Hannah Frye

mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

By Hannah Frye

mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.

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May 22, 2023

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I don’t know about you, but I was always told to never cleanse the vulva, and certainly don’t let any kind of soap get into your vagina. To a certain extent this makes sense, as it’s better to be safe than sorry if you use the wrong products. 

But in recent years I’ve started to wonder, with all of the hygiene and vulva-cleansing products out there, is there ever a reason to wash your vulva? What’s more, can it actually be helpful? Below, an OB-GYN’s expert opinion. 


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Should you wash your vulva?

First and foremost, let’s remember that the vulva and vagina are different body parts, and should be treated as such. 

“The vagina is self-cleaning by using discharge to expel bacteria and old cells. However, the vulva can collect dirt, sweat, and debris that needs to be cleaned,” explains Renita White, MD, OB-GYN.

Still, the way in which you should wash your vulva is starkly different than how you’d cleanse your face or your body, as it’s highly sensitive. According to White, there are two main options. Below, what you need to know. 

Option 1: Stick with water and a wash cloth

“When cleaning the vulva, you can use your hands and/or washcloth to wipe away sweat and debris from the groin and folds of the labia,” White notes. Be sure your hands or the wash cloth are free from excess soaps used on the body, face, etc. 

In other words, use a separate wash cloth for your vulva than you do for your body. Consider making this the last step in your shower routine to avoid other products washing down into this area. 


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Option 2: Use a specially formulated cleanser

Some folks prefer to use a cleanser for this step, but not just any cleanser will do. “I recommend people with vaginas avoid cleaners with artificial fragrances or chemicals,” White explains. “This can lead to irritation of the vulva or infections like yeast or bacterial vaginosis,” she adds. 

White’s expert pick: “When using cleansers, stick to something gentle, like Honey Pot’s Sensitive Foaming Wash.” 

You can use the cleanser with or without a wash rag, and only use this product once daily when you’re in the shower. 

So while never cleansing this area can cause a buildup of dirt and sweat, over-cleansing is still possible—even if you have an infection. “Even if someone develops BV or yeast, there is no need to cleanse more often,” White notes. 

The takeaway

While you should never get soap inside of your vagina, gently cleansing the vulva is a good idea. You can either use a clean wet rag and some water, or opt for a gentle cleanser without artificial fragrances or chemicals, otherwise you’ll risk irritating the area and potentially throwing off your vaginal pH levels


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