What’s that smell?
How to get rid of unpleasant feminine odor
What is feminine odor?
Also referred to as vaginal odor, feminine odor is how your vagina smells. The first thing you have to know is that it's completely normal for your vagina to have a slight smell. You should only be worried if it starts to smell a lot or smells funky and abnormal to you - but more on that later.
The reason why your vagina naturally smells a bit is because not unlike your gut, the vagina contains bacteria, yeast, and all that good stuff - most of which are healthy but unfortunately, comes with a smell.
When is vaginal odor bad?
Like we mentioned, a slight smell is a-okay. But trust your nose because if the smell is very strong or a bit off to you, it can indicate an infection. Things that might cause your vaginal odor to go awry:
There are many causes of a smelly vag - read on to find out what’s causing certain smells down there.
During your menstrual cycle, your vaginal odor may take on a metallic or coppery scent. This is totes normal because blood has an elevated pH so it can change the natural pH of your vagina, which should be between 3.8 to 4.5. But don’t worry - the odor should go away once it’s no longer Code Red.
A fishy smell may occur when there are too much bad bacteria. If the odor increases right after sex or is accompanied by increased discharge, it could be bacterial vaginosis (also known as BV or vaginitis), an excess of vaginal bacteria. In some cases, BV also comes with symptoms like itching and burning but is easily treated with antibiotics.
If you find that your vaginal odor smells like bleach, lubricants and condoms may be throwing your delicate pH balance out of whack. If this is the case, try a different brand to see if that clears up the odor.
The most common cause for a rotten smell down there is a tampon that’s been left in your vagina. While never pleasant, the smell should fade away once you’ve removed the forgotten tampon. While not normally life-threatening, in some cases when the tampon has been left in for too long, the bacteria may trigger toxic shock syndrome.
Alas, you are what you eat. While not scientifically proven, diet may affect your vagina’s smell and taste. Rumor has it that fruits like oranges, pineapple, and grapefruit sweeten your vaginal fluids, while onions, garlic, broccoli, and asparagus contribute to an unpleasant smell.
Tips to reduce unpleasant feminine odor
How to make your vagina smell better. If it’s a recurring nightmare that you’re the unfortunate answer to someone’s “what’s that smell?” question, below are some tips that help you maintain vaginal odors at a healthy, non-offending scent.
1. Keep it clean
A daily feminine hygiene routine will keep your vulva (the skin outside of your vagina) clean of blood, sweat, and dirt, keeping unwanted odors at bay.
Wash down there regularly with a natural cleanser - avoid heavily scented perfumes soaps that will alter your vagina’s pH. While you may think scented products will help you cover up any odors, the synthetic fragrances can wreak havoc on your pH levels and cause even more odor - it’s a vicious cycle!
One thing to note is that while you need to clean the outside of your vagina, your vagina itself has superpowers and naturally cleans itself. It maintains a healthy pH and prevents unhealthy bacteria all on its own - employee of the month, right here! Douching will only upset your natural pH levels and get rid of everything, including the good bacteria, resulting in odor or even irritation.
Make sure you wipe front to back and use wipes between showers and after exercising, especially during your period, to remove sweat and other discharge. To help manage odors, remember to change your underwear daily and use unscented, non-irritating products to wash them.
2. Air it out
Ah, cotton - the fabric of our lives and conveniently, the best option for keeping odors at bay. Cotton is breathable and helps absorb the excess moisture like sweat and fluids from your body that might throw off your natural pH levels.
Extremely tight clothing not only feels uncomfortable and not conducive to all you can eat meals but can trap things like sweat and restrict circulation down there. Good oxygen flow = happy, healthy vagina.
3. Eat healthy
Watch your sugar intake as foods with a high level of sugar can trigger an overgrowth of yeast, altering your vaginal odor. Say it with us now: when it doubt, sweat it out! Drinking plenty of water encourages healthy sweating and fluid release, as well as prevent excess bacterial growth.
4. Change menstrual products frequently
As mentioned before, a metallic smell may accompany periods but the moisture of pads and reusable cloth pads can also contribute to a strong odor so it’s important to change them frequently - and don’t forget about changing tampons to avoid a rotten smell.
5. Cleanse after sex
Since semen has an elevated pH and lubricants may lead to odors, give your vagina a quick cleanse after intercourse to maintain natural bacteria and pH levels.
6. Take probiotics
There are good bacteria and bad bacteria. High levels of bad bacteria cause odor, while good bacteria like probiotics can help prevent infections and help restore the vagina’s normal pH, reducing vaginal odor. Try incorporating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut into your diet.
When is feminine odor a problem?
Feminine odor can have many different causes. If you have odor without other symptoms, it’s typically not a cause for alarm. Try the above tips for reducing feminine odor and if it still doesn’t go away, consult a doctor.
However, if the odor is unbearably strong or you also experience itching, irritation, pain, and abnormal discharge, it could indicate a more serious problem, and you should consult a doctor.