, Americans’ abysmal bathroom hygiene. After doing our business, we take dry, rough toilet paper and smear poop around our skin rather than wicking it off with clean water. And then when we can’t get clean, we wipe and wipe until we make our butts bleed. (And if you’re a hairy guy, don’t even think about feeling fresh, ever — you’re walking around with tissue clumps stuck to you 75 percent of the time.)

The condition’s more clinical, less evocative names are perianal dermatitis and pruritis ani (Latin for “itchy anus”), and the malady is caused by “overzealous or aggressive hygiene,” which can include use of irritating soaps and lotions and excessive, vigorous wiping.

Laugh all you want, but PAS is a growing problem, according to Delaware-based dermatologist Curtis Asbury, who recently told Mental Floss he’s seen an increasing number of patients who are wiping incorrectly.

People afflicted with PAS were likely never taught proper wiping technique as children, Asbury says, and have been doing it wrong their entire lives (a sobering thought, to be sure).

As a corrective or preventive measure, Asbury suggests avoiding those popular wet wipes, which might cause an allergic reaction. His solution? A damp paper towel, oddly enough. But not just any: He likes Viva, a high-end paper towel made by Kleenex. Then, the doctor says, instead of flushing your wipe and causing plumbing problems down the road, throw it in the trash with your other ass rags like the barbarian you are.

“Hello, I’m Dr. Cheeks. I’m doing my rounds, and I’m a little behind.”

It’s astounding how much pain Americans will suffer in order not to do the sanitary and comfortable thing and buy a bidet attachment. Installation is easy! But we’d rather scratch ourselves up or fill up a can with poop wipes than tickle our butts with water. (As a personal aside, I’ve found bidets ineffective, leaving me with nothing but artificial swamp-ass. Why? Like “2 Girls 1 Cup,” it’s a shitty mystery.)

If you insist on punishing your heinie with toilet paper, wipe the correct way, Asbury suggests: front to back, which will help keep your excretory bits away from your dank taint. My advice: Get your ass on an efficient pre-shower poop schedule. Kill two birds with one stone and start your day feeling 100 percent fresh.

Whatever you do, though, just don’t hold it in.

How to wash your vulva correctly: Goodbye wipes, ‘feminine’ soaps and douches

Almost every part of a woman’s anatomy has become fair game when it comes to body-shaming, but there’s one area that gets more attention that most: our genitals.

You don’t, for example, have special soap made to wash arms, or toes, or necks. As far as we know, people are not going out of their way to sell us probiotics to make our feet taste better, or repackaging wet wipes into being specifically to keep your knees fresh.

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The object of these “innovative” products is, of course, never the male genitals either. It is always the female ones: the vulva, comprising the clitoral hood and outer and inner labia (although marketing wizards seem hell-bent on continuing to refer to it as the “vagina”, which is actually the inner canal).

“There is nothing ‘unfresh’ about the vulva or vagina,” obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Jen Gunter, author of The Vagina Bible, tells The Independent.

“Why does no one worry about scrotal freshness or rectal freshness? Women do not benefit from untested products that are not supported by basic science and rely on destructive, patriarchal messaging.”

Shape Created with Sketch. Walk-in vagina installed in Johannesburg women’s prison

Show all 8 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. Visitors are invited to walk through the artwork, by 30-year-old artist Reshma Chhiba Getty Images

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Visitors are invited to walk through the artwork, by 30-year-old artist Reshma Chhiba Getty Images The entrance to the “yoni” Getty Images Visitors are invited to walk through the artwork, by 30-year-old artist Reshma Chhiba Getty Images Visitors are invited to walk through the artwork, by 30-year-old artist Reshma Chhiba Getty Images Visitors are invited to walk through the artwork, by 30-year-old artist Reshma Chhiba Getty Images Visitors are invited to walk through the artwork, by 30-year-old artist Reshma Chhiba Getty Images Visitors are invited to walk through the artwork, by 30-year-old artist Reshma Chhiba Getty Images Visitors are invited to walk through the artwork, by 30-year-old artist Reshma Chhiba Getty Images

Making women feel like they need to invest in making their vulva look/smell/taste more appealing is big business, but it’s also problematic and – perhaps more importantly – needless.

“Feminine hygiene washes and sprays use destructive messaging that the way women are normally is problematic when it is not,” adds Gunter.

