Vulvar Care



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Vulvar Care


Disclaimer 

This is general information developed by  

The Ottawa Hospital. It is not intended to  

replace the advice of a qualified healthcare 

provider. Please consult your own personal 

physician who will be able to determine the 

appropriateness of the information for your  

specific situation.

Prepared by the Gynecology/Oncology 

Clinic Nursing Staff of the Ottawa Hospital 

– Shirley E. Greenberg Women’s Health

Centre, Riverside Campus

July 2005

P529 (12/05) 

Printed at The Ottawa Hospital 




Vulvar Care 

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 

vulva. 

There are different reasons that you may be 



experiencing these symptoms. If these symptoms 

interfere with your daily activities consult your 

physician. 

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?

1

The vulva is the outside part of a woman’s genital 



organs. It includes 

the labia minora, 

labia majora, clitoris 

and vaginal opening. 

Another name for the 

vulva is the perineum. 

The skin of the vulva is 

Labia Majora

Clitoris

delicate and requires 

care to avoid irritation 

and discomfort. 

Vaginal 

Opening



Vulvar Hygiene 

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. 

2



Clothing, Sanitary Napkins and

Tampons 

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. 

3



Use cotton, unscented, non-deodorized sanitary 

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 

waterbed. 

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. 

Sexual Practices 

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. 

4



Contraceptive spermicides, mousses, foams, sponges 

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 

area. 

After sexual intercourse always empty your bladder. 



This helps flush away any germs that may enter into

your urethra and bladder, thus preventing bladder 

infections. 

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. 

5



If You Have Incontinence 

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 

blood. 


Change soiled pads and undergarments promptly. 

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 

skin only. 

Do not use barrier products if you are using antifungal 

creams. 

Inform your doctor of any products you use on the 

vulva. 

6



NOTE

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Document Outline

  • Vulvar Care
    • What is the Vulva?
    • Vulvar Hygiene
    • Clothing, Sanitary Napkins and Tampons
    • Heat and Moisture
    • Hot Tubs and Swimming Pools
    • Sexual Practices
    • If You Have Incontinence
    • NOTE


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