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, whilst multi-tasking something else, or there’s just a chance you’ll just 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:
Your vagina (the internal passage) is very clever and totally self-cleaning, so never needs to be washed. 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. This is 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 ‘fanny wash’, which was seemingly all that was available.
In our research, 50% of women ‘don’t know’ why their routine is as it is, they’d just ‘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 gynae 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 no differently to how I view washing my armpits; I want to use something more than water to wash them with (and it turns out I’m not alone - 64% of women feel the same*).
But then that’s where things got tricky.
You see, I don’t want to use traditional soaps or shower gels as their high pH, synthetic and often harsh formulas caused irritation or thrush (I will never forget my regret over a particular mint flavoured shower gel). I don’t want to use ‘just water’. But, I resent having to resort to stigmatised ‘feminine hygiene’ products with their ‘what’s wrong with her fanny’ associations. They just all seemed too pharmaceutical, too clinical, too ‘one size fits all’. And when I researched further, they also often contained highly synthetic ingredients I already avoided elsewhere on my body (take SLS - Sodium Laureth Sulphate, for example). And I certainly didn’t want the bottle on show in my bathroom.
I don’t agree with the feminine hygiene industry, and how they’ve 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, for instance, 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 about the fact 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’s so many wonderful options for skin type, age, need etc. There’s a plethora of products and routines available, accompanied by lots of information. I know this, because I’ve worked in the beauty and wellness industries for most of my career. But while women in our focus groups could tell me (often in 7-step detail) their haircare and skincare routines, when 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 prioritised when there was a ‘problem’.
So I decided it was time for a new approach.
In partnership with expert dermatologists, gynaecologists and formulation chemists I developed a range which was gentle enough to use on intimate skin and everywhere else, versatile enough to consider the changes women go through daily, weekly, monthly (from getting your period, through motherhood, to menopause) and desirable enough to want to leave it out in the bathroom.
And I decided to get real with these products; what they would do, and not do.
For years, the feminine hygiene market has told us that one of the reasons we need specific products is because of pH. Now, it’s true, the vagina (inside bit, remember) is more acidic (3.7 - 4.5) than typical skin (pH5), so 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. That’s where Luna Daily’s washes come in. They are created to be at a pH that suits all the skin on your body, including, yes, the vulva.
We don’t use it. Because by definition, it’s an irritant, with a typical pH of 9-10 (!). So it’s not included in any of our products, as recommended by our dermatologists.
And it’s not just about ‘washing’
Our products are formulated to balance, nourish and protect. (We don’t just ‘wash’ our faces, after all). They’re formulated with our trademarked Hydra-Biome+(™); a unique complex of Thermal water, which mirrors the body’s NMF (Natural Moisturising Factor), Pre-biotics inulin and lactic acid to enrich the skin biome and foster natural protection, and Vitamins A,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.
I’m so proud of Luna Daily and what it gives to women, but revolutionising the products available to women is only part of our mission. Every 0.6 seconds someone googles ‘how do I wash my vagina’ (if you’ve read this far you’ll realise how shocking that is), and only 7% of under 25 year olds can accurately name the vulva. Devastatingly, 1 in 3 women are missing their cervical smear tests citing ‘embarrassment’, with cervical smear attendance now at an all time low. I want us to help normalise conversations around the vulva, to change education so it’s both included in the curriculum and so parents have the resources they need. With our partner charity The Lady Garden, I want to help get cervical cancer smear testing and awareness up. Ultimately, I want to ensure women have the information they need to make informed choices about their bodies.
So, however you choose to wash your vulva, I hope you do it with care, and above all confidence in your choice.
Founder, Luna Daily
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