Connect / Resources / How to wash your vagina (vulva) | Katy Cottam, Founder

How to wash your vagina (vulva) | Katy Cottam, Founder


Katy, Founder of Luna Daily talks about caring for the most misunderstood area of your body.


I’m going to get stuck straight in. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably reading this on the move,  multi-tasking something else, or there’s a chance you’ll get distracted by a hilarious meme. So, if you take nothing else away from reading this article, I do hope you remember two vital things:


1) Your vagina (the internal passage) is very clever and totally self-cleaning, and never needs to be washed.


2) Your vulva (the external intimate skin) is very similar to the skin biome of your armpits, so it’s recommended to give it a daily wash*.


The vulva and the vagina are different, and too many women (myself included, until a few years ago) are misnaming them.  Possibly why 1 in 3 women are (worryingly) washing inside their vagina. 


If you want to wash your vulva with just water, that’s absolutely fine. Our vulvas don’t need specific products. I created Luna Daily because I wanted to use more than water to wash my vulva, but didn’t want it to have to be a specific ‘intimate wash’, which seemed all that was available.


In our research, 50% of women ‘don’t know’ why their routine is as it is, just ‘have sort of always done it that way’. If you’re anything like them, or the 43% of women who’s washing routines have caused them to have a gyne issue*, it might be worth reading on.


Vaginas, vulvas and… armpits


Unlike the vagina, the vulva doesn't have its own self-cleansing mechanism. The vulva, which is the area outside the vagina, including the labia—is covered in sweat glands very similar to those under our arms (called apocrine glands). And just like the glands in your armpits, they produce a slightly thicker sweat than other areas of the body.


I see washing my vulva as no different to washing my armpits; I want to use something more than water to wash with (and it turns out I’m not alone - 64% of women feel the same*).


But that’s where things got tricky.


You see, I don’t want to use traditional soaps or shower gels, because their high pH, synthetic and often harsh formulas can cause irritation or even thrush (I will never forget my regret over a particular mint flavored shower gel).  I don’t want to use ‘just water’. But, I resent having to resort to stigmatized ‘feminine hygiene’ products with their ‘what’s wrong with her?’ associations. They just all seemed too pharmaceutical, too clinical, too ‘one-size-fits-all’. And when I researched further, they also often contained the highly synthetic ingredients that I already avoided elsewhere on my body (like SLS - Sodium Laureth Sulphate). And I certainly didn’t want the bottle on show in my bathroom.


I don’t agree with the feminine hygiene industry, and how it has persuaded women that they need specific products to ‘clean’ their vulvas (even the word ‘hygiene’ implies something is dirty). But I understand completely why a woman would want to use a product to wash their vulva. Because I do. I want to use something more than water because if I’m on my period, on the go, at the gym, or at a festival, I just want something extra to care for my intimate skin. I don’t want my vulva to be rose-scented. I don’t want to follow any industry fads. It's my personal choice. And so I feel very passionately that how you wash your vulva is your personal choice.


And yet, choice is exactly what we women are lacking in this area. When it comes to skincare and haircare, there are so many wonderful options for skin type, age, need and more. There’s a plethora of products and routines available, and  a plethora of information along with it. 


I know this, because I’ve worked in beauty and wellness for most of my career. But, while women in our focus groups could tell me their haircare and skincare routines (often in 7-step detail!), when we asked what their intimate care routine was, they stuttered, having not consciously thought about why they were doing what they were doing. 87% of women we asked were never taught about caring for their vulva. We’re a generation of women who, more than ever, consider all the aspects of what we buy, eat, put on our faces. And yet, for so many women, their intimate skin was an afterthought, only prioritized when there was a ‘problem’.


So I decided it was time for a new approach.


In partnership with expert dermatologists, gynecologists and formulation chemists, I developed a range that was gentle enough to use on all skin, even your most intimate, versatile enough to consider the changes women go through daily, weekly, monthly (from getting your period, through motherhood, to menopause) and desirable enough to feel confident  leaving it out in the bathroom.


And I decided to get real with these products; what they would do, and not do.


First, pH: For years, the feminine hygiene market has told us that one of the reasons we need specific products is due to skin  pH (acidity levels). Now, it’s true, the vagina (the inside bit, remember) is more acidic (pH3.7 - pH4.5) than typical skin (pH5), so it could be more susceptible to irritation and disruption than elsewhere. But the reality is that so many shower gels / soaps are a much higher pH than your skin, so your whole skin would probably be better off with a wash that’s a lower pH altogether. That’s where Luna Daily washes come in. They’ve been formulated at a pH that suits all the skin on your body, including, yes, the vulva. 


Soap: We don’t use it. Because by definition, it’s an irritant, with a typical pH of 9-10 (!). So, following the recommendation of dermatologists, it’s not included in any of our products..


And it’s not just about ‘washing’.


Our products are formulated to balance, nourish and protect - we do more than  just ‘wash’ our faces, after all. All our products are  all formulated with our trademarked [HYDRA-BIOME+™]; a unique complex of Thermal water, which mirrors the body’s NMF (Natural Moisturizing Factor), Pre-biotics (inulin and lactic acid) to enrich the skin microbiome and foster natural protection, and Vitamins E,C & F to deeply nourish and hydrate skin. Because your skin deserves that level of care, everywhere.


The other stuff: Luna Daily contains only natural and necessary ingredients. That means no sulphates, no harsh chemicals, no common allergens, alcohols or irritants. Just effective formulas, vegan and sustainably sourced, suitable for all skin types and all over the body.


Revolutionizing the products available to women is only part of our mission


I’m so proud of Luna Daily and what it gives to women, but we need to do so much more than just revolutionize the products we use. Every 0.6 seconds someone searches ‘how do I wash my vagina’ (if you’ve read this far you’ll realize how shocking that is), and only 7% of under-25 year olds can accurately name the vulva. Devastatingly, 1 in 3 women skip their cervical smear tests citing ‘embarrassment’, with cervical smear attendance now at an all time low. 


I want us to help normalize conversations around the vulva, and change education so that it’s included in the curriculum and parents have the resources they need. With our partner charity, The Lady Garden, we want to help to get cervical cancer smear testing up and awareness up. Ultimately, I want to make sure that women have the information they need to make informed choices about their bodies.


So, however you choose to wash your vulva, I hope that you do it with care and, above all, with confidence in your choice.


 


Katy, 


Founder, Luna Daily


 


Sources:


Role of female intimate hygiene in vulvovaginal health: Global hygiene practices and product usage. Ying Chen,1 Elizabeth Bruning,1 Joseph Rubino,1 and Scott E Eder2


Luna Daily research, 2021: online consumer panel, 1000 women of all ages, skin-types and ethnicities


The Telegraph, 2017: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/beauty/body/should-use-soap-vagina


NHS / Jo’s Cervical cancer trust: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-national-cervical-screening-campaign-launches-as-nearly-1-in-3-dont-take-up-screening-offer