Intimate soaps and intimate hygiene products are somehow tricky. Personally, I’ve never got along well with any in particular. The bath gel with 5.5 pH would do the job. But when switching to soap bars, and because I am stubborn and would not want to simply use the bath gel anymore, I had to find a homemade alternative.
This post is not to give you any miraculous homemade washing recipe for your intimate region. When it comes to sensitive body areas like this one, it’s dangerous to say that this or that product is the best, especially because I am no health specialist. I am just giving you a homemade washing alternative, one that you can control in terms of ingredients and processing, just like any natural cosmetic. One that worked for me.
Why you shouldn’t wash your vagina regularly…
The vagina is the muscular channel between the uterus and the outer portions around the vagina, called the vulva. The vagina is an acidic environment with pH between 3.5 and 4.5, which keeps bacteria and fungus away. It’s a self-cleaning organ, and introducing products with a different pH will disrupt the balance in this environment, which can result in irritation, bacterial vaginosis, or a yeast infection.
Therefore, and in a normal situation, you should not wash or douche your vagina. If you have an irritation, itching or burning sensation in your vulva area, you should see your gynecologist, to prescribe the best treatment for you (which might include a douche with an appropriate product).
… And why your vulva will benefit from good hygiene
So, does the vulva need to be washed? Yes, and you can find here a detailed description on how to do it correctly. According to same website, in this post, ” ‘Cleaning the vulva should be a part of your daily hygiene routine,’ says Sherry Ross, MD, OB-GYN and women’s health expert in Santa Monica, California.”. WomensHealthMagazine states the very same. By the way, your vulvar area has a pH pf 3.5 – 4.7. Menopause brings an increase in pH, varying between 4.5 to 7, depending on various factors, namely, if you take a hormone treatment or not.
Here are the good practices and how to clean this area properly:
- You should wash daily the area comprising your vulva, anus and the region in between (perineum)
- Wash “front to back” — in other words, wash your vulva first and then your anus. Otherwise, bacteria from the anus can spread to your vagina, which can cause infections
- You only need warm water. You can use a mild soap that doesn’t irritate your skin, if you prefer (I do), but it’s not necessary
- Spread your lips apart and gently cleanse around the folds, using a clean washcloth or your hands. Avoid getting water or soap inside your vagina.
A word about washcloths and sponges: if you are lazy and very practical like me, just use your own hands to wash yourself, after washing them with soap properly. It’s the cleanest way.
Why? Sponges and washcloths, when used regularly in the bathroom, get water content, which is a very friendly environment for germs, bacteria and fungus. It’s very easy for your sponge or washcloth to get this kind of microbial issues, even if you don’t see or smell it. And you don’t want to use a potentially disease-charged item in your intimate area, do you?
You can use washcloths, but be certain that they are clean (machine-washed, dry and straight from your drawer) when you use them, and then… just put them to wash again. See this article about pros and cons for using loofah, washcloths or your own hands.
My Personal Experience
When switching to soap bars, which I love and believe to be must better than commercial soaps or bath gels for our skin, I did have this issue of finding a good product I could make myself. Soap pH is too high for the intimate area, and I found out that Castille soap (olive oil soap) was the only one I tolerated and didn’t cause an immediate burning sensation. While I never had an actual health condition, I did have a constant discomfort about using this soap.
I realized that shampoo would not cause me any disconfort, and that a product with a too-high pH was actually the key to my disconfort – shampoos are formulated to have a pH of 5.5. So, I used my syndet shampoo bar, and found out that I felt much better, the disconfort disappeared.
But why not study a little bit and find out what is actually good for the vulva area in terms of washing? After some research and the opinion of a beautician and cosmetologist student (brasilian Silvana Liviero), I came up with this syndet bar – not really a soap bar because it doesn’t have soap – made with only one mild surfactant, natural oils, and a pH adjuster. Since I’ve started to use, I feel completely confortable – and fresh – in my intimate area.
Homemade Intimate Soap
So, you can actually use a mild soap to wash your whole intimate area. Two requirements for it: proper pH, so that it has minimal disruption to your vagina environment; very delicate and mild to sensitive skin.
I have chosen SCI as this is a very mild surfactant, and I already use it for my hair shampoos. I’ve tried it, and found no issues. I plan to study natural surfactants and provide with alternatives to SCI for super-sensitive skin.
Coconut oil is at same time cleansing and nourishing for skin. It also has some anti-inflammatory properties, so it sounds like a very good choice. While I don’t expect it to cure from inflammations or irritations, I am expecting some help with prevention and keeping your skin clean.
