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Pursue the toiletry section of any pharmacy, grocery store, or gas station and you’ll see the phrase “feminine hygiene” plastered over lotions and potions, wipes, oils, and more.

But the term is nothing more than a marketing ploy.

Specifically, a marketing tactic used to appeal to buyers of sanitary pads, tampons, panty liners and shields, internal cleansers, sprays, disposable razors, and more.

But companies aren’t targeting any buyer here they’re targeting cisgender women buyers.

Cisgender women and other individuals with a vagina have long been taught that their vaginas are smelly, dirty caverns. Companies are banking on the idea that most people with vaginas have internalized this message, and experience deep shame about their scent.

No, you don’t need genital hygiene products

Again, the category “feminine hygiene” is quite broad. But for this article, we’re talking specifically about products designed for vulva (the external part of your genitalia) and vaginal (the internal canal) use.

Including:

  • Pube oils
  • Razor burn treatments
  • Vulva-safe soaps
  • External wipes

Here’s the thing: None of these products are necessary.

The vagina doesn’t need to be washed or wiped or treated because the vagina is a self-maintaining organ, explains Dr. Renjie Chang, OB-GYN, co-founder of sexual health startup NeuEve.

“A healthy vagina has an ecology of bacteria that helps it maintain the right pH,” explains Chang.

That would be a pH value of 3.5 to 4.5, which is slightly acidic. At this pH, the vagina can prevent “bad” bacteria from thriving, says Chang.

Washing inside or douching the vaginal canal can disrupt this natural balance, resulting in irritation, bacterial vaginosis, or other vaginal infections.

Douching actually increases the risk of pushing STIs upward toward the fallopian tubes and can cause pelvic inflammatory disease,” says Dr. Kimberly Langdon, OB-GYN, medical advisor at Medzino, a digital health company based in California.

The vulva, on the other hand, does need to be washed.

“Cleaning the vulva should be a part of your daily hygiene routine,” says Dr. Sherry Ross, OB-GYN and author of “She-ology” and “She-ology, the She-quel.”

However, she says that warm water is all you need to adequately clean your vulva.

Okay, so what are feminine hygiene products for?

While you don’t need feminine hygiene products, if you really want to cleanse, moisturize, or freshen up your nether bits between showers, there are products you can purchase.

Anything you use on the vulva can easily enter the super-sensitive vaginal canal. So, what’s in the product matters.

“It’s important to minimize ingredients like scents which can cause dryness and alter the pH of the vagina, leading to irritation or infection,” says Dr. Kameelah Phillips, OB-GYN, at Calla Women’s Health in New York.

We chose these products based on criteria that we think are good indicators of quality.

Each product is as mild as possible.

And in most cases, they’re also dermatologist-tested, gynecologist-recommended, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$20
  • $$$ = over $20

Best overall vagina-friendly soap

Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Beauty Bar

  • Price: $$
  • Bar size: 4 ounces (oz)
  • Pack size: 6 bath bars

Yep, the best overall product is something you may already have at home!

In general, you want to use a product that’s the least toxic and least likely to contain potentially allergenic ingredients around the vulva and vagina, says Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, OB-GYN at Yale-New Haven Hospital and clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine.

“I encourage my patients to use unscented soap like Dove bar soap, and to use the least amount of soap possible,” she says.

Best overall vulva cleansing wipes

Summer’s Eve Fragrance Free Cleansing Cloths

  • Price: $
  • Pack size: 32 cloths

“I am all for feminine hygiene wipes, and some companies do this better than others,” says Ross. “I’m a big fan of Summer’s Eve as they tend to be formulated specifically not to disrupt the pH balance of the vagina.”

The wipes are also free from dyes and parabens, and gynecologist-tested.

When should you use these? According to Ross, when changing pads or tampons.

“Wearing sanitary pads each day can bring unwanted bacteria to this very sensitive and delicate area,” explains Ross. “These wipes can be used to clean the blood from the vulva whether you’re home or out on the go.”

You might also use them after a workout to wipe away groin sweat.

Best on-the-go vulva cleansing wipes

LOLA Cleansing Wipes Packets

  • Price: $$
  • Pack size: 12 individually-packaged wipes

Looking for wipes packaged for single use to throw in your overnight or gym bag? Look no further.

“These wipes look promising,” says Phillips. “The ingredients are mild and don’t include common vaginal irritants.”

They’re made out of 100% bamboo and soaked in a simple, purified water solution. The product is alcohol-free and there are no parabens, sulfates, synthetic preservatives, dyes, or fragrances.

Best full-body cleansing wipes

Royal Body Wipes

  • Price: $
  • Pack size: 40 wipes

As their name suggests, these wipes are designed for your entire body. Basically, they’re like a shower on the go!

And (surprise!) your vulva is part of your entire body.

Fragrance-free, vitamin-infused, pH-balanced, and alcohol-free, these wipes are a gentle way to remove oil and dirt from all of your external parts, while also hydrating them.

Keep them in your gym bag for after spin class, or put them in your toiletries case for after sexercise.

Best vagina-friendly shower wash

Vagisil Daily Intimate Wash pH Balance

  • Price: $
  • Bottle size: 12 fluid (fl) oz

“Vagisil has a line of intimate washes specifically for the labia that are formulated with no ingredients to disrupt the normal pH balance of the vagina,” says Ross, emphasizing that these should only be used on the external genitalia.

This intimate wash is pH-balanced, hypoallergenic, and gynecologist-tested.

Just keep in mind that this product includes a fragrance, which may irritate folks who are especially sensitive or prone to yeast infections.

Best vagina-friendly bubble bath

maude wash no. 0

  • Price: $$$
  • Bottle size: 12 fl oz

Maude, a company known for their high quality sexual health products, has a product line bath-lovers should know about. The brand’s initial offering, wash no. 0, is a gentle, fragrance-free formula that can be used as a body wash or bubble bath.

