This article is in partnership with Summer’s Eve®.
You grow up with a vagina your whole life, you think you know everything about it. Surprise, betch. There’s a lot you don’t know about vaginas, and I say this as a card-carrying vagina owner who was legit surprised to speak with Dr. Sherry Ross, a leading OB-GYN, educator, and women’s health advocate, about how you should really be caring for your vagina.
1. You Need To Wash It
Before you come at me, yes, the vagina is self-cleaning—but that probably doesn’t mean what you think. Dr. Sherry likens it to a self-cleaning oven. “It’s the oven that’s self-cleaning,” she explains,” but “the countertop, the stovetop all need to be cleaned.” So if we’re talking about vaginas, the actual birth canal is self-cleaning, but all the exterior lady parts, like the vulva, need to get cleaned.
“The vulva area needs to be cleaned because it’s exposed to sweat, to blood, bacteria from your period,” she says. “All that really needs to be cleaned every day.”
2. You Need To Wash It Correctly
Okay so this actually blew my mind. Here I am, washing my business with my regular-ass soap for the past 27 years of my life (sorry TMI), when apparently, that’s not the move. “You don’t use the same bar of soap you use on your body, to wash your face with, right?” Dr. Sherry asks rhetorically. Nope. “Well, your vulva and vaginal opening also deserve special attention,” she asserts. Damn, ok. What else in my life has been a lie this entire time?
3. You Need To Use The Right Products
Your vagina has a specific pH range, and a change in pH can knock the whole ecosystem down there out of whack (speaking from experience as someone who’s gotten an infection multiple times because of this pH nonsense alone). Dr. Sherry backs me up in this, saying, “the pH balance of the vagina can be affected by anything from traditional soaps, laundry detergent, bubble baths,” and that if your pH-balance gets upset, “it can lead to infection and dryness.” That’s not ideal! Dr. Sherry works with and swears by Summer’s Eve®. “What I like about Summer’s Eve® is that they’ve created products and washes that are pH-balanced, they’ve been tested by the dermatologist, tested by the gynecologist, they’re free of dyes and parabens, and they are very gentle. They don’t disrupt the skin and they cleanse effectively and well.” While the brand has been creating what Dr. Sherry calls “vagina-friendly” products for years, they recently launched new Fragrance Free Cleansing Wash and Cloths that takes the guesswork out of cleansing and are balanced to a woman’s natural pH.
4. You Should Be Moisturizing It
*Record scratch* what? I need to moisturize my nether regions now? Apparently. Per Dr. Sherry: “It should be cleaned and we should be treating it like our face—cleaning it, hydrating it, and moisturizing it using different products.” Sh*t, okay. But it’s not as daunting as it sounds. You don’t have to go out and buy a specially formulated moisturizer or anything. “moisturizing the outside of the vagina with extra virgin coconut oil is a great way to trap in fluid, and it really hydrates the skin.” All you do is, according to Dr. Sherry, take a bath two or three times a week, then “put a handful of extra virgin coconut oil in the bathwater, and soak in it for 20 minutes.” She says it’s great for the skin all around and gentle enough for the vulva. Ok, that’s like, not hard.
5. You Should Not Be Putting Anything Sketchy Up There
We care a lot about our faces, right? And we don’t just go putting random stuff on there, right? If you’re a celebrity and do vampire facials, maybe this does not apply to you. But if you’re like the rest of us, you wouldn’t like, IDK, exfoliate with walnuts, would you? No, you care about what you’re putting on it. So do the same to your vag! Don’t put jade eggs up there or steam it with scalding vapors just because some celeb told you to. “Any of these products: pearls, sprinkles, whatever they may be, you really have to ask your doctor if you can insert anything because I think there are companies that are not making vagina-specific products that don’t use vag-friendly ingredients ,” says Dr. Sherry. “Some of these products that go inside the vagina and on the outside of the vagina can be very irritating and cause rashes and can be a problem,” she adds. Good thing Summer’s Eve® Cleansing Washes and Cloths are pH-balanced so as not to cause issues. Because that’s the last thing we need.
