Proper intimate hygiene for men and women

The intimate area is often cleaned with exaggerated hygiene. Mostly, however, water is enough for daily care. How men and women feel "down below wash, shave and dress properly

The range of products for feminine hygiene is huge. In addition to intimate wash lotions, creams, deodorants and wipes, there are also special showers "for optimal internal vaginal care". The problem with this is that women should keep almost all of it away from their intimate areas. Experts believe that the use of such agents leads to increased infections with bacteria and fungi. Because the products disturb the natural vaginal flora.

According to a 2018 Canadian study, women who used intimate wash lotions or gels were 3.5 times more likely to have a bacterial infection and 2.5 times more likely to have urinary tract infections. For "down below the motto is: less is more. "Products that match the pH of the vagina and are considered gentlest also affect the flora", says Dr. Lisa-Maria Wallwiener, gynecologist at the Klinikum rechts der Isar of the Technical University of Munich.

No shower gel, no intimate lotion: water is quite sufficient

Above all, no woman should wash or care for her vagina internally. "It is a mucous membrane like in the mouth. You don’t put any cream on it," says, says Wallwiener. Even to clean the area of the outer labia, water is enough. Best to just wash along in the shower. However, no shower gel should get into the sensitive area.

However, women should not completely forget the intimate area when washing. Otherwise, whitish deposits (smegma) can form in the skin folds of the labia, which smell unpleasantly. It becomes more complicated if the vagina already causes problems, for example if it feels unpleasantly dry. "Then a moist cream is okay as an immediate measure", says Wallwiener.

Nevertheless, the cause should be investigated. Because behind the symptom could be a disease. Infections with fungi and bacteria also bring dryness as well as itching, redness, and swelling. Wallwiener: "Then go to the gynecologist."

Consider circumcision if the foreskin is severely constricted

In men, intimate hygiene becomes difficult when the foreskin narrows and can no longer be pushed back. Smegma can then accumulate underneath it. "This increases the risk of penile cancer. It can also cause weeping sores that don’t heal well", says Professor Michael Trub, Director of the Urology Clinic at Dortmund Hospital.

Affected persons should have their foreskin removed, i.e. circumcised. "Otherwise, proper hygiene is no longer possible", says Trub. If you can move the foreskin, it is best to clean the penis under running water. The following also applies to this sensitive area: avoid shower gel if possible. Soaping on the testicles is less problematic.

Anal hygiene: special wet wipes are not necessary

Men and women should also clean the anus as carefully as possible. This also applies if they do not yet have any health problems, such as hemorrhoids. "It’s a closed moist zone in the butt crack, the anal area is very sensitive.", emphasizes Dr. Gerhard Weyandt, Director of the Clinic for Dermatology and Allergology at Bayreuth Hospital.

Special wet wipes for cleaning after going to the toilet are not needed. Some proctologists, specialists in the rectum, reject these products. "They often contain alcohol, preservatives and fragrances. That irritates the skin or leads to allergies", also says Weyandt. The proctologist also advises against rubbing firmly with toilet paper. Better "dab".

No false shame in the case of complaints at the anus

For women it is important not to bring intestinal bacteria into the vagina. "The germs often lead to bladder infections or bacterial infections", says Wallwiener. It would be ideal to shower the anus in a bidet after the big business and then blow dry or pat dry with toilet paper. But this is not always practical in everyday life. A possible alternative: dampen the toilet paper a little with water and dab gently with it.

A doctor should be consulted if symptoms such as itching, redness or inflammation occur. "It’s important to identify the cause,", says Weyandt. Some skin diseases, such as psoriasis and nodular lichen, can also make themselves felt at the anus. Those who are ashamed of their problem and do not go to the doctor often suffer unnecessarily for a long time. Hemorrhoids, for example, can be treated more quickly and without complications if they are treated at an early stage.

Underwear does not necessarily have to be made of cotton

Less problematic than many think is the underwear. It doesn’t necessarily have to be cotton panties that can be put in the washing machine at 60 or 95 degrees Celsius. "It is okay to use synthetic panties and wash them only at 30 degrees", says Wallwiener. Allergic reactions to detergents used for underwear are also rare.

On the other hand: According to the expert, some women actually have fewer vaginal problems if they wear classic cotton. And thongs are not a good idea if you already have irritation in the genital area. They cause more friction and can carry intestinal bacteria toward the vagina.

Gently depilate the intimate area

Should you use a cream, an epilator or a razor to depilate the sensitive intimate area?? The experts Wallwiener and Weyandt advise against the first two methods. Depilatory cream can irritate the skin, and epilation can be particularly painful for the very thin skin there.

But shaving also carries risks: Often it comes to hair root inflammation. This ranges from small pustules to large abscesses that the doctor has to cut open. Infections with genital warts can spread in small cuts. To avoid such consequences: never shave dry, soak the skin with warm water. Weyandt advises merely trimming the hair- with a razor or hair clippers, set at a height of two millimeters. After shaving, soothe the skin with a moisturizing cream without fragrance.

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