Summer Hygiene Tips For “Down There”
Posted On May 29, 2016
Each season comes with a unique set of health challenges. The increased heat and sun exposure during summer can lead to dehydration and sunburn. However, along with drinking lots or water and slathering on sunscreen, it’s important for women to be informed on how to deal with other health issues they may face during the summer, especially “down there”.
For advice on how to handle everything from bikini line hair removal to vaginal odor to getting your period at the beach, we turned to Dr. Maria Sophocles, MD of Women’s Healthcare of Princeton.
Removing excess hair from your bikini line is always a top priority before showing off that new swimsuit but what is the best method to avoid infection or irritation? Not shaving, according to Dr. Sophocles. “Shaving is the highest risk method in terms of getting infections. Shaving, especially against the grain, makes tiny micro-cuts and there is more chance for bacteria to invade, leading to bumps or redness. If you are going to shave, don’t shave against the grain.”
Dr. Sophocles recommends either waxing or using a depilatory like Nair. She said, “Using Nair is always going to be less likely to give you irritation or boils or red bumps since the hair is removed without physical abrasion.” Though it can be expensive, Dr. Sophocles favors laser treatment for hair removal but it’s important to stay out of the sun while receiving the treatment. Since the process takes 4-6 treatments every 4-6 weeks, she likes to get her patients started in October so they won’t face sun exposure and can do it over the course of six months. She said, “If anyone is going to do it now, they are going to have to be very good about staying out of the sun.”
When it comes to avoiding yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis, Dr. Sophocles says it’s important to practice good vulvar hygiene that allows air to circulate around the vulva and the vagina. She said, “Yeast like dark, hot, moist environments so when you exercise, you want to get out of your tight exercise clothes as soon as possible. If you are wearing a wet bathing suit, you want to get that off and put a dry suit on as quickly as possible. It’s even better to change into cotton underwear. Most bathing suits are not cotton and cotton breathes much better than nylon. Even being in a dry bathing suit is worse than putting on cotton underwear.”
She continued, “When people are home, I encourage them to throw a maxi skirt on and go without underwear since that’s the best way to ensure that air can circulate and you can also be covered and appropriate. Same with sleeping, you don’t want to sleep in underwear but rather in pajama bottoms or something that is loose-fitting.”
Other ways of preventing bacterial vaginosis include reducing stress and practicing smart sexual practices such as frequently changing condoms and cleaning sex toys. Dr. Sophocles also suggests packing two or three pairs of underwear and changing into them throughout the day as well as using vaginal wipes like Refresh to cleanse and maintain the PH balance in the vagina.
No one likes to get her period before hitting the pool or the beach but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Instead of using tampons, Dr. Sophocles expressed her preference for the menstrual cup. She said, “Feminine cups like the Diva cups are always a neat option because they can really hold a lot of blood and you can keep them in all day long safely without worry about toxic shock syndrome like with tampons. They are a really underused option that’s perfect for a day at the beach. You can wear it all day long, go home at the end of the day, shower, pull it out, rinse it off and put it back in. It’s totally reusable. Marathon runners and women with long shifts at work use them all the time. Though some people may think it’s kind of gross since you have to wash out the blood, if you can get the courage up to use them, I’ve found that people end up loving them.”
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