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The vagina is taking over the world of beauty products and skin care.

One report predicts that the “feminine hygiene” market — which includes sanitary pads, tampons, panty liners and shields, internal cleansers, sprays, and disposable razors — will grow to $42.7 billion by 2022.

As Dr. Kimberly Langdon, OB-GYN, medical advisor at Medzino, a digital health company based in California says, “It seems we’re in the midst of a massive wave of products for vaginas and vulvas.”

Your vagina doesn’t need special products, but your vulva might benefit

Marketing may use the two terms interchangeably, but the vagina and vulva are two separate parts of the body.

An anatomy refresher The vagina is the muscular canal inside the body that the menstrual flow — and babies, during childbirth — passes through. The vulva refers to the outer portions around the vagina which includes the inner and outer vaginal lips (labia), the clitoral hood, the clitoris, pubic mound, and the urethra.

“The vagina does not need to be washed because the vagina is a self-cleaning organ,” explains Dr. Renjie Chang, OB-GYN and founder of NeuEve, a women’s sexual health product startup. “A healthy vagina has an effective ecology of bacteria that help it maintain the right pH.”

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

Washing inside or douching the vagina can disrupt this natural balance, which can result in irritation, bacterial vaginosis, or a yeast infection. Further, Langdon says, “Douching actually increases the risk of pushing STIs upwards toward the fallopian tubes and can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) that can cause infertility.”

So, does the vulva need to be washed? Yes.

“Cleaning the vulva should be a part of your daily hygiene routine,” says Sherry Ross, MD, OB-GYN and women’s health expert in Santa Monica, California.

Warm water is all you need to adequately clean your vulva. However, there are products you can use if you really want to cleanse, moisturize, or freshen up between showers down there.

Anything you use on the vulva can easily enter the super-sensitive vagina, so what’s in the product matters. “It is important to minimize ingredients like scents which can cause dryness and alter the pH of the vagina, leading to irritation or infection,” says New York-based obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Kameelah Phillips. Besides, you don’t need to cover up the natural smell of your vagina with perfumes.

If you do invest in soap, wipes, or other products for your nether bits, go for something that’s as mild as possible. Ideally, it should be dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free.

Here are 5 gynecologist-approved products you can try out:

1. Dove Sensitive Skin Bath Bars

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 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. It’s fragrance-free.

Cost: $13.99/6 bars, available on Amazon

Langdon recommends other fragrance-free, gentle soaps, too:

2. Summer’s Eve Cleansing Cloths

“I am all for feminine hygiene wipes and some companies do this better than others,” says Ross. “I am 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. These wipes can be used to clean the blood from the vulva whether you are home or out on the go.” You might also use them after a workout to wipe away groin sweat.

Cost: $3.60/package, available on Amazon

Note: Summer’s Eve also has scented versions of this product, but the fragrance may be irritating to the delicate skin of the vulva. “There is nothing wrong with the natural scent of a healthy vagina or vulva,” says Dr. Jessica Shepherd, MD. “If you’re experiencing a strong or unpleasant odor, you don’t want to cover that up. You want to actually address the issue.”

She suggests a visit to the gynecologist or your healthcare provider of choice.

3. Vagisil Sensitive Plus Moisturizing Wash

“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. She suggests only using this to clean the labia.

It’s pH-balanced, hypoallergenic, as well as dermatologist- and gynecologist-tested. Keep in mind that this product does include a fragrance, which may be irritating to folks who are especially sensitive or prone to yeast infections.

Cost: $10.00/bottle, available on Amazon

4. Fur Oil

How you choose to groom your pubic hair is your choice. 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 are not exposed to the elements like hair on our head. This means that it gets plenty of moisture and sebum to keep it healthy,” says Langdon.

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. To use it, apply one to two drops onto your fingers then run it through your pubes. It also has vitamin E to nourish dry skin, clary sage seed oil for inflammation, and it’s free of parabens and fragrance.

Friendly warning: “The oil includes tea tree oil and peppermint, which both [have] astringent properties. So if there is broken skin or a shaving nick it can lead to burning and irritation,” says Phillips.

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

Cost: $46.00/2 ounce, available at Ulta

5. Lola Cleansing Wipes

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

What are they made of? 100 percent bamboo soaked in a simple, purified water solution. The product is alcohol-free and there are no parabens, sulfates, synthetic preservatives, dyes, or fragrances.

Cost: $10.00/box, available on mylola.com

Remember, always test the product first and stop use if it causes issues

Questions to ask before purchasing something for your vulva:

  • Is this fragrance-free?
  • Is this dermatologist- and gynecologist-tested?
  • Does this product or its marketing use shame to get you to purchase it?
  • Are there any ingredients I can’t pronounce?

If you’re interested in trying a new product, make sure to do a patch test on your arm first to make sure 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. Always talk to your gynecologist if you have any concerns.


Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tried the Whole30 challenge, and eaten, drunk, brushed with, scrubbed with, and bathed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.