Does taking care of your vulva and vagina feel like a full-time job? There are tons of products on the market that are constantly telling us that we need to clean, shave, hide (but on occasion, show off), trim, dye, and hate our vaginas. It’s exhausting to have to research what products we should use to address our concerns, how we should use said products, and consider if our doctors would approve of them. We want to make it a bit easier to be a woman and/or vulva-owner.
Rythm has done all of this research and leg work for you – we have curated our marketplace to reflect our values, which means you are only provided with options that are non-toxic and would get the stamp of approval from your doctor. We do this by working with our medical board of trusted sexual health advisors to review product ingredients and details to make sure they meet our high standards.
So, without further ado, here are ten of the best products you can use for optimal vaginal care. Check them out below.
1. Cotton Underwear
Finding that perfect pair of underwear can sometimes feel elusive and impossible, but I promise it isn’t. When buying underwear, you should consider material and fit.
You will often find that it is recommended that you purchase underwear made from 100% cotton or pairs that at least have a cotton panel in the gusset (the crotch) – this is because cotton is a very breathable fabric and synthetic fabrics (like spandex and polyester) tend to hold onto moisture and be less breathable. Dr. Sherry Ross, a renowned women’s health expert/author, said “Everyday underwear can be made of nylon, polyester, and spandex as long as the crotch area has a cotton lining, which is more vulva- and vagina-friendly.”
You should also make sure that you are comfortable in the undies you’re wearing… an ill-fitting pair of underwear can actually cause irritation, ingrown hairs, chafing, and skin problems.
My personal go-to for the perfect pair of underwear is Parade because they are invested in climate justice, they are gender-expansive and size-inclusive, they give back to communities all over, and I can personally confirm that their products are incredibly comfortable.
They take your classic cotton undies to the next level: all their products are OEKO-TEX certified (meaning there are no toxic chemicals in their products) and their cotton is made from materials called TENCEL™️ Lyocell and TENCEL REFIBRA™️ Technology, which uses recycled cotton scraps, is naturally antimicrobial, and it uses 95% less water in its production compared to normal cotton.
Use their size guide to find the right fit. They carry a variety of thongs, briefs, boyshorts (my absolute favorite), boxers, shorts, and cheeky styles starting at $9 (with bundle discounts).
The skin in and around the vulva and vagina is very sensitive and permeable, meaning whatever is applied to them is likely to enter the body. Female genitalia are their own ecosystems of healthy bacteria and yeast. For these two reasons, it’s important to be cautious about what washes and products you use ‘downstairs.’ Many washes like Summer’s Eve washes contain chemicals and fragrances that can be really damaging to your vulvar and vaginal health. When chemicals and fragrances are introduced to your vulvar/vaginal ecosystem, it can throw off your pH value.
For the same reasons above, we recommend Good Clean Love’s Rebalance pH-Balanced Wipes ($10). These wipes are great for on-the-go care – just throw one in your purse, backpack, or gym bag and go conquer your day.
4. Moisturizer & Lube
One of the most common complaints from vulva-owners is dryness (during sex and outside of sex). Dryness can be a product of low estrogen levels which vary throughout your menstrual cycle and breastfeeding, can happen after menopause, etc. Natural lubrication is also affected by oral contraception, some allergy medicines, antidepressants, and other underlying health conditions.
To avoid what can feel like a vaginal rug burn, make sure you use lube during sexual activity. Additionally, use a vaginal moisturizer – we moisturize our other skin, why wouldn’t we moisturize our vulvas and vaginas?
If you couldn’t tell, at Rythm we are big fans of Good Clean Love. So, next up on our recommendation list are their Restore Moisturizing Vaginal Gel ($17) and Almost Naked® Organic Personal Lubricant ($13).
In contrast to pads, tampons, as we know, are inserted into the vagina for menstrual blood collection. We have also learned that the skin in and around the vagina and vulva absorbs the chemicals/toxins that it is exposed to.
