If you think about it, we've never been told the correct way to be washing our vagina. We know that we shouldn't be washing it too much, but just enough (which is..?) And occasionally products are marketed to us that are especially made for this purpose, but how are we actually supposed to know the best way to look after our sensitive area?
Because of course, some women are very sensitive down below. And wanting to keep it clean and healthy without using products that will leave you feeling irritable is completely normal, but actually, it turns out you may be worrying about it a little bit TOO much.
Glamour spoke to Nancy Herta, M.D, an ob-gyn at Michigan State University, who explained that the vagina is actually pretty good at cleaning itself, simply because it has a low pH, which prevents the growth of bad bacteria. Nancy said:
"It's a delicate balance that makes the vagina hostile to bacteria. If you put stuff in there that changes the pH, you can allow bacteria to overgrow."
So in other words, step away from the shower gel.
Nancy also added that it's completely normal to have vaginal discharge that varies throughout your cycle: "A lot of women think they need to do something about it, but it's part of how your vagina cleans itself."
And as for products that are specifically designed to keep you clean down there? It's probably best to avoid them altogether, says Nancy: "If you douche, it changes the pH, making it higher and allowing other kinds of bacteria to overgrow." Instead, you should use a really mild soap in the shower, then pat the area with a towel, making sure it's completely dry before putting on your underwear, as excess moisture can lead to a yeast infection.
So turns out we're making it far more complicated than it needs to be. Moral of the story? Let your vagina do its own thing.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.