Cropped shot of a woman washing her hands at a sink (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

In fact, she says that using them may damage your lactobacilli (a “good bacteria” that lives in our urinary system) or protective mucus.

Despite advocates for steaming, douching and moisturising (among other things) the reality is that the female genital area needs no such bells and whistles to remain clean.

According to the NHS, the vagina “is designed to keep itself clean with the help of natural secretions (discharge)”.

Dr Suzy Elneil, consultant in urogynaecology at University College Hospital, London, and spokesperson for women’s reproductive and gynaecological health charity Wellbeing of Women, says the most important part of good vaginal health is good overall health, namely a healthy diet and exercise.

Meanwhile, Dr Vanessa Mackay, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) tells The Independent: “It’s a myth that the vagina needs extensive cleaning with perfumed soaps or feminine hygiene products.

“It contains good bacteria, which are there to protect it. If these bacteria are disturbed it can lead to infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or thrush, and inflammation.”

From what products to use to what you should avoid doing, here’s everything you need to know about cleaning your vulva.

1) Just water is enough but certain products are ok

In most cases, your vulva is best cleaned with just water – no soap necessary.

If you do want to use a product, the NHS advises using plain, unperfumed soaps or an emollient.

Dr Gunter says that when a product smells nice it will most likely have a fragrance added to it that has been extracted from a plant or fabricated in a lab “which can cause irritation”.

“If nature had intended the vagina to smell like roses or lavender, it would have made the vagina smell like roses or lavender,” adds Professor Ronnie Lamont, spokesperson for the RCOG.

Woman showering (iStock)

That said, Dr Caroline Overton, a consultant gynaecologist, warns that water alone and some soap products can have a drying effect on the skin for some women.

“Washing with water can causes dry skin and can make the delicate vulva feel more uncomfortable,” she explains.

“ can also remove some of the acid mantle, the protective surface layer of fats on the skin,” explains Dr Gunter.

As a result, if you find that unperfumed soaps cause irritation or dryness, Dr Overton suggests women use an aqueous or an Epaderm cream which are safe to use frequently and long-term if needed.

2) Clean the area gently

When cleaning the vulva, it is advisable to clean it gently every day as over-cleaning can aggravate vulval symptoms.

As will all genital-adjacent activities (namely wiping after going to the bathroom, and any sexual contact): you should clean the area front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the vagina and ureter, as that can cause infection.

“These bacteria can cause urinary tract and vaginal infections. After washing, women should pat the area dry with a clean towel,” says Dr Overton.

Dr Gunter agrees, adding that when it comes to washing the area, it is more of a “splash and go situation.

“Women shouldn’t be scrubbing,” she warns. “Remember, this isn’t like washing your hands to prevent the spread of food borne illness and influenza.”

When it comes to drying, Overton advises gently dabbing the area with a soft towel or using a hairdryer on a cool setting held “well away from the skin”.

3) Monitor the area for changes

As with all health, it is important to keep tabs on your wellbeing and make note of any signs – be it smells, irritations, or pains – that may suggest a problem.

When it comes to the vulva, the NHS states that it is normal for the vagina to have a scent as its odour can change at different times of the reproductive cycle.

However, if you notice a sudden change in your discharge, this may indicate a vaginal infection which may need further medical attention.

Menstrual pad with red glitter on pastel background (iStock)

Dr Virginia Beckett, spokesperson for the RCOG, says: “The warning signs of infection include a change in colour or consistency, a sudden bad smell, an unusually large amount of discharge, itching outside the vagina, pain in the pelvis or tummy, or unexpected bleeding from the vagina.”

If a woman has any doubt whether her discharge is normal, you should visit a GP, practice nurse or pharmacist.

4) Avoid using a washcloth

While you may use a washcloth or loofah to clean your face and body, Dr Overton advises foregoing these implements to clean the genital area as they could do more harm than good.

As the vulva is a delicate area, Dr Overton says using products such as a washcloth can “abrade the delicate skin of the vulva”.

In addition, the gynaecologist says that women should ensure that they have “fully washed away the soap after using it as it could dry out or irritate the skin if not fully removed.

“It is ok to wash the whole area including the inside of the labia but women should be careful not to get soap and water inside the vagina.”

5) Don’t use vaginal deodrants or scented wipes

The NHS also advises against scented wipes and deodorants which can disrupt the vagina’s natural bacteria which is what keeps it clean and healthy.

