Everything you need to know about the vulva

The poor old vulva gets a bad rap (if you know what I mean). Often mislabelled vaguely as the vagina, and the victim of a lot of misinformation and misunderstandings, many people don’t know their vulva as well as they should.

The vulva is full of pleasure zones and it’s responsible for some pretty important action in your life. But, like a new car, it’s important to understand it well so you can take full advantage of all it has to offer.

The appearance of the vulva varies from person to person as much as the shape and size of your nose, your boobs or your feet. Check out www.labialibrary.org.au for a stunning array of perfectly healthy vulvas.

What exactly is the vulva?

Your vulva encompasses all the external sex organs you can see outside of your body. It includes the mons pubis (Latin for “pubic mound”), labia majora (outer lips), labia minora (inner lips), clitoris (everybody’s favourite bit), and the external openings of the urethra and the vagina.

Know thy vulva

Get to know your own vulva by checking it out with a hand mirror (magnifying, if you have one) and having a good look around. You can do it lying down, with one foot up on a chair, or squatting over your mirror.

You should also check your vulva regularly for irregularities such as a change of colour, thickening such as lumps or warts, rashes, blisters or ulcers. If you do notice anything unusual, don’t self-treat with over-the-counter medication – take yourself straight to a doctor. And don’t be embarrassed: they’ve seen it all before a thousand times.

Keeping it clean

It’s not hard to keep your vulva clean, and doing so is essential for good downstairs health. Keep things simple because the skin of the vulva, especially the labia minora, is sensitive and can be prone to irritation.

All you need to do is wash once a day with warm water so give it a splash when you’re in the shower or bath. You should avoid scrubbing – just in case that’s a tempting notion – and just use your hand. It is also recommended that you avoid perfumed products including perfumed soaps, shampoos, scented body washes and to ditch the perfumed creams, lotions, oils and powders.

You should also avoid products such as vaginal sprays and wipes, and never use antiseptics in the bath such as Dettol.

You should also use unperfumed detergents on your undies, and avoid fabric softeners and bleach. You should also always wash and rinse new knickers before you wear them, because they can be full of nasty textile chemicals.

Pubic hair

The current fashion is towards major hair removal in the bikini zone, but experts want you to rethink that strategy. Pubic hair is there to protect the skin of the vulva as well as the entrance to the vagina and removal can lead to friction and shaving, waxing and laser removal can sometimes result in unsightly or even painful side effects.

Of course, your pubic hair is your business, so get informed and make the choice that’s right for you.

Going commando

Fans of going sans knickers rejoice! Going commando can be great for your vulva, especially if you spend a bit of time in tight, sweaty clothes. Going commando whenever you get the chance is good to let the air circulate. Perhaps it’s best at home, or at least when you’re not wearing a mini skirt. And you should always avoid wearing knickers at night.

Keeping sex comfortable

Personal lubricants and some condoms can cause skin irritation for some people, but don’t let that put you off. Try non-latex condoms and the female condom made of nitrile. These may suit you better.

If you suffer any pain or itching during or after sex, cease and desist, and see your doctor asap.


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