10 Simple Tips for a Healthy Vagina

Learn expert-approved ways to achieve optimal health and hygiene.

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Updated on May 9, 2023.

If you have a vagina, chances are at some point you will develop a yeast infection and/or bacterial vaginosis (BV). These conditions are so common that around 3 in 4 people with a vagina will have a yeast infection and 1 in 3 will get BV at some point in their life (both conditions are most common during the reproductive years). These infections occur when too much yeast or infection-causing bacteria outgrow the healthy bacteria, called lactobacillus, in the vagina. Practicing healthy hygiene habits can help prevent such infections, says Catherine Bagley, DO, an OBGYN with Henrico Doctors Hospital in Richmond, Virginia.

Here are 10 steps you can take to help support vaginal health:

Be mindful about hygiene products. Though scented soaps and body washes may be soothing for your mood, they can irritate your vagina. Always wash the external genitals (the vulva) with very mild hypoallergenic soap, and only use warm water—never soap—on the inside portions of the vulva, advises Bagley.

As with bath products, use unscented pads and tampons, and change them every 4 to 8 hours.

Watch the way you wipe. Always wipe from front to back, so you don’t transmit bacteria from the anus into the vagina, says Bagley.

Clean your genitals for sex. Wash your vulva before and after sexual contact, says Bagley. Also ask your partner to clean their genitals before intercourse. If digital penetration is a part of your sex life, make sure you both have clean hands.

Stay dry. To prevent yeast infections, change out of damp clothes such as wet bathing suits and sweaty workout attire as quickly as possible. You should also wash sweaty clothes after each use, rather than re-wearing them for your next gym session. Also, avoid soaking in hot tubs and very hot baths, which can increase your risk for infection.

Snack on probiotics. Some research suggests that eating yogurt with "live and active cultures”— particularly probiotics like Lactobacillus—may help ward off yeast infections. Probiotics can also be found in fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, or kimchi. If you’re vegan, you can get probiotics from some plant-based yogurts (check the labels).  Keep in mind that more studies are needed to confirm the effect of probiotics.

Choose your underwear wisely. “The best thing for your vagina is to wear all-cotton, unbleached underwear,” says Bagley. (Then wash in hot water to kill off any bacteria.) Fabrics such as polyester and lace can keep air from circulating and lock in moisture that promotes the breeding of bad bacteria. Pants or leggings that are too tight can also trap heat and moisture, increasing the risk for infection.

Keep track of discharge. Everyone’s body is different and it is typical to have various types of vaginal discharge throughout the month, especially if it’s clear or a yellowish color, explains Bagley. But a white, cottage-cheese-like discharge is often a sign of a vaginal infection, especially if it is accompanied by burning and intense itching that gets worse at night. Check in with your healthcare provider (HCP) immediately if you notice green discharge and pelvic pain coupled with a foul, fishy odor or lesions on the inside of the vagina or on the vulva, says Bagley.

For wipes, shop in the baby aisle where it may be easier to find ones that are unscented and free from harsh ingredients. If you prefer using wipes to clean your vagina—or to carry with you in case the public restroom is out of toilet paper—look for ones that are labeled safe for babies, advises Bagley.

Don’t douche. Bagley stresses that simple cleansing is all you need to keep your vagina clean. She warns against overdoing it by using douches, which can remove good bacteria or change the pH balance of the vagina. After altering the bacteria, those healthy microorganisms have to play catch-up to rebalance the vagina’s bacteria flora, Bagley adds.

If you’re having recurrent yeast infections, check with your HCP. They can help you come up with a specific plan for vaginal health and prevent future infections.

Article sources open article sources

InformedHealth.org. Vaginal yeast infection (thrush): Overview. Last updated June 19, 2019.
CDC. Vaginal Candidiasis. Last updated July 13, 2022.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Office on Women's Health. Vaginal yeast infections. Last updated February 22, 2021.
Cleveland Clinic. Bacterial Vaginosis. Last reviewed February 6, 2023.
ACOG. Your Changing Body: Puberty in Girls. Last updated June 2022.
Office on Women’s Health. Vaginal yeast infections. Page last updated: February 22, 2021.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Vulvovaginal Health. Page last reviewed January 2022.
Cleveland Clinic. Yeast infections. Page last reviewed October 26, 2019.
Office on Women’s Health. Douching. Page last reviewed February 21, 2021.

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