1. Wearing underwear when you sleep
A recent report from Dr Alyssa Dweck revealed that wearing pants to bed could be a slippery slope to a whole bunch of bad situations down there. "I often tell my patients to sleep without underwear," Dr Dweck explains. "If [the area] is constantly covered— especially by a fabric that's not moisture-wicking or absorbent—moisture collects, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria or yeast." If you find it uncomfortable or you're in a situation where you really can't go sans pants (hello, shared hotel room), choose a breathable cotton pair with a loose fit—which is a good rule of thumb all the time, tbh.
2. Washing with harsh products
Your vagina is a sensitive soul—it has a delicate PH balance that keeps it healthy and functioning as it should. Washing with chemical-loaded products can upset this balance, a change which can potentially lead to infections such as bacterial vaginosis. To be on the safe side, avoid perfumed soaps and shower gels, ditch any scented wipes, and don't use any products internally. And no, you definitely don't need to douche. Your vagina is basically designed to clean itself, so it doesn't need a helping hand from a scented upwards spray.
3. Not drying yourself properly after a shower
If you're in a rush in the morning, or trying to squeeze in a lunch hour gym sesh, it's tempting to just shove your clothes back on over a half-dry body, but experts are speaking out against the awkward damp shuffle (and not just because it feels pretty gross). Any noticeable increase in moisture makes your vagina a perfect breeding ground for yeast infections and can lead to other uncomfortable conditions like chafing, so leave getting dressed to the last minute, and make sure everything is fully dry before you put on your pants.
4. Using home remedies
A 2015 study from Ovarian Cancer Action showed that women aged 18-24 are four times less likely to visit the doctor for any sexual health concerns than older women, with 66% saying they'd be embarrassed to even utter the word vagina to a healthcare professional. It's therefore unsurprising that 57% said they'd rather turn to Google over their doctor, but popular home remedies for vaginal infections (for instance, the infamous yogurt tampon for thrush) can not only fail to cure the problem, occasionally, they can even exacerbate it. Even if you have to endure a few blushes, you should always seek to advice of your doctor if you're worried about any intimate symptoms—they really have seen it all before.
5. Using lube that isn't… well, lube
Vaseline and other similar bathroom cupboard staples may seem like a good idea in the heat of the moment, but spoiler alert: long-term, they're not. Lube is labeled as such because it's been tested and is safe for internal use—anything that wasn't specifically developed for this purpose can, once again, cause infection. FYI, it's generally best to choose a water-based lubricant, as these are safest for use with condoms and least likely to cause irritation.
6. Removing all of your pubic hair
This is more of a suggestion than a diehard rule, because you can go full Hollywood and still have a totally healthy vagina. This said, hair grows in that area for a reason—it's a natural barrier of protection, so removing it leaves you more susceptible to infection, and according to research, may even make you more vulnerable to STDs. Not only this, but common hair removal routines such as shaving and waxing can lead to irritated hair follicles, ingrown hairs, cuts, abscesses and increased friction to the skin, so the natural look cuts all of these risk factors out. If you really want to remove it, always trim the hair beforehand and use the gentlest method possible to minimize damage.
7. Drinking through it?!
It's a new one on us, but apparently there's an on/off internet trend for vodka-soaked tampons—women are putting them up their hoohas, thinking it'll get them drunk faster and without the calories. Hmmm. To be honest, we're hoping it's just an urban myth, but if you've read about this boozy party trick and are thinking of giving it a go, you need to reconsider. "Consuming" alcohol in this way means it goes direct to your blood, with no stomach acid to temper it, and no matter how drunk you get this way, you won't be able to be sick and get it out of your system—even to the point of alcohol poisoning. Stay safe and sip your drink responsibly instead. Trust us, your vagina and your bloodstream will thank you for it.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.