I know it’s stressful to consider that now we have another body part we need to be paying a sh*t ton of attention to, but it’s not like you need to start applying vagina serums, toners, exfoliators, etc. First of all, I don’t think those things even exist, but even if they do, you do not need them! Summer’s Eve ® products make it super easy to keep everything clean and operating down there, from cleansing washes to wipes you can take on the go.
Images: Anderson W Rangel / Unsplash
Remember when people used to lift things up and put them down at Planet Fitness? Well, now they’re staying home to lift things… with their vaginas. No, we’re not kidding. Vaginal weightlifting is seriously a thing. As opposed to doing regular kegels like every other human, people with vaginas are attaching heavy objects to kegel balls to weight train their vag and pelvic floor muscles in order to get
tighter healthier faster. Need proof? Go check out the Instagram hashtag #thingsiliftwithmyvagina. I understand if you don’t want to believe it, but this is literally real.
View this post on Instagram
#thingsiliftwithmyvagina⠀ ⠀ Those bottle caps don't untwist themselves, you know. ⠀ ⠀ See my previous post for the benefits of a vaginal weight lifting practice. ⠀ ⠀ Hint: You'll win all the challenges. ⠀ ⠀ Lifting wind chimes in Bali. ⠀ ⠀ Cause my vagina makes noise!!! ⠀ ⠀ #vaginalkungfu
Naturally, we have some questions about these exercises, like “why” and “how” and “who the hell thought of this?” But we also have other, more legitimate questions, like is vaginal weightlifting actually a good idea? We interviewed the founder of vagina gym Kegelbell, Dr. Stephanie Schull, as well as O.school’s pleasure professional and pelvic health physical therapist at YouSeeLogic, Dr. Uchenna “UC” Ossai, to find out whether or not you should start weight training your most intimate muscles.
Who Can Do Vaginal Weightlifting?
So she was packing. Maybe she was trying to protect her reproductive rights. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Also: keep the safety on and don’t Kegel. https://t.co/W1U1WEyQUC
— ??????? ????? (@shannynmoore) April 28, 2018
First and foremost, are kegels only for people with vaginas? Good news: Any human can do pelvic floor exercises because everybody has a pelvic floor. Whether you’re 19 or 91, you can start kegeling. Yay, equality!
HOWEVER, there are situations where pelvic floor exercises either must be done under supervision or can’t be done at all. Dr. UC says that without a postural and pelvic floor muscle assessment, it’s hard to say if they’ll be beneficial for you. “Depending on your medical condition, you may need to be doing the opposite of kegels. A general rule of thumb is if you have constipation, difficulty emptying your bladder, pain with sex, or any other pelvic pain condition, pelvic floor exercises are typically not recommended.” Schull adds not to use vaginal weights if you’re pregnant, gave birth less than six weeks ago, have a vaginal infection, 3rd or 4th degree pelvic organ prolapse, or have had pelvic surgery in the last three months. Don’t fall into any of those categories? Kegel away.
How To Do It Safely
hey bro will you spot me on these kegels?
— clara’s tw*tter (@ramencult) July 25, 2019
My preferred form of exercise is to practice breaking limbs and choking people out (aka Brazilian jiu-jitsu), but safety should always be a concern no matter which workout you get into. Here’s how to make sure you’re killing the kegel game as safely as possible.
Kegel exercises, in a nutshell, involve repeatedly contracting and then relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. People have already been using Kegel or Ben Wa balls for centuries (why am I just now hearing about this?), and they’re basically weighted balls that you insert into the vagina before performing your exercises. There are also other products, like Kegelbell, that have an internal piece and then weighted pieces that are external—resembling the situation in the Instagram above, but a lot less extreme. You’re not just like, inserting a dumbbell into your vagina. Dr. UC says you can’t do these exercises in the mirror at the gym without getting arrested for indecent exposure…so do this sh*t in the comfort and isolation of your home, please and thank you. No one wants to see you weight training your vag next to the dumbbell station at the local gym.
