What does self-care encompass for you? Does it involve things like journaling, getting a massage, or a mani-pedi? Caring for your mind and pampering parts of your body, right? If so, you are off to a good start. But as we settle into the winter months, something many women neglect in their routine is their vagina.
Since the first days of taking sexual education in school, the way we have been taught to learn more about the ins and outs of the vagina and vulva have been framed as taboo. This has caused there to be some shame and misconceptions on how to properly take care of it during adolescence and throughout adulthood. But if we know about the benefits of skin regimens, proper hair care routines, exercising, and spiritual practices, it should not be lost on us that there are benefits to normalizing vaginal wellness as well.
And we’re not talking about the trendy things, like vaginal rejuvenation, a labiaplasty, waxing, and laser hair removal. Instead, we’re referring to healthy practices one can do for their vagina on a regular basis. As we bundle up more during this time of year, incorporating wellness routines for the vagina will help you to get to know yourself better, and give you more confidence in knowing what works for her specifically.
According to Sex(Pot) therapist Danielle Simpson-Baker, and Cynthia M. Wesley, MD, a board-certified OBGYN and founder/CEO of Beauty Below, the first step in building vaginal wellness is to educate yourself on what the vagina is, the difference between it and the vulva, and the wonders of it all. From there, the following routines will allow you to better care for the love below and show it some tender love and care.
Look At It
If you want to be intentional about taking care of your vulva and vagina, you have to start looking at it. Simpson-Baker recommends coming face to face with the organ and embracing all the emotions that come up. “Become familiar with your own vagina. Take the time to sit back, prop up on your bed or on the floor, take a mirror or use the camera on your phone and look at your vulva,” she says. “Spread the lips apart, look at your clitoris, look at your vagina, and get familiar. I know that is not something that is ever taught in school, but it is an important part of self-care and sexual wellness.”
Talk to an OBGYN
“First I would say get an OBGYN that you trust and you can build a steady relationship with. Health is wealth and that goes for down there as well. You need to be getting regular pap smears and consistent check-ups,” Simpson-Baker says. When it comes to our bodies and we notice things are not feeling right, we go to the doctor. It is very similar to when it comes to our vagina. It is best to speak to a professional who can tell you better solutions to anything that may concern you about what’s happening down there. Whether it is about the right products to use for hygiene or seeing certain things that may be abnormal, a trusted gynecologist should always be in your network for your vaginal wellness needs.
Exfoliate and Moisturize
When it comes to our faces, most of us know to regularly use moisturizer and exfoliate. Wesley suggests that we use that same mindset for our “intimate face” as well. “If you’re not getting rid of those dead skin cells, then everything gets clogged up and you end up with ingrown hairs,” she says. “Some women may say, ‘I have hair down there, I don’t need to exfoliate.’ Well yes and no. Everyone can exfoliate. If you do have hair, exfoliating a couple of times a week is fine. For those who don’t have hair, you need to be a little more aggressive with maintaining healthy skin down there. The healthiest thing to do is to not remove the hair. But if you do, women with no hair from shaving or waxing should exfoliate at least twice a week. As far as moisturizing, you can moisturize daily.”
Let Her Breathe
We have heard that it is not a good idea to wear thongs or g-strings, because they can be harmful to the vagina. However, “granny panties” aren’t completely harmless either. Based on her expertise, Wesley acknowledges that there are times to wear the right undergarments and there are times to wear nothing at all. “When we talk about undergarments, it is not that you need to wear large cotton underwear. What is important is that the vaginal center/seat is cotton,” she says. “You can still wear the cuter undergarments if you prefer. But in the winter time, since we are usually bundled up, it is good to practice at night not wearing any underwear and just let her breathe when you’re going to bed.” Things can get stuffy down there when you keep everything covered up. So adding some moments when your vagina can air out will feel like a relief for you and her.
Simpson-Baker says that having sex with yourself is a part of self-love. “I know that this is a touchy subject for a lot of people for multiple reasons. But if it is accessible to you, I recommend you try and masturbate as much as you can,” she shares. “Pleasure is our birthright. People don’t tell you that but it is. We are on this earth to feel good. Sexual pleasure for vaginas is not something that is apparent for us. It is something that we have to advocate for. I feel like if you do not know what it feels like for you personally, then you are not able to advocate for yourself with other partners. So one of the best ways to know what works for you personally is learning about it for yourself. Masturbating, experimenting with self-pleasure, or experimenting with different sensations helps you communicate with your partner what your needs are.”
She adds, ”If someone is a trauma survivor, and this feels like they are pushing too much with getting familiar with their vulva, we do not want you to get too far in the practice. Do not retraumatize yourself. Do as much as you can and do not force anything you are uncomfortable with.”