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HealthInfo Canterbury

Vulva & vaginal care

teen girl runningVulva is the proper name for the outside parts of your genitals. It includes your labia (the lips around your vagina), your clitoris, the opening to your urethra (where you wee from), and the opening to your vagina. Your vagina is the inside part.

Generally, your vagina and vulva don't like it if you use lots of strongly perfumed and coloured soaps, lotions, and potions. That's because the chemicals can strip your skin of its normal oils and protection. This can make your vulva and vagina dry and irritated. Sometimes it can cause an overgrowth of normal skin bugs, which leads to discharge from your vagina.

Washing with warm water and a small amount of a mild soap, or a soap alternative, is the best way to keep your genital area healthy.

Shaving and waxing can irritate your skin. As well, your pubic hair can grow back the wrong way (ingrown hairs), which can cause pain and infection. If this happens, you need to stop shaving or waxing until it's cleared up. Then, to stop it from happening again, try a more gentle way of removing the hair, such as a lady's electric razor. If you are using a blade razor, use plenty of shaving gel – don't use soap.

The links below give you more information about what's normal with your vulva and vagina, and how to tell when there might be a problem.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

What's normal?

When there might be a problem

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated November 2014.


Page reference: 53223

Review key: HIVVC-53223