Gynecologist at Gwinnett OB/GYN Associates Traci Johnson told WebMD, “The vagina has a very delicate pH balance that it deals with on its own and so you want to be hesitant to put anything in the vagina that may wash away the good bacteria and therefore let bad bacteria grow.” In case you didn’t already know, the vagina is acidic — that’s a good thing. Your body’s estrogen helps to create and keep an acidic vaginal mucus lining that protects the vagina from harmful outside microorganisms. This lining encourages the growth of your own lactobacilli bacteria while ensuring that other bacteria are kept in check. This acidity and bacteria are what make up your vaginal pH balance.
Products like douches, scented sprays, and steams are marketed as ensuring cleanliness, but can wreak havoc on your body’s natural pH balance and even lead to bacterial infections and/or topical skin irritation. Even worse, since douches are considered cosmetic products, they are not required to be tested for damaging ingredients like antiseptics and hazardous chemicals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
With that being said, it’s important to remember that while your vagina absolutely does not need to be cleaned, your vulva does. The vulva includes the external portions of your genitalia, including your labia. Doctors recommend sticking to natural, unscented soaps to prevent any skin irritation in this sensitive area.