Lets Get Intimate
Let’s get Intimate
It’s all about Balance
The vagina in a delicate area of the body that relies of a fine balance of two crucial factors; bacteria and acidity to remain healthy. This balance can be easily disrupted.
The vagina produces natural secretions to regulate and cleanse itself in order to maintain the correct and optimal level of good bacteria acidity to keep the vagina healthy.
Any interference with this delicate balance can result in the growth of bad bacteria.
Your vagina is a battle zone
The battle between good bacteria vs bad bacteria is constantly being fought in your vagina.
The vagina has a natural protective layer which is acidic in nature, to help prevent protect against infection. This layer is maintained when good bacteria called lactobacilli breaks down glycogen contained in the secreted vaginal mucus.
Many lifestyle habits, intimate cleaning methods, sex and medications can kill off the levels of good bacteria in vagina, allowing an onslaught of bad bacteria that can lead to irritation and inflammation.
To keep the vagina healthy it’s crucial to be always winning the battle against bad bacteria taking over the vagina. This means helping the vagina to produce as much good bacteria as possible.
Many women’s daily habits can disturb the vagina’s production of good bacteria.
Unprotected sex or rough sex
Feminine hygiene sprays
Perfumed or chemical washes or soaps used on the vaginal area
Regular use of sanitary towels & tampons
Non breathable and synthetic clothes and underwear
Harsh fabric softener used for underwear
Birth control medications
What goes wrong when the balance is out?
Causes of vaginal infections and intimate skin discomfort can vary greatly but generally the trigger is when the balance of good bacteria and acidity is upset.
The vagina is more acidic than other areas of the skin to make it even more protected from bad bacteria. Good bacteria doesn’t mind a bit of acidity whereas bad bacteria prefers it a little bit more pH neutral.
A healthy vagina has a pH of between 3.5 and 4. If the pH rises above 4.5 it can upset the delicate balance of the vagina and lead to infection.
Water (which from the tap has a pH of 8) can increase the pH balance of the vagina as can creams, washes and lubricants with higher pH than 4.5 will also increase it.
Blood from menstruation and sperm both have a pH above 7 and will push up the pH, which is why women can experience more vaginal health problems during their periods or when having regular sex.
What is a vaginal infection?
A vaginal infection is an inflammation of the vagina characterized by swelling, redness, heat, pain, and an abnormal vaginal discharge which often smells slightly fishy.
Vaginal infections are usually caused either by too much bad bacteria or fungus.
Don’t suffer in silence
Many women simply don’t talk about their vaginal discomfort as they are too embarrassed. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Vaginal infections are an unfortunate but very common part of many women’s lives. Around 75% of women will experience a fungal vaginal infection in their lifetime.
The majority of women will experience at least one vaginal infection, with many women experiencing repeated and regular infections.
Often they are nothing to do with inadequate vaginal hygiene and can be caused by hormonal disruptions, reactions to vaginal washing products, sexual intercourse, sport, stress or a number of other factors.
Vaginal infections are most common in women during their menstruating years.
The key to reducing your risk of getting vaginal infections is be aware of how common they are and how easy they are to get and take daily steps to avoid getting them. The sooner they are caught they easier they are to treat. Or better still, the best cure for vaginal infections is prevention.
What are the two most common vaginal infections?
Vaginal thrush is the most common vaginal infection and is caused by a fungal infection, candida albicans, that lives in the vagina and can multiply and take over if the healthy balance of the vagina is disrupted. Symptoms include itching, burning and a different discharge
Many women get have thrush at a particular time of the month, specifically before menstruation.
Thrush often occurs following a course of antibiotics and is common in women with diabetes.
Treatment consists of anti-fungal creams or vaginal tablets, which are put inside the vagina with a special applicator.
There is also the choice of oral tablets, which are more expensive and not recommended for pregnant women.
However a significant amount of women find that over time these treatments don't work or symptoms recur.
Although some women may find the folk remedy of yoghurt soothing, there is no strong evidence to support its use.
