Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind—and kudos to you for taking such good care of yourself. Likely, you also spend a good amount of time looking up new workouts, proper nutrition, and cutting edge gear.
Have you checked out the classes on Aaptiv? We release 30+ new workouts every Tuesday.
But, there’s probably one thing you’re forgetting to take care of: your vagina.
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of sweating and friction that comes with exercise. While that’s great and all, it can be kind of irritating for your lady parts. Much like you take extra care to wash your face after a sweat sesh, your vagina could use some extra attention. Here are some things to look out for:
Yeast Infections, Bacteria, and Other Super Fun Stuff
Our bodies naturally have bacteria, but given the right conditions, overgrowth occurs, causing yeast infections. “Yeast flourishes in a warm, moist environment. Your vagina is well designed to fight these invaders,” says Kelli Porter, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner with ob-gyn gynecologist Dr. Lisa Jukes. Workouts are the perfect generators for prime bacteria growth, but with some easy care, you can easily avoid yeast infections.
Porter recommends breathable fabrics, like cotton, especially in the crotch area; ideally, you want a fabric that allows for airflow. Fabrics like lycra and nylon can trap moisture and heat, creating (you guessed it) a bacteria breeding ground. “Any material that wicks away moisture is a good idea,” says Porter. While cotton undies are best, we know that they usually look the worst under tighter workout gear.
Nobody wants frumpy rumples or super obvious panty lines, but most experts agree that thongs are not the answer. Aside from the horrible friction, thongs are really great at transferring bacteria to places you don’t want it. “Thong underwear should never be worn for workouts,” says Porter. “It can create a nice pathway for e.coli (a bacteria that lives in the colorectal system and is responsible for most urinary tract infections and vaginal bacterial infections) to be transmitted to the vaginal area.” If you can’t find cotton or cotton lined underwear that fit, the best alternative is no undies.
Strip and Wash
It doesn’t matter what kind of workout clothes you’re wearing, you should get them off and your body freshened up right after a workout. It looks fun on TV when girlfriends go from spin class to the coffee shop, but in reality, that’s not a great idea. You’ll just be trapping your vagina in a hot, warm environment. “It’s […] very important to get out of wet or sweaty clothes promptly,” says Ginger Bane, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner with ob-gyn gynecologist Dr. Lisa Jukes. “After an intense sweat session I recommend changing clothes.”
Looking for an intense sweat session? Aaptiv has you covered.
Along with a change of clothes, wipe off as much sweat as possible—that could be with a body wipe, but ideally a shower. “Warm water and a soft cloth are all you need to clean the inner folds of the vulva,” says Porter. “Mild, unscented soap can be used in the pubic and groin area.” And no douching; that will rid your body of all bacteria, making you more susceptible to infections.
After you’ve showered, make sure that your body is completely dry before getting dressed. If it’s not, then, well, we’re right back where we started.
Chafing, Irritation, and Ingrown Hair
Runners and cyclists, you know what’s up here. Logging all those miles can make for an irritated nether region. All the repeated friction can cause chafing, redness, and more. Again, pay attention to the material you’re wearing. Cotton is your skin’s best friend, as is seamless clothing.
Distance athletes know too well how bothersome chafing can be. Although it feels weird, you’ll be much better off using an anti-chafing cream. “There are several types of anti-chafing products that provide a barrier between your skin and clothing. Vaseline even works great,” says Bane.
Porter had some interesting insight on ingrown hair. Turns out, our cultural obsession with having no body hair is to blame here. Pubic hair is a natural protection for our body and shaving kind of just creates more problems.
“Disrupting the hair follicle (by shaving or waxing) creates a way for bacteria to enter into the follicle and cause folliculitis, abscesses and irritation,” says Porter. “If someone must shave, it is best to shave in the direction of the hair growth (down) rather than against it (up). If pubic hair is really a concern I’d recommend laser hair removal instead of frequent shaving or waxing.”
Saddle sore sucks, and it takes a while to go away, so you’re better off working to prevent it in the first place. Bike saddles offer a wide variety of padding options. Keep in mind, more padding doesn’t always mean more comfortable. Most bike shops have tester seats so you can try before you buy.
If you’ll be cycling or spinning on a regular basis, bike shorts are probably the best investment you can make. Again, padding here is varied. As mentioned before, use an anti-chafe cream. Your vagina will thank you.
Rest Days and Winding Down at Night
Chances are you go most days wearing one pair of panties or another. Even when you’re doing everything right, your body would probably appreciate a break from the restrictive clothing. So, while you’re lounging around wearing sweats or sleeping, feel free to go commando. There’s no need to trap your lady parts while you’re relaxing, and the airflow will absolutely help keep your vagina healthy and bacteria free.
A great way to relax is with a healing stretching or yoga class, or with a calming meditation—and Aaptiv has them all.
If you have a rash or think you’ve developed a yeast infection, please visit your doctor.