Research has shown that there is a risk of STIs by using showers gels and soaps for intimate cleansing. This isn’t the first time this month that vaginal maintenance and hygiene has been connected with STIs in the news. Last week experts spoke about an increase of genital warts, because of our obsession with smoothness.
It would appear that when it comes to vaginal health, it’s best to keep things natural, in spite of what we might think. The vagina has evolved to maintain it’s own hygiene with the help of a carefully maintained balance of bacteria. Bacteria in the vagina aren’t always bad, but it’s important that an equilibrium of vaginal flora is maintained, as this is what actually causes discomfort or discharge such as yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis.
According to the US researchers, who recruited 141 women in Los Angeles to fill in questionnaires, there is reason to believe that many of the cleansing products and lubricants used by women, thinking it will benefit them, can actually lead to many feminine problems. Conditions, in particular bacterial vaginosis can damage vaginal tissues, making women more susceptible to STIs such as HIV and genital herpes.
However, using strong soaps inter-vaginally, apart from causing imbalances in vaginal flora, can also be abrasive damaging internal tissues also increasing the risk of genital herpes and HIV infection.
The researchers also pointed out that many women didn’t use the right lubrication, which can also lead to the spread of STIs. This is particularly the case with lubricants such as petroleum jelly, which isn’t condom friendly at all. Even KY-jelly, which is widely used, isn’t considered ideal for vaginal health because it contains glycerine which can cause infections. Ideally, lubricants should not contain glycerine or be oil based.
The main reason for internal vaginal cleansing is often smell, but the irony is that using harsh shower gels, talc and other products to eradicate the issue can often aggravate it. Experts therefore advise that a very simple vaginal cleansing regime that doesn’t involve internal vaginal cleansing but simply washing externally with soap and water regularly and wearing clean underwear on a daily basis. The vagina is designed to protect itself and interfering with it’s natural defences can make it vulnerable to infections.