July 19, 2024

Women’s health expert reveals the most common female hygiene mistakes and how to prevent them

  • Women’s health doctor warns of the health conditions not showering after exercise can cause – pH imbalance, thrush, and bacterial vaginosis
  • 60% of British women sleep in their underwear
  • Underwear should be washed separately to other clothes to best protect feminine hygiene

Whether it’s sleeping in underwear, showering after exercise, or washing with fragranced products there doesn’t seem to be one rule for all, causing over half (51%) of British women to be confused about how they maintain good female hygiene.

Over a quarter (27%) feel like they are doing something wrong with their intimate health, and with UK Google searches for ‘washing underwear’ on a 43% rise in the last 30 days, it’s a concern for many.

To set the record straight and ease concerns, Freemans have partnered with women’s health and menopause specialist doctor, Dr Susanna Unsworth to share her expertise on maintaining good feminine hygiene and the common mistakes to avoid.

Avoid wearing underwear to bed to prevent a build-up of sweat:

Six in ten (60%) of women admit they sleep wearing underwear, however Susanna suggests it’s more beneficial to go without to prevent a build-up of sweat forming.

“If you can avoid wearing underwear to sleep, this is generally most beneficial as it allows air to circulate around the vulva and prevents the sweat build-up that can occur. If you do prefer to sleep wearing underwear, I would choose natural fabrics, such as cotton or bamboo, and put on clean underwear before getting into bed.”

Always shower or change into clean underwear after exercising:

The study found that only a third (37%) of women admit to always showering after exercising, while half (52%) only do sometimes. Susanna recommends it’s best to shower every time and if you’re unable to, always change into clean underwear, which only 46% of women are currently doing every time.

“After exercising, your sports clothes are likely to be sweaty. Wearing sweaty underwear for long periods of time can increase irritation of the external skin in the groin and around the vulva. It can also lead to a disruption of the pH balance, which could potentially increase the chance of developing infections such as thrush and bacterial vaginosis (BV). If you can shower after exercising, this would be recommended. However, if this is not possible, I would recommend changing into some clean underwear before leaving the gym.”

Opt for non-biological laundry products during washing:

Many Brits are unaware of the impact perfumed products can have on the skin, with the majority (58%) washing their underwear with fragranced or biological laundry products. Susanna shares that it’s best to avoid these products and instead opt for gentler, less fragranced laundry and hygiene products.

“Products that are highly fragranced or contain dyes or other chemicals could potentially be more irritant. I would advise using non-biological and minimally fragranced products for underwear, and consider washing them separately from your other clothes.

 Avoid exercising and sleeping in thongs as this can cause irritation and lead to infections:

As over a quarter (26%) of Brits admit to sleeping in a thong, while nearly a third (31%) wear them to exercise, Susanna has shared the risk this can pose to feminine hygiene, leading to infections and irritation:

“I would not recommend sleeping in thongs or wearing them to do long periods of exercise and I would also avoid them if you are prone to infections, such as thrush or BV, or if you have pre-existing skin conditions that can affect the vulva, such as lichen sclerosis.

“I would say as long as they are clean, fit well and the main gusset is made of natural material, such as cotton they can be healthy day to day. If a thong does not fit well, it can move about and cause irritation.”

Opt for cotton or bamboo underwear to keep the area cool:

“For daily use, I would suggest cotton, ideally at least 95%, or bamboo, as these help keep sweat away from the skin. For satin or more man-made fabrics aim to wear them for shorter periods of time and avoid wearing them when you expect more sweat, such as when exercising.”

Avoid perfumed products or products labelled ‘vaginal hygiene’:

“The vagina has a carefully balanced system, containing lots of healthy bacteria. Overwashing, and using perfumed products, can irritate and cause problems.

“Do not wash or douche the internal area as this area is self-cleaning. Avoid products marketed for ‘vaginal hygiene’ and any perfumed products. Also, avoid things containing SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) as this is what makes lots of products lather and foam, but it can be irritant on the skin.

“Standard soap is also not the best option as it is less acidic than the vagina and can upset the pH balance. For women pre-menopause, I would recommend a fragrance-free, pH-balanced product to lightly wash external areas, as sweat can build up and that can be irritant.”