Although a mild vaginal odor is natural, many women turn to feminine hygiene products to ‘improve’ their genital aroma. While some are beneficial, other feminine hygiene products do more harm than good. In this article, we’ll discuss what works best for vaginal odor & hygiene and what doesn’t.
A healthy vaginal odor is commonly described as tangy, slightly fermented, or sour. That said, each vagina has a unique smell, which is largely dependent on what the vagina owner eats, wears, and drinks, as well as their overall health, bacterial balance, hormone fluctuations, and general hygiene.
Poor hygiene, for example, can cause a build-up of sweat and bacteria that emits a musty odor from an otherwise healthy vagina. During menstruation, a perfectly healthy vagina can smell slightly metallic due to the presence of blood. And consuming strong-smelling foods like asparagus, broccoli, garlic, or onions, can result in a robust but temporary smell from the vagina.
A noticeable foul vaginal odor that lingers for a few days is not normal and typically indicates the presence of a vaginal infection.
When an unpleasant vaginal odor lingers despite daily washing and the absence of menstruation or eating strong-smelling foods, the cause is generally an underlying infection, such as a Yeast Infection, Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), or Trichomoniasis Vaginalis (TV). These infections are typically caused by an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast within the vaginal ecosystem.
Often identified by the presence of a lumpy, white, cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge, yeast infections can also result in genital itching and a beer-like or yeasty vaginal odor. BV is typically characterized by a fishy-smelling vaginal odor, genital inflammation & itching, a burning sensation when peeing, and pain during sex.
Although TV, which is also known as Trich, emits a smell similar to rotting meat or fish, this STI is often odorless and symptomless for many women. When symptoms do occur, they may include vaginal inflammation and itching, discomfort while urinating, and a green or yellow vaginal discharge.
The good news is, unpleasant vaginal odors and infections can largely be prevented with good daily hygiene habits and lifestyle choices.
Feminine hygiene products that promise sweet-smelling vaginas are often harmful to the delicate pH balance within the vagina and are frequently the cause of unpleasant vaginal odors rather than the solution. When it comes to protecting the vaginal ecosystem and keeping unpleasant genital odors and infections at bay, female health experts recommend avoiding the following:
Maintaining good overall hygiene, avoiding synthetic feminine products, and practicing safe sex are key factors in supporting vaginal health and minimizing vaginal odors. For a natural-smelling vagina and optimal genital hygiene, the following hygiene habits are recommended by female health experts.
It’s normal for vaginas to emit a mild odor, and each vagina’s smell can also vary according to the time of the month, what you eat, drink, and what you wear. Unusual or strong vaginal odors can be a sign of various infections including bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and trichomoniasis.
If you are experiencing persistent or concerning vaginal odors, make an appointment with your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Cleveland Clinic – Vaginal Odors - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/17905-vaginal-odor
Mayo Clinic – Bacterial Vaginosis - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bacterial-vaginosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352279
National Library of Medicine - Vaginal pH Value for Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment of Common Vaginitis - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8618584/
Centers For Disease Control & Prevention – Trichomoniasis - https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm
National Library of Medicine - Clinicians’ use of Intravaginal Boric Acid Maintenance Therapy for Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis and Bacterial Vaginosis - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6878170/
Journal of The Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association - The Antimicrobial Effect of Boric Acid on Trichomonas vaginalis - https://journals.lww.com/stdjournal/Fulltext/2014/12000/The_Antimicrobial_Effect_of_Boric_Acid_on.6.aspx