There’s always a debate on whether you should wash or wipe your butt and vagina after a bowel movement or peeing. If not water, many people use toilet paper to keep the bottom clean. And for vaginal health, some women also go for douching, wet wipes or baby wipes. Many might argue that since baby wipes are safe for their little ones, they could be used by adults too. But that might not be true. An expert shares why you should not use baby wipes on your vagina.
Children are born with a delicate skin, and parents have been using baby wipes for long for cleaning the little ones. But using baby wipes on the vagina requires caution even though they seem to be convenient for quick clean-ups, says Dr Teji Dawane, Senior Consultant, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Whitefield, Bengaluru.
Side effects of using baby wipes on vagina
If we talk about intimate feminine hygiene products, the list is long. Some women use them for cleanliness or to control vaginal odour. But turns out, the vagina is self-cleaning and using products like baby wipes to clean down there can have some unwanted side effects.
Here are some of the side effects –
1. Irritation and redness
Baby wipes often contain fragrances, preservatives, and other chemicals that may irritate the sensitive vaginal tissues, leading to redness, itching, and discomfort, says the expert.
2. Altered pH balance
A baby’s vagina at birth is pH (potential of hydrogen) neutral then the body starts to make vaginal flora that makes it acidic. The slightly acidic pH helps to maintain a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria. As per a 2021 study published in the US National Library of Medicine, the normal vaginal pH for women who are yet to reach the menopause phase ranges from 3.8 to 5.0. And when you use baby wipes down there, they can disrupt the pH balance. This in turn will make the vaginal area more susceptible to yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.
3. Increased risk of infections
The use of baby wipes on the vagina can introduce harmful bacteria or irritants. This can potentially increase the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) or other infections.
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4. Allergic reactions
You can be allergic to certain food items or even cat hair. The same goes for baby wipes. Some women may be sensitive to the ingredients found in baby wipes, leading to allergic reactions that further exacerbate discomfort and irritation.
Baby wipes can strip the natural moisture from the vaginal area. This can then lead to dryness and discomfort down there, Dr Dawane tells Health Shots. Then you will look for ways to get rid of vaginal dryness.
Baby wipes vs intimate wipes for vagina
Both baby wipes and intimate wipes are designed for different purposes and have their own considerations.
Baby wipes may contain fragrances and contents like benzoic acids and lipophilic acids that can disrupt the vaginal ecosystem. While they are generally intended for use on a baby’s skin, they are not ideal for cleaning the vaginal area due to the potential for irritation and pH disruption.
Some wipes are specifically formulated for intimate hygiene and are designed to maintain the natural pH balance of the vaginal area. These wipes are typically free from harsh chemicals and fragrances, making them a more suitable option for occasional use if needed. However, even with intimate wipes that are formulated for the vaginal area, it’s important to use them sparingly and avoid overuse.
But if you still wish to use baby wipes, make sure that they mostly contain water (90 percent of highly purified or reverse osmosis water), suggests the expert.
Tips to keep vagina clean
Maintaining vaginal hygiene is very important, but go for gentle and appropriate methods.
Here are some tips –
1. Warm water
Cleaning the vaginal area with warm water during showers is often sufficient to maintain cleanliness without disrupting the pH balance.
2. Unscented soap
If necessary, use a mild, unscented soap that is specifically formulated for intimate hygiene. But make sure to rinse thoroughly so that there is no residue.
3. Cotton underwear
Wearing breathable, cotton underwear helps to keep the vaginal area dry and reduce the risk of moisture-related issues. So, always wear the right underwear.
4. Proper wiping technique
It might be surprising for you, but there is a wiping technique that you should follow. While using the restroom, always wipe your butt from front to back so that the bacteria from the anus doesn’t reach the vaginal area.
Also, stay hydrated, maintain a balanced diet and practice safe sexual habits for your vaginal health.