Some recommend formulations such as aci-gel or vinegar to restore the normal pH of the vagina.
But contrary to popular belief, the vaginal pH of women with thrush is usually normal.
Other natural treatments include tea tree oil and garlic.
But using tea tree oil can lead to nasty allergic reactions, while garlic can burn.
The second most common vaginal infection is bacterial vaginosis (BV).
Bacterial vaginosis is caused by groups of bacteria, many of which scientists have still not identified. Evidence suggests that BV is usually contacted via sexual intercourse due to vaginal exposure to bacterial communities with BV-links that live under the male foreskin and at the end of the urine tube. Re-infection is often due to women having sex with the same partner after treatment for BV.
This makes it different from other genital infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, where one bacterium is responsible.
What scientists do know is that BV is associated with a decreased number of good bacteria, known as lactobacilli, and an increase in bad bacteria.
Women with BV are more likely to get sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and herpes – and to transmit or acquire HIV.
Symptoms include a watery, milky discharge and fishy odour coming from the vagina. BV doesn't cause itching.
Current treatment guidelines include oral antibiotic tablets or the insertion of a vaginal antibiotic creams.
These antibiotics have 80 per cent to 90 per cent cure rates one month after treatment. But more than 50% of treated women get BV back again within six months.
No other treatment approaches (longer antibiotic regimens, combinations of different antibiotics or supplementing antibiotics with probiotics to try and restore the healthy vaginal bacterial balance) have resulted in a sustained, long-term cure.
This is likely due to the bacteria causing BV persisting after treatment or because women are being re- infected by their partners.
How to prevent vaginal infections
Keep soaps or perfumed products away from your vagina
Reports show that over 60% of women use body wash products and soaps on intimate areas. These products can upset the delicate balance of the vagina and so should not be used on intimate areas.
In a study on 140 women, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that soaps and shower gels can damage sensitive tissues in the vagina and raise a woman’s chance of becoming infected.
Steer clear of vaginal wipes
Anti-bacterial baby wipes or intimate wipes also literally ‘wipe’ out the vagina’s good bacteria, upsetting the natural balance and letting bad bacteria multiply.
Don’t ‘play’ with lubricants
70% of women use commercial lubricants for sex. However lubricants for ‘sex play, are often flavoured or scented and are not healthy for the vagina.
In addition other products commonly used as sexual lubricants such as Vasaline or oils can also increase the risk of vaginal infections as they are not designed to be used internally in the vagina. In the University of California study they found that 40%of the women who used petroleum jelly as a lubricant had bacterial vaginosis. Comparably 44% of women who reported using oils as sexual lubricants tested positive for thrush.
Go easy on the waxing
Studies also show that Brazilians waxes and other pubic hair removal may boost the risk of viral infection.
Researchers suggest the increased risk for these common infections is due to the removal of pubic hair that houses microbes that have a protective action again bad bacteria.
Increase your vagina’s good bacteria
A new breed of intimate care products now contain prebiotic ingredients that can help promote the growth of good bacteria in the vagina. These products actively help build up the levels of good bacteria in the vagina to keep bad bacteria from entering the sight and keeping a healthy and protective balance.
Keep your vagina at a healthy pH
Use intimate care products with the correct pH balance for vaginal skin, which should be no more than 4.5pH. Products with anything more will disrupt the healthy balance in the vagina and open the risk of infection.
Help your vagina to stay flexible and rejuvenated
Like any area of skin, as we age the vagina also ages and skin becomes drier and less flexible. In addition regular sexual intercourse can also causes wear and tear on the vaginal area.
Cuts and chaffing from sex, sport and general activity can open the vagina up to a greater risk of infection.
It’s crucial for vaginal area to be well maintained and nourished like anywhere else on the body.
That is why nutrient rich anti-ageing ingredients suitable for nourishing and rejuvenated the skin of vaginal area are the next big step in intimate care products. These new ingredients can help to strengthen the vaginal skin and keep it flexible, making it less prone to dryness and damage.