YANAD, but talk to me about feminine wash
March 21, 2013 10:05 PM   Subscribe

Is it necessary? Why or why not? If it is, what for and when?

Sorry if the question is kind of general-sounding, but I'm just curious if it's one of those products that has become commonly used because of advertising propaganda or if there's really any merit to it. So, what are risks of using feminine wash? What are the risks of NOT using feminine wash?

Links to credible sources appreciated, or references, maybe, to what your doctor has said.
posted by bigasthesky to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No. Bad. Do not use.

There is no medical or health benefit to douching. And douches cause increased discharge and appear to make women more vulnerable to vaginal infections and irritation.

Use plain water and if you like, a mild soap in moderation.

If you google "douche" with "medical" or other similar terms, you'll find that medical professionals recommend against the practice. For example, this review says, The weight of the evidence today suggests that stronger regulations for vaginal douche products may be indicated, including ingredient control, clearer labeling, and a required statement on product advertisements and on the products themselves that douche products have no proven medical value and may be harmful.
posted by latkes at 10:15 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely not necessary, and a lot of times does more harm than good. Vulvas don't need soap of any kind, just a thorough washing with warm water in the shower. Soaps and cleansers (as well as douches and such) can disrupt the pH levels in your vagina, and irritate your urethra and skin.

If ever faced with an 'off' scent that isn't solved with normal washing, it's more likely that a doctor visit would solve it (in the case of a bacterial infection or yeast infection) rather than a 'feminine wash.'

Best to leave your lady parts to do their own thing unless there's a medical issue at hand.
posted by rachaelfaith at 10:15 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here, have a government source on women's health about douching. Basically, avoid it if you can. It's associated with certain women's health problems, but it's hard to say if it's causing them or if women who have those problems use it because of their problems, though it certainly doesn't seem to *help* those problems in general, and there are other problems that are suspected to be caused by it.

While douching as a practice is really old, it really kicked into gear when advertising really started. So there's some horrifying history there, such as perky campaigns convincing women to flush out their ladybits with...Lysol, ugh shudder.
posted by foxfirefey at 10:17 PM on March 21, 2013

Douching is a bad idea.
posted by asperity at 10:18 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Full disclaimer: I am a dude, but my girlfriend used to use this stuff (it was called Femicleanse or something, it wasn't a douche, it was just a lady-bits liquid soap) for ages and used to get thrush and UTIs pretty frequently. She stopped using it about a year ago and hasn't had thrush or a UTI since. Legend has it that vaginas are self-cleaning. Like, umm, ears.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 10:23 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

The first time I was at my current GYN (super fancy, highly reviewed NYC GYN who takes my insurance and I feel like a Real Housewife when I go to her), she asked me how I washed. I said, "bar soap" She said "yay! good!"

Sometimes I use the super gentle, it could be baby's tears Ivory stuff, but I usually use deodaranty-man-like soap (Dial/Lever 2000/etc). What I buy depends on what's on sale. No matter what soap, all is well in the "down there" department. I do make sure to rinse thoroughly. Never had a UTI or yeast infection but now that I typed that out, I'll probably get one next week.

I'm 34, been washing this way since my mom trusted me not to drown in the tub.

thank you, askmefi, for making me talk about these things after a couple "holy crap I had a shitty day" drinks
posted by AlisonM at 10:26 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Further info on the marketing of feminine wash products, from the Boston Women's Health Book Collective and Stephen Colbert.
posted by asperity at 10:27 PM on March 21, 2013

It's nothing but advertising propaganda and it is 100% unnecessary at all times, full stop.

Risks to using it: increased incidence of vaginitis and yeast infections due to altered pH, general irritation of the vaginal canal and vulva due to the presence of chemical perfumes and fragrances, having your vagina smell and taste like one of those nasty tree-shaped car air fresheners people hang from their rear-view mirror, and last but certainly not least, buying into the frankly misogynist bullshit that your vagina is for some reason supposed to smell and taste like nasty tree-shaped car air freshener.

Risks to not using it: none.

Source: I am a registered nurse and my entire career has involved assessing vaginas for health.
posted by jesourie at 10:28 PM on March 21, 2013 [42 favorites]

I'm not really sure it is even that commonly used.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:32 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whether you're talking about douche or the vulva-wash, the answer is no, not necessary, ever.
posted by desuetude at 10:38 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree, commercial feminine wash things, definitely not ever. If you are getting mild irritation and have seen a doctor and it's not thrush (yeast infection) or similar, douching with a mild warm salt water solution was recommended to me by a gyn when I was having problems. Worked like a charm.

If you want a nice impressive-sounding article explaining why douching is bad, here's one.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:51 PM on March 21, 2013

There are (or at least used to be) washes specifically for cleaning up silicone-based lube, which can be a UTI/yeast trigger for some people. If it's a problem, you should check into that (often available wherever high-end lube is sold), but note I am not talking about the same stuff used to clean silicone lube off toys. Use it if you need it, don't if you don't. Most of the time, a nice cleanser (face-quality) is sufficient for vulva cleanup.

The vagina itself is largely a self-cleaning mechanism, and wants no interference. It's like eyes, you don't want to be putting a lot of stuff in there that doesn't belong.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:18 PM on March 21, 2013

I have very sensitive skin that is allergic, all over and especially between my legs, to anything but the most pure hypoallergenic of soaps. I use the mildest bar soap all over my body, but I find it too drying & irritating for my pussy.