And for those who don’t know (@ me), kegels are way more involved than just clenching. They require proper form and careful instruction like every other workout. Both experts agree that most people do them wrong by holding their breath, arching their back, clenching their jaw, overusing their abs, butt, or legs, or only focusing on just the vagina or anus instead of all three sphincters (the urethra needs to join the party too). Since weighted kegels are way more intense than normal ones, Kegelbell offers instructions on their website with PG-13 videos and guidelines on how to train correctly so you don’t get hurt.
Just like when you’re shopping for sex toys and tampons, you’ll also need to watch out for unsafe products you probably shouldn’t be using. Schull says that some V weights on the market are made of unhealthy materials and include dangerous instructions to wear them for hours or use them for 100+ minutes every week, “creating an unhygienic situation in a place where you definitely don’t want that.” YIKES. But Kegelbell is FDA-registered, made of medical-grade silicone, and the only kegel-assisted weight that stays OUTSIDE the vagina (the attached bulb is the only part that goes inside). Either way, whether it’s a Kegelbell, a dildo, or a menstrual cup, always make sure you wash whatever you plan to stick up there with fragrance-free soap and water before you stick it up there.
So Is This Actually A Good Idea?
To answer the main Q here, should we be doing weighted kegels? According to Dr. UC, who treats people with sexual and pelvic floor dysfunction for a living, the short answer is (generally) nope. “It reinforces the idea that the key to good orgasm or vaginal sex is a “tight vagina,” which is completely inaccurate. “It also lends itself to unnecessary injury, bad movement habits, or faults without proper supervision from a licensed medical provider.” She does vouch that Kegel exercises in general can enhance your sex life, though, among other things. “Having a coordinated and strong pelvic floor can help stabilize your spine and improve pelvic girdle pain, bowel, and bladder function, as well as your sexual response.”
But it’s not just about a tight vag or better sex to Schull, who created Kegelbell after watching her mom experience the pain of pelvic mesh surgery. “How do we expect women to get into the boardroom when we can’t even help them get out of the bathroom? a natural, effective, and safe way for women to strengthen their muscles so they can stop worrying about leakage and all the other side effects of weak pelvic floors and get back to the life they love.” Cheers, sis.
Research shows that pelvic floor exercises (like weighted kegels) offer lots of health benefits inside AND outside the bedroom. They can help to straighten your posture, keep you from peeing when you jump on a trampoline or laugh too hard (embarrassed to admit at age 26 I have the *worst* bladder and do both of these things), and prevent internal organs from failing…which definitely sounds important. And yes, kegels promote intense orgasms, increase natural lubrication, and enable a stronger “squeeze and release” to amplify sensations during penetrative sex or masturbation. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Schull claims kegeling can even boost your confidence. “When you have a deep connection with these important muscles, and they are strong, it gives you a profound sense of power. Feeling stronger and more in tune with your body is never a bad thing!” *immediately starts kegeling to gain power and increase crippling low self-esteem*
After speaking with both of these experts, it seems like vaginal weight training can be a good idea as long as you’re smart and safe about it. When done correctly and consistently, weighted kegels are just super-kegels that work to keep your pelvic floor healthy, strengthen the surrounding muscles, and treat or prevent any related dysfunctions down there. But you don’t really need to add weights necessarily to get these benefits. Whatever you do, please don’t add these exercises to your circuit at the normal gym unless you want to get banned from your local Equinox (maybe not a bad idea, considering current recent events tbh).
Images: Kegelbell, GIPHY, Twitter @ramencult, @shannynmoore
If the name Lo Bosworth makes you feel nostalgic for simpler times when you would take a hiatus from your own dramatic teenage life to indulge in the more dramatic teenage lives of the super rich cast members of Laguna Beach and then, The Hills, same. But prepare to associate Lauren Conrad’s super cute bestie, Lo Bosworth, with her line of feminine health products because the former reality TV star really cares about your vagina. Back in 2016 Lo started Love Wellness, originally releasing products like a pH balancing cleanser and The Killer, a boric acid suppository to relieve yeast infections and BV, because she didn’t think that gynos were offering enough resources and supplements that specifically catered to women’s bodies—and she was right. Well, just last week Lo introduced five new total body health supplements into her line: #Mood Pills to naturally boost your mood; Bye, Bye Bloat to get rid of excess water weight; Lean Queen to help boost your metabolism; Lights Out to to help you get to sleep; and Good to Glow a solution to all of your skincare woes. All products are packaged in the chicest pastel packaging, are to be taken orally everyday or as otherwise directed, and will only set you back $24.99.