“Vaginal deodorants are trash,” says Dr Gunter. “Think of them as cigarettes for the vagina, but with destructive messaging!

“They are untested, likely harmful, have predatory messaging, and are not needed.”

Four pieces of fruit laid out (iStock)

Any advice saying otherwise, Gunter notes, is a sign of “patriarchal predation”.

“Men manage with toilet paper or a bidet so why can’t women?”

6) Avoid vaginal douches

A douche is used to flush water up into the vagina to clear out secretions. Women throughout history and across many cultures have been known to douche with substances such as honey, olive oil, and even wine.

It was once even thought to be a way of preventing infection and a form of contraceptive.

The NHS says that similarly to deodorants and wipes, using a douche can disrupt the normal vaginal bacteria.

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“I can’t think of any circumstances where douches are helpful, because all they do is wash out everything that’s in the vagina, including all the healthy bacteria,” explains Professor Lamont.

There is also no evidence that douching protects against STIs or vaginal infections, and it may even increase the risk, states the NHS.

Clean catch urine sample

If possible, collect the sample when urine has been in your bladder for 2 to 3 hours.

You will use a special kit to collect the urine. It will most likely have a cup with a lid and wipes.

Wash your hands with soap and warm water.

GIRLS AND WOMEN

Girls and women need to wash the area between the vagina “lips” (labia). You may be given a special clean-catch kit that contains sterile wipes.

  • Sit on the toilet with your legs spread apart. Use two fingers to spread open your labia.
  • Use the first wipe to clean the inner folds of the labia. Wipe from the front to the back.
  • Use a second wipe to clean over the opening where urine comes out (urethra), just above the opening of the vagina.

To collect the urine sample:

  • Keeping your labia spread open, urinate a small amount into the toilet bowl, then stop the flow of urine.
  • Hold the urine cup a few inches (or a few centimeters) from the urethra and urinate until the cup is about half full.
  • You may finish urinating into the toilet bowl.

BOYS AND MEN

Clean the head of the penis with a sterile wipe. If you are not circumcised, you will need to pull back (retract) the foreskin first.

  • Urinate a small amount into the toilet bowl, and then stop the flow of urine.
  • Then collect a sample of urine into the clean or sterile cup, until it is half full.
  • You may finish urinating into the toilet bowl.

INFANTS

You will be given a special bag to collect the urine. It will be a plastic bag with a sticky strip on one end, made to fit over your baby’s genital area.

If the collection is being taken from an infant, you may need extra collection bags.

Wash the area well with soap and water, and dry. Open and place the bag on your infant.

  • For boys, the entire penis can be placed in the bag.
  • For girls, place the bag over the labia.

You can put on a diaper over the bag.

Check the baby often and remove the bag after the urine collects in it. Active infants may displace the bag, so you may need to make more than one attempt. Drain the urine into the container you were given and return it to the health care provider as directed.

AFTER COLLECTING THE SAMPLE

Screw the lid tightly on the cup. Do not touch the inside of the cup or the lid.

  • Return the sample to the provider.
  • If you are at home, place the cup in a plastic bag and put the bag in the refrigerator until you take it to the lab or your provider’s office.

Vulvar Care

Why is vulvar and vagina care important?

Many women experience uncomfortable, vaginal infections (vaginitis) at one time or another. The area around the entrance to the vagina (vulva) can also become irritated. Steps can be taken to relieve and prevent vulvar discomfort and vaginal infections.

Not all vaginal infections are alike and home treatments can worsen some types. If you have any concerns about your vulvar or vaginal health, or notice unusual changes in vaginal discharge, contact your healthcare provider if the problem persists.

What is the vulva?

The vulva is the area of female sex organs that lies outside of the vagina. These organs include folds of sensitive tissue called the labia (labia means “lips”). The labia has two parts. The outermost folds are called the labia majora. A second set of folds, called the labia minora, is enclosed within the labia majora. The vulva also contains the mounded area made by the pubic bone (mons pubis), a small, round organ (clitoris), and the openings of the vagina and urinary canal (urethra).

What is the vagina?

The vagina is part of the female genitalia. It starts from the opening, called the introitus or inner part of the labia, and ends at the opening of the uterus called the cervix.

Why do vaginal infections happen?

