Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team

When it comes to women’s nether regions and how to properly care for them, confusion and misinformation often leads the conversation. One of the biggest misconceptions has to do with terminology. There is the vulva and there is the vagina — but which is which? While the latter is often used as a blanket term for anything and everything down there, that’s a common mistake. The term “vagina” actually refers to the inner canal that connects your uterus to your vulva, whereas “vulva”refers to the external part of the genitalia.


Why is this distinction important? Well, it’s useful to know when we talk about the do’s and don’t’s of feminine hygiene. For instance, you should never use soap inside your vagina because it can mess with your PH levels (plus, it’s already self-cleaning) but it’s perfectly fine to use a mild or unscented soap on your vulva if you feel the need. Besides soap, there are a number of products that are either unnecessary or downright dangerous to your vaginal health.

Let’s talk about them.

Feminine Wipes

In a world where there is such a thing as toilet paper, feminine wipes are not just unnecessary but also possibly harmful to both yourself and the planet. Besides the fact that they’re not biodegradable, feminine wipes also mess with your natural PH balance and contain chemicals that have been linked to cancer and fertility problems. Some women have reported side effects like itching, burning, rashes, and even UTI’s (Urinary Tract Infections).

The idea that vaginas must smell like a bed of flowers is yet another unattainable, ridiculous standard for women. Your vagina’s natural smell has an important function, as it can indicate whether things are flying smoothly or if you need to get a check-up ASAP. Vaginas don’t smell like flowers because they’re not rolling hills, they’re baby-birthing volcanoes. Embrace that power.

Dessert Fare

Sensual? Maybe. Hygienic? Not so much. Turning your vaj into a dessert table may sound like fun, but the cleanup is sure to cause a headache. Syrups, whipped creams, and other dessert-like substances tend to be loaded with sugars, which can irritate the skin and seriously mess with your natural bacteria, leading to an infection. What’s so sexy about that?

Cheap/DIY Sex Toys

Toys can be a great addition to your sex life, whether you’re flying solo or with a partner, but they can also be a little pricey. However, splurging on a good sex toy can make a big (no pun intended) difference in terms of how pleasurable and effortless your experience will be. However, Top-of-the-line sex toys — like Lioness Vibrators, Dame’s Eva II and Fin, and others — can last for years, often are rechargeable, and can help you learn about your orgasms to increase your pleasure in the long run. For Lioness, enter code Pandia and you’ll get 15% off through September.

While you’re saving up or anxiously waiting for yours to arrive, resist the urge to get creative (with toys, at least). Food and household items, which are not cleaned routinely and may contain chemicals and bacteria, are a definite no —especially vegetables, which might have pesticides on them and may break off during usage and mold inside your vagina. You should also be wary of cheap sex toys, because they can be made out of inferior-quality materials that may also contain chemicals and melt or change colors over time.

Tight Underwear/Yoga pants

When your clothes leave little to no breathing room and restrict airflow to your vagina, they trap moisture from sweat and other bodily fluids, which can result in irritation or a buildup of yeast. You especially want to make sure to change out of clothes that are damp, like gym apparel after a sweaty workout or your swimsuit after you’ve been in the pool. Not doing so could lead to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis (the flip side of a yeast infection). Yuck.

Above all, watch out for misleading advertising and labels that read like a crazy chemist’s lab experiment. Just stick to natural, well-made products instead. Your vagina will thank you.

Non-Organic Tampons

While there are many pros and cons for both organic and non-organic tampons, the main point is that keeping one in longer than 8 hours is dangerous as you could suffer from toxic shock syndrome — there are steps you can take to ensure your safety if tampons are what you’re most comfortable with. Make sure to be hyper-vigilant about how often you change your tampon and go with the organic kind instead of mass-produced brands that could contain harmful chemicals.

Disclaimer:The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.