All of Lo’s products, old and new, are made up of natural ingredients like coconut oil, tumeric root, ginger, and green tea to help women heal, maintain and flourish their bodies in the safest way possible. To get the full Lo-down, we talked to the Love Wellness founder herself to find out what sparked her deep care for our vagines and what the brand has in store for the future of feminine health, spoiler alert: sadly, no Justin Bobby jokes were mentioned in this interview.
Betches: What inspired the development of the five new supplements?
Lo Bosworth: Our customers asked us to expand into different women’s health categories and we were thrilled to be able to make that happen. Our priority was to make these new line of ingestibles as natural and organic as possible, and we’re quite proud of the new offering. Being able to offer women natural and safe products for mood, metabolism, glowing skin, and more is very exciting for us.
What retailers will the products be available in? When?
We sell Love Wellness products at lovewellness.co and we’ll be announcing upcoming retail partnerships over the next few weeks.
How did you decide which natural ingredients to include in the products?
We work with a team of doctors and food scientists to determine what natural ingredients go into each product. The formulation process is very exciting for me personally, as there are lots of natural ingredients that have worked for me for anxiety, sleep, and skin care. In our #Mood Pills for example, we’ve include organic chasteberry, which is proven to help alleviate symptoms of PMDD, and organic St. John’s Wort that has been proven to be effective for light depression.
What kind of diet do you suggest taking Lean Queen with?
We always recommend to consult with your doctor before starting any kind of diet or supplement regime. With that being said, I’d recommend a well-balanced diet that’s high in good carbohydrates for energy, fiber, and lean protein. It’s okay to eat a piece of whole grain bread that’s high in natural fiber! Of course, drinking lots of water is critically important as well.
Is each supplement to be taken daily?
We recommend that the supplements should be taken daily, but Bye Bye Bloat and Lights Out can both be used on-demand.
What space in the market did you see for the Love Wellness brand?
When I first launched Love Wellness in 2016 I saw a huge opportunity in women’s personal care to provide natural, safe, OB/GYN-recommended products that work, while creating an honest and open self-care culture. Many drugstore feminine hygiene companies market their products as safe and effective when in reality, they’re not. The cheap chemical formulations in these products can wreak havoc on the vaginal microbiome and lead to chronic infections and irritations. My primary mission when launching the company was to educate women on this point, and to be able to provide them with safe solutions for upping your gut and vaginal flora with our Good Girl Probiotics, relieving infections and irritations with The Killer, our best-selling boric acid suppositories, and cleanse the vulva safely with our pH Balancing Cleanser and Do It All Wipes. With our new launch of ingestibles, we see Love Wellness as the ultimate one-stop shop for women’s wellness and personal care solutions for issues that are typically kept private. Our goal is to make healthcare and preventative care for issues traditionally viewed as embarrassing more comfortable for women by offering natural, organic solutions that are packaged beautifully along with educational content.
Your favorite supplement?
I love our #Mood Pills! I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression and tried pharmaceuticals to help ease my discomfort but found that natural solutions always worked better for me in the long run. I’m thrilled to be able to offer women a natural and organic formulation that combines best-in-class ingredients from nature to stay balanced.
Future plans for the brand?
We have many products in R+D at the moment. We’re looking at the CBD space, and have quite a bit in the pipeline for retail in 2019.
Sponsored by Queen V
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’ve often thought life would be easier without a vagina. I know I’m supposed to embrace it and take pride in my womanhood and blah blah but come TF on. The only times I’m really paying attention down there are when it’s busy ruining my favorite underwear with a surprise period or surprise infection, or busy ruining my sex life by suddenly being bone dry. It’s not exactly the perfect recipe for a loving relationship with my platinum vagine. (I kid. I’d probably give it like a bronze.)