Vaginal infections occur when bacteria, funguses or other organisms grow uncontrolled. Some of these organisms already live in the vagina and are kept at healthy levels by coexisting with other organisms. Infectious organisms can also be introduced into the vagina by improper hygiene or unsafe sex.

What is vulvar care?

The goal of vulvar care is to keep the vulva dry and free from irritants. In this way, you can prevent the vulva from becoming red, swollen and irritated. Because many infections are introduced into the vagina, these tips also provide a basis for good, vaginal care.

What are some tips for vulvar care?

  • Use warm water to wash the vulva. Dry thoroughly with a clean towel. (If the vulva is very irritated, you can try drying it with a blow dryer set on cool.)
  • The vagina cleanses itself naturally in the form of normal, vaginal discharge. Avoid using douches unless prescribed by your physician. These products can upset the natural balance of organisms.
  • Wear only white, 100 percent cotton underwear. Avoid wearing nylon, acetate, or other manmade fibers if you have delicate skin or are prone to vulvar irritation.
  • Avoid wearing thongs.
  • Rinse underclothes carefully after washing or double-rinse. Avoid using too much laundry detergent.
  • Wash new underclothes before wearing.
  • Use a mild soap (such as Woolite®) for washing underclothes. Avoid fabric softeners (including dryer sheets) and detergents with enzymes (amylase, lipase, protease and cellulose).
  • Use soft toilet tissue (white only).
  • Use tampons instead of sanitary napkins to control menstrual bleeding. (Do not use deodorant tampons.) Do not leave tampons in for a long period, due to toxic shock syndrome. Do not leave tampons in all night.
  • Take sitz baths daily, if prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • Don’t scratch.
  • Avoid wearing nylon pantyhose or panty girdles. They trap heat and moisture, providing an ideal breeding environment for organisms. When nylons or leggings are required, wear cotton or nylons with a cotton panty.
  • Avoid these feminine hygiene products, which can irritate the vulva: sanitary pads, feminine spray and deodorants, scented oils, bubble baths, bath oils, talc or powder.

What over-the-counter products can be used for vaginal lubrication?

Vaginal moisturizers can be used for dryness, if needed. These can be water- or silicon-based products:

  • Replens® (Warner Wellcome) – Using applicator, apply three times a week at bedtime to maintain normal vaginal moisture.
  • Gyne-Moistrin® (Schering-Plough)
  • Crisco vegetable shortening

For use during intercourse (vaginal lubricants):

  • Astroglide® (Astro-Lube, Inc.)
  • Lubrin® Vaginal Suppository (Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc.) – Developed for postmenopausal women
  • Condom-Mate® Vaginal Suppository (Upsher-Smith)— Developed for use with condoms; same as Lubrin®, but smaller.
  • Today® Personal Lubricant (Made by manufacturers of the Today® Sponge)
  • K-Y Liquid® (Johnson and Johnson)

Emollients (products like Petroleum jelly) should be used in patients with vulvar irritation sparingly. It is not recommended to insert emollients vaginally.

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Front-to-back or back-to-front? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Learning how to wipe yourself after going to the toilet is something we generally get to grips with pretty early in life.

So it might come as a shock to learn that one in three women are wiping incorrectly after using the loo – and they’re putting themselves at risk of infection.

According to a new study conducted by Tap Warehouse, 33% of women admit to wiping ‘back to front’ post-toilet.

But this could actually be dangerous.

According to Dr Luke Powles from Bupa UK, ‘a woman’s urethra and anus are quite closely located, so it’s best practice to wipe from front to back.’

Otherwise you could be ‘spreading faeces from the anus to the urethra. Spreading bacteria to the urethra can lead to a urinary tract infection.’

Luckily, almost 70% of women are wiping the correct way – front to back – but that is still a really large proportion of women who are inadvertently putting their health at risk.

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So if you’re in the back to front camp it’s definitely time to change your toilet habits.

Do you have a look before you flush? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

The study also found that Brits love to peek-a-poo – to catch a glimpse of the toilet bowl before flushing. Two out of three people surveyed admitted to doing this.

Taking a cheeky peek is actually a good habit to ensure your bowels are healthy.

So, what should you be looking out for?

‘Anything that’s more solid and difficult to pass suggests constipation, whereas a poo that’s more liquidy and passes really quickly indicates a lack of fibre in your diet or a period of illness,’ reveals Dr Luke Powles.

