Sexual Hygiene Need-to-Know
One of the ways you can minimise sexually transmitted diseases and infections is to practice excellent sexual hygiene. There are a few simple things you can do before, during and after sex that will keep your pleasure areas healthy and happy.
Yes, really. Dehydration has been linked to erectile dysfunction and may also cause vaginal dryness if there is insufficient natural lubrication. If genital skin is dry, it may be itchy or lead to painful sex. Let’s also remember that being adequately hydrated means you have less fatigue, more alertness and therefore are in an enhanced physical and cognitive state. Translation: you’ll enjoy it more. Drink up!
Clean your toys
It doesn’t matter if you’re alone or with others, you should always use sex toys that you’ve cleaned previously. Always follow manufacturer’s guidelines to clean your particular toy, but some good tips are:
- Submerge waterproof silicone toys (without vibrators) in boiling water then wash with a mild soap before rinsing and drying.
- Soak waterproof plastic, glass, metal and rubber toys in warm, soapy water before rinsing and drying.
- Clean battery-operated or leather toys with a warm, damp and soapy cloth then rinse and dry.
- Store the clean, dry toy in a dust-free place ready for use.
Always pay close attention to parts of toys that are textured or joined. This is where bacteria may lurk.
Wash hands and parts
You might forget this in the heat of the moment, but think about how many things your (and your partner’s) hands have touched before they touch your intimate areas. Fingernails, too, can harbour some very unpleasant bacteria you wouldn’t want inside your body. Also be aware of sharp or ragged nails, which might cause tiny scratches and lead to infections.
It’s recommended to use only warm water to clean your genitals, though a mild unscented soap is permissible for big clean-ups. Avoid getting soap on the inner labia and wash from the vagina towards the anus to avoid cross-contamination. Also be aware that scented bath oils may affect the delicate vaginal bacterial balance.
Some doctors additionally advise against using scented tampons, pads, powders and sprays, which may increase the chances of vaginal infection.
Trim pubic hair?
Pubic hair these days is a bit like a public phone box. It exists, but it’s kind of gone out of fashion. In fact, pubic hair does have various important biological functions. For example, it prevents skin-on-skin contact and therefore uncomfortable friction. As long as you wash carefully, it doesn’t matter if you have luxuriant pubic hair or none. For more information on this topic see our blog post Pubic Hair and Sexual Hygiene.
Nobody wants to go into a sexual experience fearful about possible infection. Regular testing of you and/or your partner means you’ll have peace of mind when you do whatever you want to do.
Don’t mix anus and vagina
Common sense, right? If you’re switching between the two, you’ll need to wash your hands, genitals or sex toy – or change the condom. The same goes for anilingus/rimming and cunnilingus if you want to avoid some quite unpleasant bacterial infections. It’s a good idea to keep separate toys for anal and vaginal use.
Have a wee
It’s recommended that both men and women urinate after sex to avoid urinary tract infections (UTIs) that may be caused by bacteria entering the urethra. You don’t have to sprint immediately to the loo, but the sooner the better . . .
As before, so after. Don’t leave it too long if you want to lessen the possibility of infection.
Wear clean underwear
If you’re prone to UTIs after sex, change into some clean, dry and breathable underwear (cotton is good) after washing. Also avoid sitting in damp clothes such as swimsuits or workout gear, as this could encourage potential bacterial growth.
Wash those toys
You don’t know when they may be called into action again.
Should you douche?
Douching has tended to be more popular in the USA, where around 20% of women aged 15-44 do it. The practice involves using a bag and tube to flush the inside of the vagina with a solution of warm water and vinegar, baking soda or iodine. You shouldn’t do this.
Douching disrupts the vagina’s natural balance and can lead to a number of serious complications, actually increasing the chances of getting a sexually transmitted disease. Even normal tap water may contain high levels of chlorine that can upset your internal balance, though a warm-water anal douche carries less risk if you feel it’s necessary.
In fact, the vagina is naturally self-cleaning (thanks, evolution!) through the production of mucus. A warm-water wash is all you need.
What about steaming?
Steaming is fine for broccoli and wallpaper, but not so good for the vagina. It has become quite popular recently as a new age treatment, though doctors warn against it for a few reasons.
Vulva skin is very delicate and sensitive (right?) and could easily be burnt by hot water vapour. Also, the herbs or other ingredients often used in steaming treatments can alter the body’s natural Ph, leading to bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.
It’s easy to keep your prized parts clean and in tip-top working order. It’s also responsible – to your own health and your partner’s. If you’re in any doubt about an unusual symptom (see the list below), you can contact us for a quick and easy at-home test kit with results in 2-3 days from receipt at the lab, order here https://uneed2know.uk/sexualhealth/
Possible symptoms to watch out for:
- Bumps, sores or rashes
- Itching and/or burning
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Unusual vaginal, anal or penile discharge
- Bleeding (other than your period)
- Skin growths around the genitals or anus
- A rash
- Blisters and sores around genitals or anus