Expert advice

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Meet Doctor Ian, our top gynaecologist. An expert for over 17 years, he’s our go to when it comes to caring for down there, and now he can be yours too. Check out his page, packed full of all the useful info you need to know.

Popular questions:

  • What does 'pH-balanced' mean and why is it important?

    PH is a measure of how acid or alkali something is. Your skin has a normal pH between 5.4 and 5.9, however the intimate skin has a normalised pH that is less than 4.5. The normal pH-balance in the intimate skin is regulated by good bacteria in the vagina called lactobacilli. This optimal pH-balance helps to prevent the growth of harmful organisms. If the pH of the vagina increases (making it less acidic) the quality or amount of lactobacilli can fall and other bacteria can multiply. This can result in infections such as bacterial vaginosis or thrush.

  • What can upset my intimate pH-balance?

    pH levels change with age: before puberty and then again with the onset of the menopause. In between, there are a number of factors that can cause your pH to fluctuate such as:

    Antibiotics - which can wipe out your ’good’ bacteria, leaving you at an increased risk of infection

    Pregnancy - the hormone levels alter the pH during pregnancy. The pH changes in breast feeding women too

    After sex - sweat and abrasion during sex can be an irritant and semen is alkaline so may alter the pH

    Contraceptive pill - The pill provides constant hormone levels but some women may experience some irritation in the week that they are not on the pill

    Heat and sweat - caused by wearing tight underwear or jeans, exercising and intercourse

    Monthly cycle - hormonal changes during your monthly cycle alter the pH-balance and it’s least acidic on the days just before and during your period leaving you prone to infection. Sanitary protection products can also be irritants, particularly perfumed liners which can cause irritation especially if they are worn all day

    The most common symptom of a change in your pH is itching. When the intimate environment becomes irritated you want to scratch which can lead to infection. Once you upset the vaginal pH-balance the skin naturally becomes sensitive and you are open to bacterial infections which will need to be treated by a doctor.

  • Isn’t water enough? And why can’t I use my regular shower gel to cleanse my intimate skin? Isn’t all skin the same?

    Using water alone will not harm the pH-balance of your intimate skin however many women also want the added benefits of cleansing, soothing and moisturising the skin. The skin of the vulva outside the vagina can be extremely sensitive and may be susceptible to irritation as a result of exposure to products such as shower gels and perfumed products which can upset the natural pH-balance. Whilst some women can wash with whatever they like and not experience any discomfort, a soap free, hypoallergenic, pH-balanced, dermatologically and gynaecologically tested product such as femfresh is the best way of helping to maintain the natural pH-balance.

  • How do I prevent my intimate skin from being itchy?

    There are different ways of doing it: avoid using strongly perfumed products on your intimate skin as this can upset the natural pH-balance and promote the growth of bad bacteria that can lead to discomfort. Use specially designed products such as femfresh that are hypoallergenic, dermologically and gynaecologically tested to maintain the healthy pH-balance of the intimate skin. There are other steps that can also help such as drinking plenty of water to ensure you remain hydrated, as well as avoiding tight fitting jeans or tights and to only wear cotton underwear.

  • I sometimes have a whitish discharge and odour, is it normal?

    It’s normal to produce clear or white secretions (discharge) from your vagina. This mucus is produced naturally from glandular cells at the neck of the womb, known as the cervix.
    Vaginal discharge does not always signal a problem, thrush for example. There is a myth that copious clear or white discharge is always associated with sexually transmitted infections. In fact, changes in the amount of discharge can be totally hormonal. Vaginal discharge does have a natural odour but there are conditions that can cause a malodorous discharge such as bacterial vaginosis.

  • What is bacterial vaginosis? How do I prevent it?

    In cases of BV, the bad bacteria begin to outnumber the good, leading to inflammation inside the vagina. This can lead to symptoms that include discomfort, excessive watery discharge that can have a fishy odour. Maintaining a healthy pH-balance of the intimate skin can help to provide the optimum environment to ensure a healthy bacterial balance to prevent symptoms from occurring [please refer to Q1 for advice on how to maintain a healthy pH-balance]. If you think you may be suffering from BV speak to your GP or healthcare professional for a diagnosis.

  • What does vulva mean, is that my vagina?

    The vulva is the external sexual organ of a woman’s body and its main purpose is to protect the inner sexual organs, including the vagina and the urethra (opening for urination). The vulva consists of the mons pubis (the top area towards the lower abdomen) and this is the main hair bearing part. The labia majora or outer labia/lips, run down both sides and are also hair bearing. The labia minora, inner labia/ lips usually lack hair and can be particularly sensitive. This area forms the transition between the inner vagina and the outer vulva.

