Ladies, today we’re talking all about vaginal health, specifically as it relates to the use of scented feminine products and vaginal douching.
These products have been around for years, marketed to women as a way to make their vaginas “smell nice & pretty” and get rid of unwanted odors and bacteria. In fact, some will recommend vaginal douching as a preventative measure for things like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
But this way of thinking is entirely wrong and could end up doing more harm than good. In this article I am going to explain why.
“Douche” literally means “wash” in French. It’s a method intended to clean or wash out the inside of the vagina by using a mixture of vinegar and water. The mixture comes in a bottle or bag with a connected tube that you spray upward into the vagina.
However, most vaginal douches sold today in stores contain antiseptics, chemicals and synthetic fragrances. And this is where the risk is.
Vagina douching has been touted as a way to help women feel “fresh & clean” down there, get rid of unwanted odors, wash away blood following menstruation, prevent pregnancy after intercourse and avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
According to womenshealth.gov, almost one in five women 15 to 44 years old douche, despite the fact that most doctors warn against it. For instance, one study found that after conducting a telephone survey of a random sample of 535 adult women, douching was deemed a good hygienic practice by 65% of women, half of whom believed that douching was necessary for good hygiene.
The same data also showed an increased correlation between vaginal douching and certain demographics. Encouragement by mother (OR = 4.7, 95% CI 1.9-11.4), being black (OR = 2.8, 95% CI 1.1-6.9), and having no more than a high school education (OR = 2.2, 95% CI 1.2-4.2) were independently associated with ever (vs. never) douching.
And this is the power of product marketing. Brands like Summer’s Eve use warm and inviting colors, messaging and language to convince women that in order to have good vaginal hygiene, they need to be douching regularly.
They give their products scented names like “sweet romance” and “island splash” and use words like “pH balanced,” “naturally inspired, ” “non-irritating formula” and “gynecologist tested” to entice and persuade you.
It’s a load of crap is what it is! Ladies, our vaginas are self-sufficient badasses. They naturally clean themselves. And using these products can actually upset the pH and normal balance of the bacteria in your vagina. We’ll talk about that below.
According to one study in Epidemiol Rev., the risks involved with vaginal douching include: pelvic inflammatory disease, bacterial vaginosis, cervical cancer, low birth weight, preterm birth, human immunodeficiency virus transmission, sexually transmitted diseases, ectopic pregnancy, recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis, and infertility.
Before we get into why vaginal douching doesn’t work and how you can naturally support your feminine and reproductive health, let’s look at some of the common ingredients and their health risks.
Here’s a list of ingredients in Summer’s Eve Island Splash, which isn’t all too different from their other scents. Notice that there’s no vinegar in this specific product.
Let’s break these down:
After looking at this list, I have to wonder why in the world this is being touted as healthy and natural when it’s anything but.
So, why is vaginal douching so harmful? Because despite the fact that women are using these products to “clean” their vaginas and reduce unwanted smells, it’s doing the exact opposite. Not to mention it increases the risk of cervical cancer.
Our vagina has a microbiome and a specific pH that it must maintain. However it does this NATURALLY, just as Mother Nature intended. Your vagina has bacteria called lactobacilli living inside it. These bacteria are tasked with keeping the vagina’s pH balance at its normal low level (less than pH 4.5), which also prevents the growth of other organisms. If the pH of the vagina increases (it gets less acidic), the quality or amount of lactobacilli can fall and other bacteria can multiply. Lactobacilli use glycogen as their energy/food source, which controls estrogen levels down there. The fermentative bacteria in the vaginal biome together with vaginal epithelial cells produce lactic acid and are responsible for acidifying vaginal milieu to maintain balance.
Do you know what upsets the pH balance and microbiome of your vagina? Synthetic fragrances and anti-bacterial killing agents. Sound familiar? Consistent use of douching products will actually lead to imbalances in the vagina, and result in health issues like vaginal yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis, which is inflammation in the vagina due to a bacterial imbalance.
Not to mention, a lot of the common reasons women indicated they use vaginal douching for are actually major risks or side effects of douching. Here’s what Summer’s Eve puts on their website & product labels:
The bottom line here is that vaginas aren’t meant to smell pretty. Your vagina isn’t a flower. It’s a badass, remember? And it’s gonna smell like it’s gonna smell. And our vaginas will be fine without this modern invention.
My professional (and personal) opinion is absolutely not. Scented vaginal washes, wipes, sprays, pads, tampons, etc. are all just a scheme created by vaginal brand companies who saw an opportunity to take advantage of an under-educated market and turn a profit.
We don’t need products like Summer’s Eve or Vagisil with their synthetic fragrances, harmful chemicals and empty promises.
These companies don’t care about your health and wellbeing. They just want your money.
And as we discussed above, these products do way more harm than good, and actually cause the health concerns you may be trying to avoid with douching.
Our ancestors never used commercialized vaginal douching or cleansing products and I think they fared just fine. We’ve been told that we need these things to feel “pretty” “healthy” or “desirable” but we don’t. We are beautiful and empowered just the way we are. We don’t need these products for that.
If we are leading a healthy and balanced life, are changing out of sweaty and tight clothes regularly and wash our lady parts regularly with mild nontoxic soaps like Castile soap from Dr. Bronner’s, then our vagina should be just fine on its own. Don’t insult her intuitive nature with these bogus products.
If you are dealing with some sort of vaginal dysbiosis there are plenty of natural and effective remedies you can try. But I definitely recommend working under the guidance of a holistic healthcare professional so that you know you’re on the right path.
Some of my favorites are using yogurt or boric acid suppositories or using apple cider vinegar to help restore the pH balance. Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties but it won’t destroy your good vaginal flora. In fact, ACV is a great topical treatment used on the vulva (external) for treating yeast/candida infections. It can also be diluted with water and used in a therapeutic soak to restore the vaginal pH.
If you are interested in some form of vaginal douching, you can make a well-balanced, safe and natural one at home, using ingredients that aren’t harmful, such as apple cider vinegar, camomile tea, castile soap, grapeseed oil, baking soda, etc. Here is one such version of a safe and holistic at-home douching product you can make.
But first I would take a step back and figure out why you feel the need to vaginal douche. Is it just because you’ve been told it’s necessary for vaginal cleanliness? Is it because you are noticing strong or abnormal odors? Are you having increased pain, itchiness or irritation?
It’s best to rule out issues like vaginal yeast infections or candida overgrowth as well as bacterial vaginosis and other conditions that could be throwing your vaginal pH off. If you are dealing with recurring yeast infections, then you may need to look elsewhere in the body (like the gut), to rule out candida in the gut.
Our diets actually have a lot of influence over our vaginal health. Eating an excess of carbs, especially processed and refined carbs, and sugar can create the perfect environment for yeast to grow, i.e. warm and moist. Sugar feeds candida, fungi and yeast.
That’s why it’s always key to work with a practitioner who can help you approach your health holistically and find the root cause or causes of your issues.