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Vulvar Care

Although these recommendations are for women with chronic vulvar skin problems, many of them are applicable to all women.

  • Avoid soap or use mild fragrance-free Dove, or Cetaphil soap. Do not use washcloths; pat dry after bathing.
  • Avoid daily panty liner use because they don't allow the skin to breathe; if that is not possible, use unscented brands. Consider organic pads or tampons. Tampons are safe to use when your vulva is irritated. You can find washable organic cotton panty liners from www.gladrags.com.
  • Use soft white unscented toilet paper.
  • Use fragrance-free laundry detergent. Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets, especially for underwear.
  • Avoid douches, using perfumes to the vulvar area, feminine hygiene sprays, and baby wipes.
  • Avoid all commercial over-the-counter itch products, as they can be very irritating. If necessary, use 1% hydrocortisone ointment.
  • Use all-cotton underwear, not just cotton crotch. Avoid thongs and try to keep your underwear loose.
  • Avoid panty hose because they are very constricting and do not allow the skin to breathe. Try knee-highs or thigh-highs. You can try cutting the crotch out of pantyhose if necessary.
  • If you have trouble cleaning after a bowel movement, try liquid Cetaphil soap or mineral oil placed on toilet paper to help remove feces. DON'T RUB. Stool left on the skin can be exceedingly irritating.
  • Urine leakage can also be a source of vulvar irritation. If this is a problem, try buying sanitary pads made especially for urinary incontinence (Depends, Poise).
  • Avoid sitting in a wet bathing suit, and change out of sweaty exercise clothes promptly.
  • Vaseline is a wonderful lubricant to use after bathing, especially for postmenopausal women or younger women with ongoing vulvar skin problems. Crisco is another option.
  • For intercourse we recommend olive oil as a lubricant. Over-the-counter lubricants are fine if they don't irritate the skin or vagina. If you do get irritated with an over-the-counter product, then try an alternative. Avoid lubricants that "heat on contact."
  • If you are feeling irritated, a warm tub bath can be very soothing. Do not put anything in the tub water. Alternatively, you could try a freezer gel pack kept in the refrigerator, wrapped in a washcloth, and placed against the vulva. Cold plain yogurt on a maxipad is also very soothing.
  • Some common vaginal and vulvar irritants: soaps, perfumes, feminine hygiene sprays, minipads, toilet paper with color/fragrance, talcum powder, laundry products, baby wipes, alcohol, douches, spermicides, washcloths, male hygiene products (aftershave, etc), nylons, underwear, makeup, deodorants, stool, and providone iodine (found in some douches).
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