Printed at The Ottawa Hospital
This booklet offers suggestions on how to care for
the vulva. It discusses ways to minimize or eliminate
symptoms such as pain, itchiness and burning of the
There are different reasons that you may be
interfere with your daily activities consult your
As you read the booklet, note any questions that come
to mind. There is a blank page at the end of the booklet
for this purpose.
Please discuss them with your physician or nurse.
What is the Vulva?
The vulva is the outside part of a woman’s genital
the labia minora,
labia majora, clitoris
and vaginal opening.
Another name for the
vulva is the perineum.
The skin of the vulva is
delicate and requires
care to avoid irritation
Avoid all perfumed products such as soaps,
shampoos, bath oils, bubble baths, feminine hygiene
sprays, moisturizing lotions or creams.
Wash with water frequently. You can use a squirt bottle
after going to the bathroom and dry gently by patting
rather than wiping.
Wipe yourself from front to back.
Do not use toilet paper made of recycled paper, the
recycling process uses harsh chemicals.
If you feel that you must use a cleanser, use an
unscented, soap-free skin cleanser or mild soap once
a day only. Make certain that you rinse thoroughly.
Do not use vaginal douches.
Enjoy baths at a moderate temperature.
When washing your hair in the shower, shampoo often
runs down to the vulvar area. Make sure that the vulva
is well rinsed of shampoo.
Use white towels or washcloths. Keep your towel and
washcloth separate from others.
Always dry the vulva thoroughly.
Wash laundry with gentle unscented soaps or those
that have been approved by dermatologists. Do
not use anything labeled “whiter” or “brighter” or
“improved”. They often contain harsher chemicals.
Avoid all perfumed detergents, fabric softeners, dryer
sheets and bleaches.
Always wear white cotton underwear, not simply a
cotton gusset line. Synthetic underpants don’t allow
good air circulation.
Wash new underwear before wearing them.
Do not wear underwear at night.
Wear loose clothing, preferably made of natural
material products such as cotton, wool and linen.
Natural fabrics allow better air circulation to the skin.
Avoid pantyhose or panty girdles.
Avoid dressing too warmly.
Use sanitary napkins or panty liners only when
you are menstruating. Using panty liners daily will
cause irritation. Consider changing underwear more
frequently instead of using liners.
napkins and tampons. Avoid “dry weave”, it is a plastic
lining used in some sanitary napkins.
Change sanitary napkins and tampons frequently.
Do not shave or wax the vulva.
Heat and Moisture
Avoid excess heat; it can cause moisture and humidity
to irritate the vulva.
Do not use a plastic mattress cover, electric blanket or
Do not cross your legs or remain sitting for a long
period of time.
Hot Tubs and Swimming Pools
Chemicals are used to keep hot tubs and swimming
pools free of bacteria.
Consider avoiding hot tubs and swimming pools if you
have an itch or irritation on the vulva.
Change out of swimsuits soon after swimming. Rinse
and dry the vulva thoroughly.
If a lubricant is used during sexual intercourse, chose
a water-soluble one that is free of added colour or
perfumes. Your physician can recommend one for you.
and condoms can cause irritation. If you have a
sensitivity or allergy to any of these, you may have to
consider another form of birth control.
If you use a diaphragm, vaginal dilators or “sex toy”,
make sure to clean them well with gentle soap and
water after every use. Rinse and dry well.
Saliva, beards and mustaches may cause irritation.
Never have genital contact after anal contact.
After sexual intercourse always wash and dry the vulva
After sexual intercourse always empty your bladder.
your urethra and bladder, thus preventing bladder
If you have a mild itch/irritation, which seems to
temporarily respond to “over the counter” antifungal/
yeast medications, you may have an allergy/sensitivity
to some local products rather than a yeast infection.
There are many reasons and conditions that
cause irritation, pain and discomfort of the vulva.
If you experience any of these symptoms, notice a
discoloration of the skin or lump in the vulvar area,
consult your physician.
Use protective pads designed for incontinence, they
are meant to absorb urine. You will probably notice
less odour and skin irritation, if you use these products
instead of using pads designed to absorb menstrual
Wash any skin that has come in contact with urine
with gentle pH balanced cleansers, (or use a no-rinse
perineal cleanser) rinse and dry well. Fragrances,
alcohol, and alkaline soaps should be avoided.
Use disposable wipes or wash clothes after emptying
your bladder or bowels, they are more gentle than
toilet tissue. Always wash from front to back.
Consider using a moisturizer (moisturizers either
seal in existing moisture, or add moisture to the skin,
they include creams, lotions or pastes) or a barrier
product (barrier products protect skin from contact
with moisture, and decrease friction from protective
pads.) Use products designed for incontinence, they
are available at most major drugstores. Apply to clean
Do not use barrier products if you are using antifungal
Inform your doctor of any products you use on the