After a sweaty workout, during a heavy flow, or following a series of rather intimate moments, you may feel like your lady parts could use a little TLC. But when you just don’t have the luxury of a full lather, rinse, and repeat, feminine wipes offer some quick and easy relief.
While the vagina is largely self-cleaning and doesn’t require the additional help of any feminine hygiene products, disruptions can negatively influence the bacteria that help keep a healthy acidic pH, says Sara Mucowski, MD, an ob-gyn in Dallas, Texas. “Disruptions to this environment, including sweat, semen, and menstrual blood may contribute to changes in odor, as well as the development of vulvar and vaginal infections,” she explains. An easy way to prevent these issues is practicing proper hygiene.
And feminine wipes are here to help! The right ingredients can soothe, moisturize, and prevent irritation of the vulvar skin, says Katerina Shkodzik, MD, an ob-gyn and the medical advisor at Mira. You should only clean the outside, meaning the vulva, with these wipes, not the inside of the vagina, she notes.
Note that there is no recommendation from ob-gyns to use vaginal wipes, so it’s up to every woman and her perception of comfort and freshness, says Dr. Shkodzik.
If you’re worried about odor, know that most women have a natural smell and are familiar with what it is. It also may vary with your cycle, says Alyssa Dweck, MD, an ob-gyn in Westchester County, New York. “Your natural scent doesn’t need to be masked with heavy fragrance, nor should the vagina or vulva need to smell like flowers, for example,” she says.
People think they need feminine hygiene products because of the stigma and shame about this area of their body, adds Katharine O'Connell White, MD, an associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University. If you bathe or shower regularly, your body should be more than clean enough.
Still want to check out some feminine wipes? Try these products recommended by ob-gyns for gently cleaning and caring for your lady bits.
Meet the experts: Sara Mucowski, MD, an ob-gyn and reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist. She has a special interest in fertility preservation.
Katerina Shkodzik, MD, is an ob-gyn with a special focus on reproductive endocrinology and infertility issues who has been practicing since 2015. She is also the medical advisor for Mira.
Katharine O'Connell White, MD, MPH, is a practicing gynecologist and the vice chair of academics and the director of the fellowship in family planning at Boston Medical Center. She also serves as an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Boston University School of Medicine.
The best feminine wipes will be free of irritating parabens, dyes, and fragrances. (One note: If an unfamiliar odor is the reason you’re reaching for wipes, Dr. Dweck recommends getting checked for an infection, like BV, rather than simply trying to mask it with wipes, especially if you have sensitive skin down there.)“
As with any topical product, sensitivity can occur, especially a product that may come in contact with vaginal mucosa,” Dr. Mucowski explains. She also recommends avoiding wipes with fragrance, in addition to products with alcohol, parabens, oils, talc, and are hypoallergenic and pH-neutral.
Dr. Shkodzik suggests looking for wipes that support proper pH balance. You can also look for products that contain natural compounds for soothing, softening, moisturizing effects on the skin of the vulva, such as aloe vera, calendula, chamomile, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E.
Because feminine wipes are meant for the vulva and not the vagina, they are perceived as a relatively safe product for most women to use, Dr. Mucowski says. If you’re prone to sweating in hot environments, then wipes can be useful to decrease sweat build-up in the vaginal area, says Dr. Shepherd.
However, if you’re prone to yeast infections, currently have abnormal discharge, or any sores or lesions, it is best not to use wipes at all. In fact, all you need to stay clean is mild soap and water, White says, and that in general there is no way to confirm a wipe is “safe” to use.
Lastly, don’t forget that constant use of wipes can disrupt the vagina's natural pH and that wipes do not treat or prevent STIs or pregnancy.
That said, if you’re armed with information and you’re still a fan of wipes, these are some gyno-approved options available online.