Vulvar Skin Care

(Reference: Ending Female Pain by Isa Hererra, PT)

  • When is the last time you examined your vulva?
  • As children, the only vulvar care/hygiene that most of us learned was to wipe from front to back
  • Self-examination is a great way to understand your unique anatomy, understand what is normal for you, and is essential in monitoring your vulvar health
  • You should do a self-exam monthly and take note of any changes
  • Track issues like skin irritation, changes in colouration, discharge, pain locations

 

Basic Vulvar Skin Hygiene

 

There are many things you can do to minimize the feel of burning and irritation associated with pelvic pain conditions:

  • Always wipe from front to back to minimize infections
  • Keep the vulva area dry; Pat dry the vulva- do not vigorously rub with towels or toilet paper; if the vulva is irritated, use a blow dryer on a cool setting to let it air dry
  • Sleep in the nude at night; many patients find this helps
  • Avoid irritants such as perfumed soaps, bubble baths, feminine hygiene products and coloured toilet paper; use hypoallergenic laundry detergent, and double rinse your underwear
  • Use underwear without elastics in the legs: “boy shorts” are a good style for vulvar pain
  • NO thongs
  • Do not use Always feminine products because of the dry weave: can get 100% cotton hygiene products and menstrual pads that can be washed; can use cotton disposable feminine hygiene products; tampons must be 100% cotton as well
  • Use the appropriate sized tampon for the flow: lighter absorbency during light days, and super absorbency during heavy days; otherwise, too much normal fluid discharge will be absorbed by your tampon
  • Do not use soap on your vulva: your vagina is a self-cleaning oven: if you must use something other than water, use a cleanser such as Cetaphil or Spectro-Gel
  • Avoid getting shampoo on the vulva
  • Use unscented, white and chlorine-free toilet paper; organic toilet paper if possible
  • After urinating, rinse the vulva with cool to lukewarm water with a spray bottle or squirt bottle
  • Avoid pushing with urination and defecation. Keeping well hydrated will help dilute the urine to minimize irritation, and minimize constipation
  • Avoid douches unless prescribed; they upset the natural balance of organisms in the vagina
  • Avoid chlorinated water and avoid swimming in pools; use a barrier cream if you swim
  • Perform vaginal steams once/week and the day after your menstrual cycle ends

 

Helpful Tips for Relieving Vulvar Pain
  • Zincofax ointment for babies works great on irritated vulvar skin. Apply a small amount of Zincofax ointment to the vulva as needed to protect the skin: Zincofax also works great for women who experience increased friction in the vulvar area with walking
  • Calendula cream applied to the vulvar area will help soothe irritated skin (Health food store): use it on another body part first to make sure that you are not allergic to it. Calendula is derived from a flower and is used to soothe skin inflammation
  • Do not use over-the-counter creams, ointments and anti-yeast medications without consulting your caregiver first: often the itching has nothing to do with a yeast infection. Prescription medications like Diflucan can also get rid of yeast infections without irritating to the vulva-vaginal area
  • Use Vitamin E oil or Coconut oil directly on the vulva and vestibule (entrance) if your skin is dry or irritated
    To soothe vulvar burning, some women find relief by using Witch hazel Pads (TUCS Pads) to areas of discomfort. These pads are also a life saver after giving birth
  • Taking lukewarm to warm baths helps with vulvar itching and burning. Fill the bath tub with a few inches of lukewarm to warm water and add colloidal oatmeal such as Aveeno to help reduce itching. If the Aveeno doesn’t help, then try to add 4 to 5 tablespoons of baking soda to the bath to soothe vulvar itching and irritation
  • Use sitz baths to relieve burning and irritation. A sitz bath is a bath in which the hips and buttocks are submerged. Usually a small basin is used and placed on top of the toilet. After childbirth, using a sitz bath with Epsom Salt can really help reduce pain and prevent infections. You can also steep calendula flowers and add the calendula water to your bath as well
  • Apply a cool compress for 10-15 minutes to the vulva to help decrease pain and irritation. This technique is great if you have had a recent flare-up or severe vulvar pain. An ice pack also helps, particularly after intercourse

 

Vulvar Care and Clothing
  • Avoid wearing pantyhose. Use thigh or knee-high hose instead. Cut the crotch out if you must wear pantyhose.
  • Whenever possible use organic, fragrance-free detergents; avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets
  • Remove wet clothing immediately, especially after swimming and wash the vulvar area with water as soon as possible to avoid burning and inflammation. Use a barrier cream while swimming to minimize contact of the chlorine with the skin
  • Avoid wearing tight jeans and pans and clothes made from synthetic fabrics that capture sweat and increase irritation. Avoid low rider jeans that put pressure on the bladder area.
  • If you sweat in the vulvar area, you can use cornstarch to keep it dry