If you do spot anything unusual like ‘the colour of your bowel movements being anything other than browny-green, and you’ve not eaten anything recently that’s an obvious cause of the colour change, this could be a sign of problems elsewhere in the body.’

Always talk to a GP if you have concerns.

‘If there are spontaneous, persistent changes in your stool, such as its consistency – how soft or hard it is, the number of times that you go to the toilet, or if you see blood in your stool,’ you should see a GP within two weeks.

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While talking about your bowels might be a bit embarrassing, it’s worth a red face if it could protect you from a serious condition. So swallow your pride and get talking.

MORE: Mum baffled by school who sent home son’s ‘unhealthy’ lunch box

MORE: Restaurant launches strawberries and salad cream to celebrate Wimbledon – and we are not sure

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A rectal surgeon said you’re probably wiping your butt wrong

  • Everyone poops, and, as a result, most people wipe their butts.
  • But the majority are likely wiping their behinds incorrectly and may cause injuries in the process, Dr. Evan Goldstein, a rectal surgeon, told Insider.
  • You should use a patting motion rather than a wiping motion to prevent anal tears, and steer clear of baby wipes.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more.

Everybody poops, but the way many people clean up may be causing their backsides serious harm.

Dr. Evan Goldstein, a rectal surgeon in New York City, said that the most common butt-related injuries he sees are anal fissures, or tears, caused by improper wiping.

“Nobody talks about s—ting the right way,” including how to clean up properly, Goldstein told Insider during Butt-Con, an event hosted by Tushy, a company that sells bidet attachments for toilet seats.

He explained that the skin on the anus is quite thin and delicate, especially for women, so any harsh actions could lead to tears and, in turn, pain and bleeding.

Wiping too much or too hard can injure your butthole

Anyone can get anal fissures, but Goldstein said it’s often college-aged kids who are most susceptible to the tears.

“In college, no one is eating right, and you’re drinking a lot,” he said. Those dietary habits can lead to constipation, a condition that can wreak havoc on your behind because when you try to force out poop it puts extra pressure on the anus and can lead to a tear.

To make matters worse, students might wipe too hard or too many times in an attempt to feel clean, injuring the delicate skin and tearing it even more, Goldstein explained.

People who try to force out their poop when it’s not ready are also more likely to develop anal fissures for the same reason. “If you don’t feel the urge to go before class,” Goldstein said he tells students, “don’t force it — it can cause tears.” The same advice applies to anyone who might try to force out poop.

Stay away from wet wipes and use a patting motion

The products you use to wipe after going number two are also important if you want to keep your rear in tip-top shape. Goldstein specifically warned against cleaning up with baby wipes.

Read more: Over 100 bubble-tea balls got stuck in a teen’s digestive tract and made her constipated for nearly a week. Here’s how that’s possible.

It’s a common misconception that the wipes are cleaner than regular toilet paper, but in reality they remove healthy bacteria from your backside that protect you against yeast infections, bacterial infections, and fungus, making you more susceptible to them.

“Wipes have moisture, and you get rid of the good stuff. They’re an irritant no one should use,” Goldstein said. (The American Academy of Pediatrics does, however, recommend disposable wipes for babies during diaper changes.)

He added that baby wipes are especially dangerous for people with HPV because they could spread anal or vaginal warts to other areas of the genitals when the wipes pick up the sexually transmitted infection.

To keep your backside happy, Goldstein recommended using a patting motion rather than a wiping motion and being as gentle as possible. Ideally, he added, you should use a bidet to clean yourself and then pat the excess water dry with a bit of toilet paper if need be.

  • Brazil’s president wants people to ‘eat a little less’ so they poop every other day, but that’s not how the human body works
  • This guy invented a genius solution for pooping in space — here’s how it works
  • Why dogs eat poop, according to a dog cognition scientist

To avoid recurrent yeast infections, Dr. Yamaguchi recommends maintaining good hygiene, wearing cotton underwear for breathability (or at least underwear that has a cotton crotch), and changing ASAP after you work out instead of staying in your sweaty gear.