If you don’t get along well with coconut oil (it’s actually a strange oil, providing wonderful and benefic properties to some people and not being good to others), you can use jojoba oil, the mildest of vegetable oils, very similar to the fatty acid profile of our skin natural oil (sebum). While I don’t say it’s impossible, there are no known allergic reactions related with jojoba oil.
Hempseed oil is packed with vitamins and medicinal properties, with a highlight to its strong anti-inflammatory properties,
is so good that helps treat skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and others. Sounds good to sensitive skin. I find it very good to be used on my intimate soap bar.
Along with jojoba oil, sweet almond oil can be a replacement for any of these oils as well. Not because it’s better but because it’s cheaper and more commonly available. It’s a very good oil for skin care products. Hoever, bear in mind that if you have a nut allergy, this oil might not be an option.
The recipe uses coconut oil and hempseed oil, mostly due to cleansing, medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties, but in fact you can use a combination of any oils, as long as you respect the total quantity.
Distilled water is my preference for the reamining liquids. You can use an herbal infusion, but I prefer to keep it simple – the less ingredients, the less likely to develop any sort of irritant reactions.
The remaining ingredients are the pH adjuster, the preservative and the essential oil:
– I use citric acid as the pH adjuster, but I was told that the best is lactic acid, even milder to skin than citric acid. The necessary quantity is not exact, as it also depends on the pH of oils and water. Best practice is to use 1 teaspoon of pH adjuster and measure the product pH. If it’s still above 4.5, then add another teaspoon. Add the pH adjuster dissolved in a bit of warm water (1 or 2 tsp)
– Don’t forget that your body is different than mine. Adjust pH according to your age, and your needs. At reproductive age, pH is lower (a pH of 4 should be good enough), while before or after this period, pH rises (I would advise a pH of 5.5 in this case, as it’s also adequate for skin)
– Since this syndet bar contains water, and because it’s destined to a very sensitive area, this is a mandatory ingredient. Most natural preservatives work well in this pH area (3.5 – 4.5) but Liquid Germall Plus is the best choice I’ve found, considering its high protection to most bacteria and fungus. Actually it’s a syntethic preservative, but I always put safety above natural. I personally use Euxyl K940, which is natural and also offers a wide protection, but I know it’s not commonly available. Use 0,5% of the weight of the whole product – that would be 0,5g for a 100g syndet bar.
– Now, the essential oil is optional, especially because it can be a skin irritant. I use tea tree essential oil, from its antisseptic properties, and I feel absolutely zero irritation. But I really don’t advise it to do so. If you have to (I’m also sutbborn) start with mild ones like lavender.
How about the anti-oxidant to preserve the oils? Well, you can add a few drops of vitamin E oil, but there are a number of reasons why I don’t really find it necessary: the preservative prevents bacterial rancidity; the syndet bar only has 25% of oils; I use my bars before the oils have time to go rancid 🙂 . However, if you are making a big batch and wish to use your bars after some months, adding an anti-oxidant is not a bad idea at all.
Homemade Intimate Soap
Preparations and Good Practices
- Disinfect all your equipment before starting. You can boil some of your equipment (like the double boiler, glass cups, spoons), and use a solution of 1 liter of water with 1/2 cup of bleach, for items that are not heat-resistant (like the milk frother, plastic cups or the lotion containers)
- Measure all ingredients and prepare your workstation. Wear a mask as the SCI releases an irritant dust cloud
- Put a pan with water into the stove (any water as this is for bagne-marie)
- Add the oils and water into the double boiler or a metal jug. Let it heat in low heat, up to 50ºC or until a little bit before the solid oils melt completely
- Add the SCI and mix well with a spoon. I prefer to use a fork as it works as half spoon, half whisker.
- Mix and heat the mixture in low heat until it has the consistency of homogeneous mush or porridge
- Remove the double boiler or jug from heat. Mix a bit to cool down the mixture.
Make Your Bars
- At around 50ºC or lower, add the essential oils, the preservative and 1 tsp of citric acid dissolved in a bit of water. Mix well.
- Take 1/4 tsp of the mixture and dilute it in 1 tsp of warm water. Dissolve it well and use a pH strap to measure pH. Should be around 4.
- If pH is still high add another tsp of citric acid dissolved in water. Mix very well and measure the pH again.
- Pour the mixture into a soap mold. After unmolding let it dry for 2 or 3 days.
- Your intimate soap bar is ready to use!