Obviously, your vagina is a pretty important part of your body, and you want to make sure everything is status quo down there. But while you may stress about keeping things fresh and clean, the truth is, your vagina doesn't need to be pampered—there's a healthy balance going on, and too much cleansing and freshening can actually make things much, much worse. Here are a few products that you should keep out of your vagina.
If you're worried about vaginal odor, you may have read about a so-called remedy that involves wearing a tampon dipped in olive oil or tea tree oil. But oils can disrupt the delicate ecosystem in your vag—and honestly, most odors are normal anyway. "The vagina has an amazing ability to take care of itself," says Jenny K. Francis, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics and specialist of adolescent medicine at Columbia University Medical Center at Morgan Stanley Children's New York Presbyterian Hospital. If you're still concerned, skip the homemade vaginal air freshener and call your doc.
2. Deodorant Sprays
Again, your vagina doesn't need to smell like a candle shop, and those feminine hygiene sprays can actually do more harm than good. "The fragrance and the scents associated with those products can cause an irritation to the lining of the vagina," Dr. Francis cautions.
A quick rinse with mild soap is all the hygiene you really need—and stick to the exterior. "It doesn't need to be scrubbed on the inside," Dr. Francis says. If you're prone to infection or irritation, showers might be preferable to baths, especially if you're tempted to fill the tub with oils, fizzies, bubbles, or bath bombs, which can irritate the delicate lining of the vagina.
Your vagina is home to good bacteria that help keep bad bacteria from taking over the place. Douching not only flushes out those good bacteria, it also screws up the natural balance. "When you douche, the pH can change inside the vagina, which is normally a very acidic environment," Dr. Francis says. "That can predispose you to getting vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections."
5. Hair Removal Creams
We get it. Razor burn on your bikini line is the worst. And hair removal creams are generally safe for your bikini line, as long as you choose a cream formulated for sensitive skin and do a test patch to check for redness or swelling. But don't attempt a DIY Brazilian—you definitely want to keep a safe zone between harsh creams and your vagina. "It's a very sensitive area. The mucous membrane is exposed," Dr. Francis says. Stick to shaving or a reputable waxing salon, or just keep it natural—there's no law that says you have to go bare down there.
A little self-exploration is totally normal, but—er, how can we put this delicately?—leave the produce aisle out of the equation. "You're just asking for a problem if you're experimenting with food inside the vagina," Dr. Francis says. "When you introduce food, especially food with sugar, it could act as a base for overgrowth of bacteria and yeast."
So… This is a thing, apparently, with some Hollywood stars reportedly getting their nether regions blasted with herbal steam. Aside from the scary risk of scalding, there's the simple fact that your vagina is not a wrinkled dress and doesn't have to be steam-cleaned. "I would advise against it," Dr. Francis says. "If you're having problems, it's probably because you're giving your vagina too much attention." The fewer products, treatments, and home remedies you introduce down there, the better—so give your vagina a little breathing room and let it do its thing.
This article originally appeared on Seventeen.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.