3. You have bacterial vaginosis.

Oh, bacterial vaginosis (BV), you evil, foul-smelling condition. Yup, this infection, which arises when the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your vagina get thrown out of whack via sex, products you use, and the like, can lead to fish-scented discharge in addition to burning when you pee, Dr. Dweck says. You may have never heard of it, but BV is actually the most common infection of the vagina for people between the ages of 15 and 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The symptoms are very similar to those of a yeast infection, which is why it’s important to get checked out by an ob/gyn. Your doctor can do a few simple tests to determine what type of infection you have, and if they find you have BV, they’ll prescribe antibiotics for you to take either orally or vaginally.

4. You have a sexually transmitted disease.

Plenty of STDs can cause painful pee as just one of their annoying symptoms (when symptoms show up, that is—in many cases, STDs exhibit no symptoms at all). Herpes, an extremely common viral infection known for causing sores on the mouth and genitals, is one possibility, Dr. Yamaguchi says. But other STDs can cause painful pee, too. The reason: “The urethra and vulva and vaginal tissue become inflamed and extra sensitive so when you pass urine, it may burn,” explains Dweck.

Chlamydia, a bacterial infection especially prevalent in people under 25, and gonorrhea, another bacterial infection that shows up a lot in that age range, are other common causes, Dr. Dweck says. Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can also lead to abnormal discharge, like some that’s yellow or green, so be on the lookout for that as well.

And trichomoniasis, the most common curable STD that’s caused by a parasite, can also present with terrible-smelling discharge and pain while peeing.

5. You have some sex-related vaginal tears.

The sharp, sudden pain of burning while peeing might come with a surge of panic that something is really, really wrong, but that’s not always true. “Little abrasions from sex can cause some burning while peeing and irritation,” Dr. Yamaguchi says. To cut back on that yikes-inducing feeling, she recommends pouring warm water over your vaginal area while you’re peeing. “The temperature will help interfere with the nerve pathways,” she says. And to avoid the issue altogether, she suggests making sure you’re plenty lubed up whenever your vagina’s getting some attention. Here’s everything to know before you buy some lube for sex.

6. Or some non-sex-related vaginal tears.

Many people find themselves asking why oh why does it burn when I pee? after they give birth vaginally. Since all the tissue down below stretches in an impressive way to make room for the baby, vaginal and perineal tears can occur. This is why many new moms rely on perineal irrigation bottles, aka devices that make it even easier to squirt warm water on yourself to dull the pain.

7. You’re using unnecessary feminine hygiene products.

“We’ve been led to believe that the vaginal area is super dirty, and we should be cleaning with deodorizers and perfumes—that’s not the case,” Dr. Dweck says. “The vagina has a good self-cleaning protocol, if you will, to keep its pH in balance and keep things in order.” But when you use products like douches or feminine hygiene washes, you might wind up with irritation that leads to urinary burning. If your skin is super sensitive, this can even happen from fragrant bubble baths, Dr. Dweck explains.

5 Bathroom Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

Considering the fact that you go to the bathroom multiple times per day, you’d think you’ve got this ladies room business down. Turns out, there are quite a few things that can go wrong during your trips to the latrine that may increase your risk of infection, irritation, and illness. No thank you!

Here, five bathroom mistakes you may be making and how to correct them with healthy habits.

Sitting on the Toilet Too Long

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Spending some extra stall-time scrolling through your Twitter feed is one thing (oh come on, we all do it). But if you’re actually straining, you could be putting yourself at risk for hemorrhoids-painful, swollen veins in your anus that can bleed. “If you’re having a hard time having a bowel movement, get up, walk around, and come back,” says Anish Sheth, M.D., a gastroenterologist and author of What’s Your Poo Telling You? “Walking around can stimulate the intestines to move things downstream, and also help you relax so you don’t have to force things out.” If you regularly strain when going to the bathroom, take a closer look at your diet. Make sure you’re getting enough fiber, about 25 to 30 grams per day, as well as ample water.

Overwiping

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When it comes to wiping, less is more and not just because it keeps you from replacing the toilet paper roll every other day. “Overwiping can irritate the perianal skin and lead to small abrasions that trigger inflammation and itching,” Sheth says. One or two wipes are all it takes, he says. If you need to wipe more than that you may not have completely emptied your system or you could be constipated (in which case, up your fiber and water intake like you would to prevent hemorrhoids). If you still require more than a few wipes, consider switching to wet toilet paper or unscented baby wipes. “Moist wipes decrease the friction of wiping and cause less irritation,” Sheth says.