Tampons are made of cotton, synthetic materials, or a combination of the two, however, studies have shown that synthetic fibers are the ideal environment for toxin production. Though many synthetic materials have been prohibited, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still permits rayon in tampon production– which is a problematic synthetic material.
Philip Tierno, a clinical microbiology and pathology professor at New York University (at the time of publication) was the person who linked Toxic Shock Syndrome to the presence of synthetic fibers in tampons, and “in decades of research, Tierno has never seen a case of TSS with exclusive use of an all-cotton tampon.”
Thus, your best option is to use 100% cotton tampons that are not treated with bleaches, dyes, or fragrances. Examples of these products include the Organic Cotton Tampons from Public Goods (18 for $4.95).
Bonus: if you find tampon insertion difficult, check out Marlow’s Tampon Lubricant ($8.50) to make the process a bit easier (pictured to the right).
Although not inserted into the vagina, toxins in pads are harmful to the body. As a result of bleaching the cotton and wood in pad production, your pads may contain dioxin. Just like with tampons, it’s better to use 100% cotton pads like Rael’s Organic Cotton Pads (16 for $7).
Alternatively, you can use reusable cotton pads that you put in the washing machine (just like a pair of underwear); if you’re interested check out Rael’s Reusable Pads (3 for $34). Reusable pads are great for your wallet in the long run and also keep disposable products out of landfills!
7. Safer Sex Products
It’s important that your protection is protecting you from not just STIs or pregnancy, but toxic chemicals, too. Glyde’s condoms and dental dams ($17 for 12 condoms; $21 for 12 dental dams) are ethical, vegan, fair-trade, and come in multiple sizes for maximum protection.
8. Menstrual Cups & Discs
I first started using a menstrual cup in college and I have to say it was such a game-changer for me – depending on your flow, you only have to empty it about every 8-12 hours, it’s much more sustainable than disposable period products, it’s ok to use with a light or heavy flow, and it doesn’t cause dryness like a tampon can. There was a slight learning curve in figuring out how to insert and remove it, but I caught on quickly.
Menstrual cups and discs come in a variety of sizes and shapes and you may want to try a couple of different models. The most important thing, though, is to make sure that your cup is made from safe, non-toxic materials, like medical-grade silicone.
We are recommending the Intimina Ziggy Cup 2 ($44.95) for two reasons – the first is that it is made with 100% medical-grade silicone, making it not only safe but healthy for your body. The second reason is that it is the only reusable menstrual cup on the market that you can use during sex. Hooray for mess-free period sex!
9. Kegel Trainer
Kegels work to strengthen and tone pelvic floor muscles and also increase blood circulation to the pelvic floor and vagina. This increase in blood flow may encourage arousal and lubrication, while increased muscle control contributes to controlling incontinence and can increase overall sensation. Even if the effects aren’t physical and instead are psychological, Kegels “can help women feel better about their pelvic floor.”
It’s imperative to know that Kegels are not beneficial for everyone. Many women/vulva-owners do them incorrectly and this can exacerbate the problems they had in the first place.
Kegel devices like Dr. Sherry’s She-ology Interchangeable Kegel Set ($57) can be very helpful in targeting the correct muscles among other reasons, but you should check with your healthcare provider or pelvic floor specialist before practicing Kegels.
10. Sex Toys
That’s right, pleasure and play are both forms of vaginal care (and self-care in general)! When you’re looking in the market for a new sex toy, you should consider (1) your price point, (2) the kind of stimulation you are looking for, (3) whether you prefer battery-operated or rechargeable devices, and (4) the safety of the toy. While the first three considerations are personal preferences, we’re here to help with the fourth. Check out our blog post Top 10 Types of Sex Toys for Women to find the right toy for you.
Gillian ‘Gigi’ Singer, MPH
American Board Certified Sexologist, Sexuality Educator, and Sex Ed Content Specialist