Anyone who menstruates likely shares one common thought: periods are high maintenance.
But do they have to be?
Between douches, washes, wipes, powders, pads, and pads, it gets hard to know what you need. Some wives tales have convinced us that we should smell like roses (ehem, Summer’s Eve) or that we need to clean out our vaginas (fun fact – we don’t). To make matters worse, we spend roughly $15 a month to care for our periods with products that aren’t safe for us or the environment. Black women are disproportionately affected by this, showing that for far too long we have been convinced that we are unclean.
Vaginal and vulvar scents are affected by what we eat and what comes in contact with us. Diets rich in pungent foods will lead to a mightier smell between your legs. More plant-based dining will lead to a milder smell (and taste) down there. Washing your vulva is necessary, washing your vagina is not. To distinguish between the two, click here. Your vulva could use a mild soap to wash off sweat and other bodily fluids. Your vagina balances itself, so no soap should go inside. If your discharge is fishy or yeasty, see a doctor – don’t reach for the douche. Douching makes existing vaginal conditions, like yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis, worse by altering your natural pH level. Your diet, foreign bacteria and not wearing breathable panties can wreak all sorts of havoc on your nether region.
The term ‘feminine hygiene’ implies that menstruation is unclean. It also disregards those who have vaginas, but don’t identify as feminine. Several menopausal women have lost the fought to ovarian and uterine cancers after years of powdering with talc products (baby powder) – found to unknowingly carry the carcinogen asbestos. Tampons can trigger Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a deadly condition that increases with higher absorbency products. They are also loaded up with chemicals that do double-duty as endocrine disruptors. To avoid these risks, consider products like menstrual cups and Thinx underwear; they are just two of many sustainable period alternatives.
So what do you really need to take care of your private parts? The answer is simple. A mild soap, safe menstrual products and a whole lot of self love for your natural self.