Using the Air Dryer

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They might as well be called germ blowers: A recent study found that jet air dryers spread 27 times as many microbes as paper towels and nearly five times more bacteria than warm-air blowers, according to researchers from the U.K. Scientists found higher amounts of germs in the air around both types of dryers-they could still detect the bugs 15 minutes after use-than around paper towel dispensers. Your best bet: Grab a paper towel to dry off your mitts and head for the door ASAP to reduce your exposure to the swirling airborne bacteria. Besides a hand dryer, here are 10 Personal Items You Don’t Want to Share!

Wiping in the Wrong Direction

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You’ve been doing it since mastering potty training, but after peeing, many women still wipe in the wrong direction. “Always wipe from front to back,” says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., an ob-gyn and author of V is for Vagina. “Wiping from back to front can bring bacteria from the rectum toward the urethra and increase your chances of a urinary tract infection.” And, since women’s urethras are relatively short (men’s run along the length of their penis), bacteria can easily travel into your bladder and make a miserable UTI more likely. This may not be shocking, but these 4 Causes of Urinary Tract Infections are pretty surprising!

You’re Too Clean Down There

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Just because there are products that can make your lady bits smell fresh as a flower doesn’t mean you should use them. “The vagina doesn’t need to be excessively cleansed and refreshed with soaps, washes, sprays and wipes, which can actually disrupt the normal pH balance and lead to itching, irritation, and rash,” Dweck says. Simply wash with mild soap and water when showering or bathing (pssst! Using mild cleansers is one of 7 Ways to Keep Your Vagina Young). One tool that can help? A hair dryer to wick away excess moisture. “Use it on a low, cool setting after bathing if you’re prone to infection or irritation,” she adds. And cleansers aren’t the only things to avoid using on your vagina-here are 10 More Things to Never Put Near Your Vagina!)

  • By Paige Fowler

Pain in the inside of your vagina (when you pee or pass urine) can have many possible causes. Urine is typically acidic so if there is any irritation near the entrance to your vagina, when urine leaves your body through the urethra, you would likely have discomfort, such as burning. Vaginal irritation is most often caused from a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection.

You should make an appointment with your health care provider. Most likely your health care provider (HCP) will have you pee into a cup to check for a bladder infection. Also, your HCP may look inside your vagina and use a small cotton tipped swab to get a sample of vaginal discharge to check for infection. This may feel awkward or embarrassing but it usually is not uncomfortable.

It is always important to talk to your health care provider when your body doesn’t feel right. You can lower your risk of sexually transmitted infections by not having sex or by having your partner(s) use a condom every time you have sex. With early treatment you will feel better soon and you will decrease your chances of complications.

Dysuria (Painful Urination)

What is painful urination (dysuria)?

The term dysuria refers to any pain or discomfort associated with urination (peeing). It does not refer to urinary frequency (how often you go), though disorders of frequency can often be accompanied by dysuria.

Who experiences painful urination (dysuria)?

Men and women of any age can experience painful urination. It is more common in women. It is most commonly associated with urinary tract infections, which more often affect women than men.

Other people at a higher risk of dysuria include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Men and women with diabetes
  • Men and women with any type of disease of the bladder

What are the causes of painful urination (dysuria)?

Painful urination for women can be the result of:

  • Vaginal infection
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Inflammation of the urethra (the tube that connects the bladder and genitals) or vagina that may be related to dietary factors

The inflammation may also be caused by sexual intercourse, douches, soaps, scented toilet paper, contraceptive sponges, or spermicides.

Normal female anatomy

Painful urination for men may be the result of:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Prostate disease
  • Cancer

Normal male anatomy

Painful urination for both genders may be the result of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or the side effect of medications. Chemotherapy cancer drugs or radiation treatments to the pelvic area may inflame the bladder and cause painful urination.

What are the symptoms of painful urination (dysuria)?

Symptoms of painful urination can vary between men and women, but both genders usually experience it as a burning, stinging, or itching feeling. The pain can be at the start of urination or after urination.

Pain at the start of urination is often the symptom of a urinary tract infection. Pain after urination can indicate a problem with the bladder or prostate. For many male patients, pain can persist in the penis before and after urination, too.

Symptoms for female patients can be internal or external. Pain on the outside of the vaginal area may be caused by inflammation or irritation of this sensitive skin. An internal pain can be a symptom of a urinary tract infection.

