Vaginas are sensitive—they love poetry, a good rom-com, and are easily irritated by harsh chemicals. They’re also very reactive, and will let you know when they’re upset. This will generally take the form of increased discharge and/or changes in smell. Now, before we go any further, it’s important to acknowledge that women are conditioned to feel naturally insecure about their vaginas, to always presume that they are dirty, and to have unrealistic expectations about their appearance and their scent. Let’s get one thing straight: you don’t lay fertilizer down there, so stop expecting it to smell like a rose garden. Your vagina is a part of your human body and that means that it will smell like a part of your human body—not an orange creamsicle or a friggin’ wad of cotton candy. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is not worthy of your time or energy. Capisce?
There are certain smells that can indicate an infection or some other problem with the vagina, however. The intensity of the odors is a good indicator of issues down there, as well. Fishy smells can be an indication of infection, although the odor is almost always accompanied by other symptoms such as burning, itching, irritation, and increased discharge. Yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and other very common infections can affect your vaginal odor and should be brought to the attention of a doctor.
Aside from infections, vaginal odor can increase with sweat after a long day or a workout to a degree that is less than desirable. This is normal and not necessarily an indication of anything more serious—but there are ways to manage that increased odor without putting your vagina at risk.
Virtually all gynecological professionals warn against the use of conventional douches and cleansers that promise users a sweet-smelling vagina. Scented soaps are packed with irritants that adversely affect skin that is particularly sensitive (a la, la vagina) and should be avoided. Soap should never be inserted into the vagina either, although washing with a mild body wash around the vagina and vulva areas is perfectly healthy and can help manage any unwanted vaginal odors. Our body wash, for instance, is fragrance-, paraben-, petroleum-, GMO-, and gluten-free, making it totally safe to care for your most sensitive spots. Same goes for our wipes, when there’s no time for a full shower.
Caring for your vagina means that she will care for you. Remaining vigilant about what you put in and around your vagina will keep her smelling and looking healthy. Go forth and cleanse, my friends!
Written by Emma Glassman-Hughes