Patient information – Vulva Care

ADVICE ON VULVA CARE

There are many ways you can help to keep your vulva skin healthy. The vulvar skin can be quite sensitive and can be irritated by moisture or friction that may occur during day to day activities. Try to avoid self-diagnosis and treatment. Itching and burning could actually be due to something else. Many products over the counter have irritating substances in them or may inhibit the symptoms and signs when you see your doctors.

 

Underwear

100% cotton underwear with a full backside is the best. Using half the recommended amount of detergent may be helpful and also Rinse detergents from clothes thoroughly. Avoid fabric softeners!

Clothing

Avoid tight, hose, body shapers and other tight fitting clothes. Avoid clothes made from synthetic fibres such as polyester, lycra/spandex and rayon. Tight denim jeans can irritate vulva.

Pubic hair

Shaving the pubic hair increases the risk of infection and skin problems. Hair removal creams contain irritating chemicals. It is better to trim rather than shave. Laser hair removal is an option

Bath and Shower

Only use mild unscented and undyed soap or aqueous/sorbelene cream on the vulva. Use your hands to clean in the vulvar area – nylon scrubbers irritate or rough washcloths irritate the skin. Pat the skin dry gently. Use a hair dryer on a cool setting to help dry hard-to-reach areas. Frequent soapy baths or showers can actually make symptoms worse.

Toileting

Rinse the skin with water after using the toilet is often less irritating than wiping with toilet paper. If using toilet paper, avoid perfumed, dyed or “aloe” products. Avoid baby or adult wipes – they may have irritating perfumes or other chemicals.

Burning and itching symptoms

Some patients find the use of cool gel packs to be helpful by wrapping in a soft hand towel before applying against the vulva. Make a vaginal wash: Mix two teaspoons of baking soda in a mug filled with lukewarm water. Use this mix to clean your entire vaginal and vulva area – or soak for 10 minutes twice daily.

Only use a small amount of vegetable/olive oil, emulsifying ointment, Vitamin A/D Ointment, Zinc cream, aqueous cream or Sorbelene cream to protect vulva skin. If the cream burns, stings or causes redness, it may contain a preservative that causes you a reaction – the more ingredients it has, the more likely it will cause a problem. If you have itchiness at night, take antihistamines before bed and wear soft cotton gloves at night to cover fingernails.

Care after biopsy or surgery

“Sitz” baths are very helpful for vulvar healing. Fill a bathtub or large basin with plain warm water with a small amount of table salts may be used. Sit in for 10-20 minutes 3 times/day. Do not add soap.

Sex

Many women find sex to be uncomfortable in this setting. Engage in activities that are not painful and make sure adequately aroused before any penetration in the vagina. If burning after sex, rinse with cool water, try a cool pack or a sitz bath and apply a protective cream. Lubricants can help – the best lubricants are the unscented undyed oils (olive oil, vitamin E oil or vegetable oil.

Replens is a vaginal moisturiser that is inserted by applicator into the vagina – it comes in a package of 12 single-use applications. It can be used for post-menopausal women who cannot use vaginal oestrogen. Condoms and water-based lubricants (KY, Astroglide) can irritate vulva. If you are suing condoms for birth control only, consider switching to another form of contraception.

Periods

Sanitary pads and mini pads can irritate the vulva. Consider using 100% cotton unscented menstrual pads or tampons. If you can use tampons, they are preferable to pads. Avoid wearing disposable party-liners instead consider frequent underwear changes or purchase washable cotton panty liners.

Products to avoid

Avoid any products containing benzocaine, neomycin, “feminine” deodorants, bleaches, talcum, over-the-counter douches, spermicides, lanolin-based products or petroleum jelly.