Luckily, sexy new company Queen V is here to solve all my problems. A group of like-minded women got together and decided they were sick of out-of-touch dudes manufacturing bogus vaginal products (same). Instead, they thought the women of today deserved cute, affordable, and genuinely effective vaginal products. (Groundbreaking, right? Sadly, it really is.) Here are the products you’re about to be obsessed with. You and your “Queen V”—as founder Lauren Steinberg refers to it, a term I fully intend to steal—can thank me later.
Make It Reign/V Bar
You know how gynecologists are always telling you not to douche up there? How your vagina is “self-cleaning” and body wash will just fuck up the pH? Well, while the pH stuff is spot on, I’ve never loved the alternative of “just throw a little water on it and hope for the best.” Enter Queen V, with not one, but TWO cleansers I am allowed to use for my whole entire body! With V Bar or Make It Reign (moment of credit for the cute-ass names), you can actually clean yourself without worrying about accidentally giving yourself BV. And they say women’s lib is a myth. As an added bonus, they’re made with yummy ingredients like rosewater, aloe, green tea, mango, and chamomile. So you can still smell like you paid an extra $10 for a marked-up “women’s soap”—when you could actually buy both for a total of $9. Score.
Honestly, if you’re not taking some kind of probiotic right now, it’s time to move into 2018. We already discussed how good they are to beat bloat—but did you know they can also help prevent yeast infections? Queen V’s Daily Dose Probiotic has all the same digestive health properties, but is specially formulated to keep your yeast/bacteria levels where they should be. It also includes turmeric, which has amazing anti-inflammatory properties in addition to helping skin conditions like acne, eczema, or psoriasis. Basically, this shit will keep you 100 from head to toe. Buy ASAP.
Speaking of yeast infections—is there anything that makes you hate your vag more? Sure, there’s the excruciating pain of UTIs. (And should that problem arise, Queen V’s UTMI supplement is formulated with cranberry to promote urinary tract health.) But at least most UTIs can be treated with an antibiotic that’s meant to work within 24 hours. With yeast, you’re basically told to handle it on your own for the coming week, and shove a bunch of chemical goop up there whenever it gets unmanageably itchy. (So like, every second of every day until it’s gone. Seriously, I don’t know why I even buy cute underwear anymore.) Enter The Eraser: a boric acid suppository for soothing yeast symptoms. It’s basically a less-scary and longer-lasting alternative to the creams that promise to remove all feeling from the area and wear off 20 minutes later. (Neither of which is an ideal outcome). With The Eraser, you get relief without the mess, and without the ingredients you can’t pronounce.
P.S. I Lube You
Finally, we’ve arrived at my favorite of the bunch. As my local Rite Aid can attest from watching me crouch for 45 minutes in the “family planning” aisle, lube options often really, really suck. Also, as my local Rite Aid can hopefully NOT attest, lubes can often seriously fuck up your vagina. (Anyone think they’d test the ingredients more if lube went inside men? Yeah, me too.) Anyway, all the more reason to buy lube made BY women, FOR women. P.S. I Lube You (another adorable name, minus the images it conjures up of a sobbing Hilary Swank) is an aloe-based lubricant that does more than make sex better. (Though honestly, that’s enough for me.) It actually protects and hydrates you down there—which, given my obsession with moisturizing, was incentive enough for me to double my order. Oh, and it’s organic. Gwyneth would so approve.
If nothing in this list spoke to you, you should absolutely check out their full list of products here. Whether you’re looking to #maintainyourv, #enjoyyourv (hint: this is the section with lube in it—also a nice bubble bath), or #healyourv, Queen V has you covered. Now that Queen V has pointed out that men really shouldn’t be selling you vaginal products (and are in fact getting it wrong a lot of the time), I’m not sure I can ever go back. These products are available at Walmart across the country, affordable AF, and come in way cuter packaging than vaginal products have any right to—without the insulting “pink tax” connotations. It’s basically the Glossier of vaginas, and I for one am obsessed.
Images: Giphy (1); Instagram (4)
What if I told you that you could strengthen your vajayjay, allowing you to have better sex (for you AND your partner), and more orgasms with minimal effort? I know, it sounds too good to be true, but I promise you it isn’t. One word: Kegels. I know what you’re thinking—no, Kegels aren’t a new food trend or that noodle dish your aunt makes on Rosh Hashana. Kegels are an exercise, more formally called Kegel exercises. Even though sex can sometimes feel like an Olympic event, Kegel exercises are not done in the gym. Thank god for small miracles. We’re going to do a deep dive into what Kegel exercises are and why you should be doing them, so get ready to get a lil uncomfortable.
