Smelling fresh: Down under
If the barrage of advertisements on television, print media and the internet are to be believed, all women’s vaginas should smell like rose gardens and feel as fresh as the morning sun. Product X, Y or Z from company A, B or C will leave you smelling of peaches, oranges, lemons and some more, Down Under, is the message that is being clearly transmitted, day in and day out. The sales pitch aims at exploiting women’s insecurities and ignorance regarding genital health. A simple Google query will throw up thousands of questions, showing how widespread the malaise of misinformation is. Scented pads, scented tampons, douches, vaginal washes, wipes, oils and whatnot are then peddled left right and centre.
Gynaecologists and women health care providers have gone hoarse trying to dispel this myth of “fresh perfumed vaginas”. The simple question being, if our maker had intended women’s vaginas to smell like gardens, wouldn’t they do so? There is a reason our vaginas and vulvas smell as they do. Because they are meant to do so.
Biologically speaking, a woman’s vagina has a wonderful self-cleaning mechanism that keeps a stable pH, maintains cleanliness and health. This is done by maintaining a healthy level of bacteria which in turn leads to vaginal odors. The word odor here is a misnomer as every woman has her own scent and it’s a totally normal part of who she is. And that depends on race, diet, hereditary factors, hormonal levels, health factors etc. Only if the smell is too strong or rotting or cloyingly sweet should one consult a doctor rather than use something from over the counter. Over the counter fixes often contain chemicals that cause irritation, pain, inflammation or even infection. Even chemical free douches can upset the balance of bacteria in the vagina and lead to severe problems. Infact, douching or the practice of forcing water or chemicals into the vagina to clean it—has been found to be seriously detrimental.
So the next time you see an advertisement asking how you smell, just turn up the nose and give it a royal ignore.