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Vaginal infections

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Help for infections

If you have pain, itching, or other symptoms around your vagina, don’t try to treat them yourself. Don’t risk your health. See a doctor or other health care professional who can figure out the cause and right treatment.

Signs that you may have a vaginal infection include itching, burning, pain in or around your vagina, or a problem with your vaginal discharge (fluid). If you’ve had sexual contact with someone, these signs may mean that you have a sexually transmitted disease (also known as an STD or STI, which means sexually transmitted infection). Not all vaginal infections are caused by sexual contact. Keep in mind that any time you have itching, burning, or pain in or around your vagina, you need to see a doctor to get treated.

This section explains types of infections you can get without having sex. You can learn about:

  • Abnormal discharge
  • Types of vaginal infections
  • Ways to avoid vaginal infections

Abnormal discharge top

You may wonder if the fluid, or discharge, that comes out of your vagina is a sign of infection. Discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle, but it normally may look clear, cloudy white, or yellowish. There is no need to worry if you have normal-looking discharge. Signs of possible problems include discharge that is:

  • Green or gray
  • Smelly
  • Foamy or lumpy

Problems with your discharge may be a sign of infection. Keep reading to learn more about vaginal infections and how to prevent them.

Types of vaginal infections top

Two common vaginal infections are bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) happens when a certain kind of bacteria (a type of germ) that’s in your vagina grows too much. Possible symptoms include:

  • A bad smell from your vagina that might seem “fishy”
  • More discharge (fluid) than you usually have and that is gray or white
  • Itching around your vagina

It’s important to see your doctor if you have symptoms. BV can be treated with antibiotics. If BV is not treated, it sometimes may cause serious health problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (though this is rare).

BV usually happens to people who have sex, but you can also get it without having sex. Experts don’t know exactly what causes BV. The best way to avoid BV is to avoid having sex. If you are having sex, use a condom to protect your health. Douching also increases the chances that you’ll get BV.

Yeast infections happen when a fungus (a type of germ) that’s usually in the vagina grows too much. Possible symptoms include:

  • Burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and the vulva
  • Pain when you urinate (pee)
  • Pain during sex
  • A thick, white discharge that looks like cottage cheese and does not have a bad smell
  • A red rash on the outside of your vagina (this is rare)

Lots of women think they have a yeast infection when they really have something else. Before trying to treat yourself with an over-the-counter medicine, it’s important to talk with a doctor. That’s especially true if you’ve never had a yeast infection before or if you have them often.

Sometimes you may have symptoms that make you believe you have a vaginal infection, but you instead have a urinary tract infection.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) happen when bacteria get inside the parts of your body that make, store, or remove urine, like your bladder. Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:

  • Burning when you urinate (pee)
  • Feeling a need to urinate often
  • Feeling a strong need to urinate but only a little urine comes out
  • Back or stomach pain
  • Cloudy or dark urine
  • Fever and chills — if that happens, tell a doctor right away
  • Blood in your urine — if that happens, tell a doctor right away

Most UTIs are not serious, but some can lead to serious problems, including kidneys that don’t work well. UTIs can be cured with antibiotics.

Ways to avoid vaginal infections top

You can’t always prevent vaginal infections. But you can take steps to help keep your vagina (and your bladder) healthy:

  • Keep your genital area clean. Wash the outside of your vagina and bottom every day with mild soap. When you go to the bathroom, wipe from the front of your body toward the back, not the other way.
  • Keep your vagina cool. Bacteria love the heat! Avoid tight underwear or clothes made of synthetic fibers like rayon and polyester that can trap heat. Wear cotton or cotton-crotch underwear.
  • Change out of wet bathing suits and exercise clothes as soon as possible. Bacteria like wet places, too!
  • Don’t douche. Putting water or other products into your vagina removes some of the normal bacteria that protect you from infection.
  • Change your underwear every day, so you don’t let germs near your vagina.
  • Drink enough liquids. This can help wash out your urinary tract and help prevent infections there. You’ll know that you’re drinking enough if your urine (pee) is light yellow or almost clear.
  • Avoid scented hygiene products like bubble bath, sprays, scented pads, and scented tampons. They can be irritating.

Having sex may increase your odds of some infections even if they’re not considered sexually transmitted infections. Abstinence is the safest way to avoid infections.

Content last reviewed April 15, 2014
Page last updated May 23, 2014

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