This wash was formulated to preserve that natural pH of the vagina, making it a good option for people who have historically found bath bombs irritating to their skin.

Best vagina-friendly bath bomb

the Honey Pot company Refresh fragrance free bath bomb

  • Price: $$
  • Pack size: 3 bath bombs

Most bath bombs are littered with glitter, fragrances, and chemicals — none of which do your vagina any favors.

This bath bomb, however, will leave your bits exactly how it found them.

Made from all-natural ingredients and with a pH-balancing formula, this unscented, fragrance-free option gives your bath all the jazz, without giving you any weird jizz (aka discharge or other unwanted symptoms).

Best post vaginal sex wash

Sustain Natural Body Wash

  • Price: $$
  • Bottle size: 12 fl oz

Looking for a way to zhuzh up your post-sex routine? Look no further. This citrus-scented body wash is designed to help you (and your boos!) clean up after getting down and dirty.

Although you shouldn’t use it to rinse inside your vagina (or anus), you can confidently use this organic cleanser to rinse off any bodily fluids, lubes, or massage oils elsewhere on the body.

Best vagina-friendly treatment for dry pubic hair

fur Oil

  • Price: $$$
  • Bottle size: 2.5 fl oz

How you choose to groom your pubic hair is your choice. But if you decide to keep some or all of your pubic hair, fur offers a great moisturizing oil.

Does your pubic hair need pube oil? No. “Your pubes aren’t exposed to the elements like hair on your head,” says Langdon. “This means that it gets plenty of moisture and sebum to keep it healthy.”

Still, you may be interested in keeping the area feeling hydrated. “fur Oil has been both dermatologist and gynecologist tested, which helps a buyer know it’s a safe purchase,” says Ross.

“The oil includes clary sage and tea tree oil, which both [have] astringent properties,” says Phillips. “So if there’s broken skin or a shaving nick it can lead to burning and irritation.”

One way to test how your skin may react is to put a drop on your inner elbow, cover it with a bandage, and keep it there overnight to ensure there’s no reaction before using it.

Best vagina-friendly treatment for ingrown pubic hair

fur Ingrown Concentrate

  • Price: $$$
  • Bottle size: 0.5 fl oz

Maybe you’re rocking a landing strip. Maybe your bits are as bare as can be. Maybe you’ve got a mang mullet. Whatever you do, if you remove some of your pubes you might consider this ingrown pube oil.

Another luxury item from fur, this oil is designed to gently banish bumps and soothe irritation.

You can apply it directly to an ingrown hair bump or, if you’re prone to bumps, apply it everywhere after hair removal as a preventive measure.

Just be sure to let the oil absorb into your skin before putting on your underwear. The product contains oil, which can stain your skivvies.

Best vagina-friendly treatment for easing irritation

Momotaro Apotheca Salve

  • Price: $$$
  • Jar size: 1 oz

Especially popular amongst Instagram sex-fluencers and educators, Momotaro Apotheca Salve is a thick moisturizer designed to replenish moisture and protect your body from sex-, exercise-, or clothing-induced irritation.

Simply massage a dollop into your vulva skin after a bath or shower.

If your vagina hasn’t previously had a reaction to coconut oil lubes or products, you might even try putting some inside the vaginal canal. Some reviewers claim the product helps naturally clear up yeast and bacterial infections when used at the first sign of funk.

Some reviewers who are herpes-positive note that the slave has been helpful for soothing breakouts, too.

It needs to be said one more time: None of these products are must-buys!

“In most cases, water is sufficient for washing and caretaking the vulva,” says Felice Gersh, MD, author of “PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones and Happiness.”

Gersh adds that “you never want to use more than a finger and warm water inside the vagina for cleaning purposes.”

Sometimes simpler really is better!

What are feminine washes used for?

So-called “feminine” washes aren’t necessary. But they are one way of removing dirt and sweat from the eternal genitals.

Some of these washes can be used elsewhere on the body, too!

Who is feminine hygiene for?

Glad you asked.

The term “feminine” implies that feminine hygiene products are for people assigned female at birth or have a femme gender identity or presentation. But that’s not true.

These products are designed for vulvas and vaginas, regardless of a person’s sex, gender identity, or gender presentation.

A more accurate marketing and categorization term would be to call these “vulvavaginal products.”

Should you use feminine washes every day?

“If you can avoid using them daily, you should,” says Gersh “Research has found a link between how often someone uses certain feminine hygiene products and bacterial vaginosis,” she says.

But if you feel like you have to use one? Make sure it’s one with the fewest ingredients.

What if your vagina smells bad?

First things first: your vagina isn’t supposed to smell like hydrangeas or pineapple. It’s supposed to smell, well, like a vagina!

According to Gersh, the smell of a healthy vagina is musky or musty.

“If the vagina smells like dead fish, rotten eggs, or spoiled meat, then that’s a clear sign of infection,” she says. “No spa or feminine hygiene treatment will clear up an infection.”

Are there any downsides to using feminine hygiene products?

There may be. Some of these products contain fragrances and irritating chemicals your genitalia would be better off without.

Before using the product on your vulva or vagina, do a patch test on your arm to ensure you don’t have an allergy or reaction to any ingredients.

If you do start to experience irritation, redness, or excessive dryness on the vulva or vagina after using a product, stop use immediately. If you can, talk with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

At the end of the day, feminine hygiene is just a marketing slogan designed to get vagina owners to buy products they don’t need.

But if you’re looking for a way to bring your bits into your self-care practice, the aforementioned products can help.

Just make sure you’re buying them because you want to and not because you feel like you need to.


Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.