Editor’s note: For the purposes of this article, we’ll be linking out to Dr. Krapf’s Amazon page. Any commissions from the sales of these products are donated to Lichen Sclerosus research.
When all is well and good, our vaginas pretty much take care of themselves. But, let’s face it, the moment something’s up down there, vaginas can be a lot of work.
Walk down any pharmacy “Feminine Care” aisle and you’ll see plenty of creams, lotions, and washes, all promising to whisk away discomfort and restore your vagina to its glory.
But not all products are created equal. And more importantly, many of them can actually be more harmful than helpful for your vagina.
That’s why we sat down with Evvy advisor and vulvovaginal specialist Dr. Jill Krapf, MD to get a rundown of her favorite products for different vaginal conditions (along with some tips and tricks). Take a look!
Before you buy
In the throws of intense vaginal discomfort, it can be tempting to try any treatment that hints at relief. But before doing so, keep this in mind:
“The caveat to using any of these products vaginally is to get a diagnosis first,” explains Dr. Krapf. “See your doctor, get a diagnosis, and don’t treat without one!”
“And if you feel like you can’t get a diagnosis at your doctor, she continues, “there are specialists available you can reach out to.”
These specialists can be found through:
- International Society for the Study of Women’s Health (ISSWSH)
- International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
- North American Menopause Society
- National Vulvodynia Association
- Lichen Sclerosus Support Network (LSSN)
- Centers for Vulvovaginal Disorders
“I always welcome it when my patients bring their Evvy results. It helps me see a more complete picture of what is contributing to their symptoms. Many of my patients want to test during and after treatment to see their progress and I like that Evvy makes this easy. In addition, we need so much more research on the vaginal microbiota and I love that this is a part of Evvy’s mission.”
“This is specifically for people diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis or aerobic vaginitis. This has the Lactobacillus crispatus vaginal suppositories which I like for certain patients. It also includes a pH-balancing vaginal gel that you have to start slowly with and work up to, but it can work pretty well. Finally, it has the external body wash”
“Some people like to use pH tests to know what’s going on.”
Disposable applicators can be used to deliver treatment in the form of a cream or suppository, common with compounded medications or boric acid. Dr. Krapf notes, “It’s important not to reuse these applicators for hygiene purposes, so invest in these if you’re going to need to deliver your treatment through an applicator!
Sex is one of the biggest triggers for vaginal infections and using protection is one of the best ways to decrease the risk of disrupting your vaginal microbiome. But what if the protection you’re using is irritating your vulva or vagina?
Here are a few super-sensitive products to keep your microbiome safe in the bedroom:
“Everyone is always asking me about condoms,” shares Dr. Krapf. “These are the ones I recommend because they’re non-latex and even my most sensitive patients are able to tolerate them.”
Hypo-allergenic, water-based lube.
Your vulva is skin and, like any other part of your body, can get dry from time to time, especially if you have a vulvar condition. These moisturizers are Dr. Krapf approved for moisturizing your external genitals, just remember to always check the ingredients first!
7. CeraVe Healing Ointment, Moisturizing Petrolatum Skin Protectant for Dry Skin with Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides, Lanolin Free & Fragrance Free
A good moisturizer at an affordable price point!
Dr. Krapf is an advisor for SweetSpot Labs, a company focused on elevating vulvar skin care. This is a good moisturizer at a higher price point!
During menopause, estrogen levels decrease. This can lead to vaginal dryness because estrogen keeps your vaginal mucosa thick, lubricated, and elastic. Vaginal moisturizers can help lubricate the area to relieve discomfort.
“These are vaginal moisturizers for post-menopause.”
If you have sensitive skin down there, many products that you use outside of the vagina (like shampoo, soap, toilet paper, laundry detergent, body wash, etc.) can be an irritant.
These whole-body and hair products are designed to be safe for even the most sensitive skin.
“Sometimes shampoo and conditioner can irritate the vulvovaginal area with its rundown. So you can either flip your hair over and wash your hair that way. Or you can use something like Vanicream shampoo which has fewer irritants in it.”
“I like Seventh Generation because it tends to have fewer other ingredients in it. There’s also bamboo toilet paper which is more pricy but can be helpful if you have a problem!”
“I really like this product”
Hormonal fluctuations like the menstrual cycle affect your vaginal microbiome! And if you have a sensitive vulva and/or vagina that’s prone to infection, some people find it helpful to use period products with fewer ingredients in them because they find them less irritating.
Organic cotton pads.
Organic cotton tampons.
Most people’s sex ed experience in high school is pretty lackluster, focusing almost entirely on the reproductive parts of genitals like the ovaries and uterus (if they even receive sex ed at all). This a lot of people with vaginas feeling completely lost when it comes to anatomy (we’re talking about the clitoris, vagina, and vulva), and pleasure!
Luckily, there are some great reads by vulvovaginal specialists and experts in women’s sexual well-being to give us the supplementary sex ed we all need!
Dr. Krapf’s book on pelvic pain combines research and stories to take an in depth look at the causes of and treatments for pelvic pain along with how to get the best kind of help when you need it. You can pre-order Dr. Krapf’s book on pelvic pain to receive a copy when it’s published in January.
Get a better understanding of how women’s sexuality works based on brain science and research, in Dr. Emily Nagoski, PhD’s best-selling book.
Nice to Haves
Here are a few items to browse and buy when you feel like your vagina and/or vulva could use a little TLC or tender loving care!
“ If someone has like an itch-scratch-itch cycle like Lichen Simplex Chronicus or really any itch. Ice is a natural way to help with itch. This cold pack comes with a nice sleeve, which I like”
“The cool thing about this sitz bath is that it’s foldable and it actually compresses so you can travel with it!”
“Peri bottles can be helpful and they’re cheap. Because it's naturally acidic, sometimes urine can really irritate the genital area. You fill the peri bottle with warm or cold water, and squirt some water while you pee. This dilutes the urine to help make things feel better. You can also use them with a bowel movement, so you can pat instead of aggressively rubbing for wiping. It’s a great alternative to wipes which can be really drying.”
“I don’t like any wipes but water wipes are actually okay because they don’t have all the other ingredients in them—just water!”
“This is a rotating mirror that has magnification. I like it because you can put it on the floor and its rectangular instead of circular, so you can see everything!”
While all these products are great, it’s important to remember that every body is different and there’s no silver bullet for vaginal infections and vulvar discomfort. One of the best things you can do is find a doctor or specialist you trust and get to know your how your vaginal microbiome changes over time (you can do this with an Evvy test). That way, you can make informed decisions about which products you may want to use and when!
*Dr. Krapf is an advisor to Good Clean Love, Sweet Spot Labs, and Evvy.