Vulvar skin care guidelines

The goal is to promote healthy vulvar skin. You can do this if you reduce or get rid of:

  • Chemicals
  • Moisture
  • Rubbing

We suggest these products and actions because of their past success in helping to lessen or relieve vulvar/vaginal burning, irritation, or itching.

Laundry products

  • Use the detergent brand All Free Clear™ on all laundry that goes into your washer:
    • Use it for each load.
    • Do not substitute.
    • Use 1/3 to 1/2 of the suggested amount of detergent per load.
    • Use the smallest amount of detergent with a high efficiency washer.
    • Rinse your clothes 2 times.
  • Do not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets.
    • You may use dryer balls.
    • Do not use wool dryer balls.
  • Hand wash your underwear if you use a shared washer or dryer (such as a laundromat, apartment, or dorm).
    • Line dry your underwear.

Stain removal products and bleach 

  • If you have used a stain removal product:
    • Soak and rinse in clear water all underwear and towels on which you have used it. 
    • Then wash in your regular washing cycle using All Free Clear™.
    • This removes as much of the product as you can.

Clothing

  • Wear white, all cotton underwear. Cotton lets air in and moisture out. 
  • Do not wear nylon underwear with a cotton crotch. 
  • Do not wear thongs. 
  • Do not wear underwear when sleeping at night. 
    • Wear loose fitting cotton boxers or cotton pajama bottoms are fine.
  • Do not wear pantyhose. 
  • If you must wear pantyhose:
    • Cut out the diamond crotch.
    • Leave about 1/4 inch of fabric from the seam to keep it from running.
    • Wear thigh high hose.
  • Do not wear tight clothing.
  • Do not wear clothing made of synthetic fabrics.
  • Take off wet clothing as soon as you can.

Bathing

  • Do not use bath soaps, lotions, or gels that have perfumes.
    • Even products marked "gentle" or "mild" can have perfumes. 
  • You and all sexual partners should use these soaps:
    • Dove for Sensitive Skin™
    • Neutrogena™
    • Basis™
    • Aveeno™
    • Pears™
  • Do not use soap directly on the vulvar skin.
    • Use warm water.
  • Do not use bubble bath, bath salts, and scented oils.
    • You may use an unscented oil or lotion on skin after bathing. 
  • Do not put lotion on your vulva.
  • Do not scrub vulvar skin with a washcloth.
  • Pat dry.
    • You may use a hair dryer on a cool setting.

Baking soda soaks

  • Do not soak in hot water.
  • Use 4 to 5 tablespoons of baking soda for itching and burning. 
  • Soak 1 to 3 times a day for 10 minutes. 
  • Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking soda if you are using a sitz bath.

Hygiene

  • Use white, unscented toilet paper such as:
    • Scott
    • Angel Soft
    • 7th Generation
  • Do not use toilet paper with aloe.
  • Do not use "ultra-soft" or "ultra-strong" toilet paper.
  • Do not douche.
  • Do not shave or use hair removal products:
    • You may use scissors to trim the pubic hair.
    • You may have laser hair removal.

Personal product hygiene

  • Do not use hygiene sprays, perfumes, adult, or baby wipes.
    • You may use Tucks (witch hazel) hemorrhoid pads.
    • You can use WaterWipes™.
    • You may pour lukewarm water over the vulva while you pee for burning.
  • Do not use deodorized pads and tampons.
  • You may use tampons when your blood flow is able to soak 1 tampon in 4 hours or less.
    • They may cause vaginal infections, more discharge, odor, or rarely, toxic shock syndrome if worn too long or when blood flow is too light.
  • Use pads that have a cotton liner that touches your skin.
    • Do not use pads with a nylon mesh weave.
      • Nylon traps moisture.
    • We suggest using:
      • Stayfree™
      • Carefree™
      • 7th Generation™
    • For urine leakage, use a pad designed to collect urine.

Ointments and creams

  • Do not use over-the-counter creams or ointments until you ask your health care team.
    • Use ointments that are paraben-free and fragrance-free.
  • You may use a skin protectant on your vulva as often as you need. We suggest that you use a thin layer of:
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Vegetable oil
    • Coconut oil
    • Zinc oxide ointment
    • White petrolatum (Vaseline™)
  • It also helps to lower skin irritation during your period and when you pee.

Staying dry

For people who have problems with chronic dampness: 

  • Do not wear pads daily.
  • Choose cotton fabrics when you can.
  • Keep an extra pair of underwear with you and change if you are damp.
  • Gold Bond™ or Zeasorb (AF) ™ powder may be used 1 to 2 times per day to help absorb moisture.
  • Do not use powders with cornstarch.

Sex

  • You may help dryness and irritation during sex by using a lube.
    • Silicone-based lubes such as Uberlube™ work well.
  • Use a small amount of a pure vegetable oil (solid, liquid, or extra virgin olive oil).
  • Over-the-counter water-based lubricants tend to dry out before sex is over.
    • This may cause small tears in your vagina.
    • They may have chemicals that can irritate.
  • You can use a:
    • Non-lubricated, non-spermicidal condom
    • Vegetable oil lube

This will help keep the semen off the skin and reduce burning and irritation after sex.

Birth control options

  • Low-dose oral birth control pills
  • Lubricated and/or spermicidal condoms
  • Contraceptive jellies, creams, or sponges may cause itching and burning.
  • We suggest you use latex condoms with vegetable oil as a lube.
  • Condoms and petroleum-based lubricants may not work as well when used for birth control or to keep from getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that:
    • You do not use condoms with oil-based lubes
      • For birth control
      • For prevention of STIs
Last reviewed: 
December 2021

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