So WTF Are Kegel Exercises?
Basically, like 70 years ago, some
bro gynecologist named Arnold Kegel noticed that his patients had weak bladders after giving birth. (How he noticed that, I don’t wanna know.) He did extensive research (again, don’t wanna know) and found that by strengthening their pelvic floor muscles, these women would like, pee better. Flash forward, your Kegel muscles are basically the Commander-in-Chief of your nether regions.
To better explain this, let’s brush up on our basic anatomy, or at least, what we learned on Grey’s Anatomy. There is a “sling” of muscles (think a giant-ass maxi pad, *shudders*) lining the inside of your pelvis going from your pubic bone to your anus (SORRY). This muscle “pad” surrounds your vagina, urethra, and rectum and plays a vital role in their functions. OK, I promise you can un-clench every muscle in your body now; it gets less cringeworthy from here on out if you can handle it.
The reason these muscles are important, and why I probably made you crawl into a hole of discomfort above, is because these muscles are basically responsible for how you go to the bathroom. When these muscles are relaxed, you do your business. When they’re contracted, no soup for you. If you’re getting older or getting pregnant, these muscles are likely to weaken, which limits the control you have over your bladder and potentially resulting in more issues than Rob and Chyna’s custody battle.
But don’t freak! The Kegel muscles are relatively easy to work out, and doing so has proven to be super effective, as long as you don’t have any serious underlying medical issues. If you’ve ever peed a little from laughing too hard, coughing, or sneezing, then
that sucks read on.
What Are The Benefits Of Strengthening Your Kegels?
Before we get into how you can strengthen your Kegel muscles, it’s important to understand why you should. Remember the episode of Keeping up With The Kardashians where the girls make fun of Kris’ frequent runs to the washroom, and the few times she doesn’t make it on time? After going to the doctor, Kris learns she suffers from stress incontinence, a condition where you pee a little from sneezing, laughing, or coughing, and is super common in women who’ve popped out
an entire business so many children. Her doctor recommended Kegel exercises in order to strengthen her muscles and increase bladder control. don’t know about you, but if Kegel exercises are good enough for Kris, they’re good enough for me. According to Kris: “The family that Kegels together, stays together.” An odd way to phrase it, but hey, I’m not going to argue. Any way I can get invited to that dinner party?
Kris: I have to do the Kegel exercises. Kourt: We should do them together. Kris: The family that Kegels together, stays together. – S6 E7
— Kardashian Quotes (@KardashianQuots) June 10, 2012
But Kegels aren’t just for menopausal women in Detrol commercials—they can also be good for your sex life. In addition to better bladder control, Kegel exercises have all kinds of ancillary benefits. These include more frequent orgasms (increasing your odds for vaginal penetrative orgasms in particular), increased blood flow to your vagina (which increases arousal and lubrication), and improved sex for both you and your partner—either by making your area tighter, or by decreasing pain you experience during sex due to your new control and ability to relax your vagina.
What Exercises Do You Do For Your Kegels?
First, you need to know how to activate your Kegels. Next time you go to pee, stop yourself mid-stream. The muscles you squeeze to do this are your Kegel muscles. You found them! (Warning: don’t try this experiment too often or for too long because it can increase your chances of developing UTIs. Isn’t having a vagina so fun?)
Now that you know what muscles you’re working with, all you need to do is contract and relax your Kegel muscles as often as you remember. The Mayo Clinic suggests contracting for five seconds and then releasing for five seconds, repeating several reps of these daily. Slowly, as these muscles become stronger, you can work up to a 10:10 second ratio instead. There are also physiotherapists that focus solely on your pelvic floor muscles to help strengthen them.
The great thing about working out your Kegel muscles is that you can pretty much do these exercises anywhere. In the car, at work, while eating. I’m working out mine right now and you would have never known.
Moral of the story: do your Kegels now and thank me later.