While I don't think it is ever neccessary and I'm not trying to shame anyone who doesn't, I prefer to wash my genitals before sex, or, you know, have done so in the pretty recent past. I have never ever had a lick of trouble from Sweet Spot Feminine Wash. Even the scented ones. BOO SOAP naysayers shall notice that is has been developed so that it doesn't throw off vaginal ph levels.

So, I guess my answer is that don't feel obligated to use anything and don't use like 99% of stuff out there, but if you have something that works for you there's nothing wrong with it.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:23 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have never bought any of these products, so obviously they're not necessary, as I can happily do without. The vagina is self cleaning, the vulva is not; I wash my vulva with plenty of warm water every day. After or before sex, or during heavy period days, sometimes it's nice to do some extra washing; in that case, too, water is enough for me.
I'm sexually active, healthy and not prone to infections at all, or so I think, because I don't get them.

I don't think anything but water is needed in general to keep the female genitals clean. But of course, some of us do prefer to use a mild soap on our vulvas. In most cases, that is apparently fine. I've never tried it myself.

As so often, Scarleteen is a good source.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:25 AM on March 22, 2013

I'm not even a girl, but what the heck. The Public Radio show/podcast Backstory covered this in a recent episode on the history of cleanliness. Douching was originally a method of contraception, and when better methods (the diaphragm, specifically) made it obsolete, manufacturers started marketing it for cleanliness or by provoking anxiety about what your man might think about how you smell. It's all bullshit.
posted by jon1270 at 3:39 AM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have a vagina. The only men who have ever commented negatively about my *lady bits (the nerve!) turned out to be assholes in nearly every regard. I need to get better at filtering for that before we take our pants off. YMMV.

As a thought expediment, vaginas and noses are mucous membranes. I find a good test to be 'would I put that in my nose and swish it around?'

*Washed with water, daily. I leave the hair where it grows. Make of that what you will.
posted by bilabial at 4:35 AM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Feminine washes are pitched towards reducing odor, mainly. Some people are just freaked out that the rest of them smells like Mango Fruity Sparkly Wash, but then their...y'know, that bit....smells like....well, not like Mango Fruit Sparkly Wash, it smells like...y'know like *sex*.

Personally, I see that as a feature and not a bug. I never got the memo that I was supposed to worry about potential feminine odor; the couple times that things seemed noticeably off, a trip to the doctor cleared that up, but other than that...look, I'm not a lilac, I am a human woman, and that bit on human women smells that way and that's just that. Besides, the thing that I always heard was that guys actually like the smell of a human woman, and who am I to disappoint them?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:07 AM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

From a very recent Reuters Health article:

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Two thirds of women in a new U.S. study reported regularly using cleansers, lubricants or petroleum jelly intravaginally - and some of the products were linked to a higher chance of common vaginal infections.

Those mundane yeast and bacterial infections, and the inserted products themselves, can damage vaginal tissue and raise a woman's susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes, chlamydia and HIV, researchers said.

posted by discopolo at 6:13 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Argh, no. Never. Keep those things away from your junk.

Warm water is all you need. Potentially some very delicate soap occasionally, no fragrances! NO FRAGRANCES.
posted by lydhre at 6:32 AM on March 22, 2013

Lots of people have read "feminine wash" as "douching" and I really doubt douches are what's being inquired after here. There are lots of little bottles of soap being sold now as "feminine wash," for external genitalia cleaning.

There was nothing like that on the market not very many years ago, which is pretty much always your big clue that it's totally unnecessary at best. It is not necessary or useful for the same reason that a specialty ear or toe wash is not necessary or useful. No point at all to the product.

It is such a stupid and, frankly, offensive product that I would be mortified to have a bottle in my house. I think possession of such an item implies not "good hygiene" but "credulous dupe, clueless about hygiene." So one of the risks of using it is probably that people in the know will lulz at you if they see it by your tub.
posted by kmennie at 7:21 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ok people here are freaking unnecessarily.

You do not need a separate bottle in the shower to wash your junk. I like the "feminine washes" on the market today because they are formulated to be gentle enough for your junk, but reall yall it is is gentle body wash. If you want to use something other than water on your junk, just replace your body wash with a feminie wash and use it all over your body. In case you're interested, individually wrapped feminine wipes are the best thing ever if you often have to use the bathroom when hot at home and keep wet wipes at home.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:46 AM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

It rather depends on what you mean by 'feminine wash', and what it contains - I suspect that there's a great variety hidden under the term. For general washing of your external genitalia plain, unscented soap is the first choice. If you have had any irritation or similar problems, then using an emollient instead of a soap (the same as if you had eczema) would be advised. Both of these solutions are almost certainly much cheaper than anything specifically marketed as feminine wash!
posted by Coobeastie at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2013

I have never even heard of the stuff you are talking about, I don't think it has hit Australia. Our junk is doing A OK over here!
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:32 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

What you don't want is the Dr. Bronner's peppermint (or so I am informed). Unless you're into that.

But seriously for a second...in the summertime the place is like an armpit. So just take whatever soap you normally use (except as mentioned above) and wash the non-mucous-membrane parts of the facility. Leave the mucous membranes, what I guess you'd call the cunt proper, alone. If you take a bath as opposed to a shower, all this is resolved for you.
posted by skbw at 2:01 PM on March 23, 2013

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