  • What are the benefits of using femfresh? Is it important to use?

    The benefits of using femfresh is that it is designed to maintain the natural pH-balance of the intimate skin. For women who want to use anything more than water, it is important to choose a product that works in harmony with your body and does not upset this pH-balance.
    Femfresh is specially formulated by experts to care for the intimate skin to gently cleanse, soothe and moisturise your skin without disturbing your delicate pH-balance.

  • Is it more important to use a specialist product during my period?

    The pH-balance in and around the vagina can change quite significantly during your period. It is at this time that many women may become more diligent with their feminine hygiene. Therefore the product they choose should be one that is specially designed to work in harmony with the body and help maintain the natural pH.

  • Why are some women prone to more irritation more than others?

    Some people just have sensitive skin and some do not. The same way as some have allergies elsewhere on the body. The skin of the vulva is particularly rich in sensory nerve receptors and is highly susceptible to changes in its environment making it important that the correct products are used all the time.

Dr Ian

Expert advice

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If you've suffered from irritation before you'll know just how annoying it can be. So, what can you do to avoid it?

  • Wearing tight and restricting clothes can irritate your intimate skin, so when your little black dress isn’t called for, get those cotton baggies on and give your skin some time to breeeeaaaathe.
  • Having a gorgeously scented shower gel is great for the skin on the outside, but your intimate skin likes it a little less fussy. femfresh daily wash is delicately fragranced and specially designed using a pH-balanced formula that cares for your intimate skin.
  • Avoid strongly perfumed washing powders, opt for the most sensitive on the market.
  • Don’t forget...wipe front to back and why not keep some femfresh wipes in your bag to freshen up when you’re on the go.
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet and drinking alcohol and caffeine in moderation, all help to maintain good general health and will help reduce irritation.
  • Flush bugs through your system by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day, such as water or herbal teas.
  • Pee regularly! Waiting until you’re bursting can give any bacteria more of a chance to multiply.
  • Use a natural lubricant during sex.
  • If you regularly suffer from cystitis, try drinking cranberry juice or try cranberry tablets. There is good evidence to suggest a substance present in cranberry juice prevents bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder, making infections less likely to occur.
  • Pee before and after sex to flush through any bacteria. If you suffer badly from urinary tract infections, shower straight after, or use a suitable intimate cleansing wipe.

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Expert advice

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FAQs - Popular questions:

  • So is there a benefit to using femfresh intimate hygiene products?

    Yes. femfresh has been specially designed specifically for the unique pH of your intimate skin, which is different to the rest of your body. femfresh works in harmony with your body to maintain a healthy pH-balance, protecting the natural enviroment to avoid upsetting or causing irritation to your intimate skin. However, if you're worried about anything to do with your vaginal health you should consult your doctor.

  • What causes irritation to intimate skin?

    Irritation can be caused by a change in pH level (how acidic or alkaline something is). The pH-balance of the intimate skin is different to the pH of body skin and is naturally more acidic to prevent and discourage infections. This low, acidic nature is caused by good bacteria ’Lactobacilli’ that naturally inhabit the intimate area, helping to keep it clean and healthy. But there are times when this delicate pH-balance changes, leaving you prone to irritation and infection

  • What are the causes and symptoms of a pH-change?

    pH levels change with age: before puberty, and then again with the onset of the menopause. In between, there are a number of factors that can cause your pH to fluctuate such as:

    • Antibiotics - which can wipe out your ’good’ bacteria, leaving you at an increased risk of infection
    • Pregnancy - the hormone levels alter the pH during pregnancy. The pH changes in breast feeding women too
    • After sex - sweat and friction during sex can be an irritant and semen is alkaline so may alter the pH
    • Contraceptive pill -The pill provides constant hormone levels but some women may experience some irritation in the week that they are not on the pill
    • Heat and sweat - caused by wearing tight underwear or jeans, exercising, and intercourse
    • Monthly cycle - hormonal changes during your monthly cycle alter the pH-balance and it’s least acidic on the days just before and during your period leaving you prone to infection. Sanitary protection products can also be irritants, particularly perfumed liners which can cause irritation especially if they are worn all day
    • Some perfumed or high pH wash products - In the same way your body skin can be irritated by perfumed shower gels and creams if you have sensitive skin, the delicate skin down there can be easily upset. This is a very common cause of irritation The most common symptom of a change in your pH is itching. When the intimate environment becomes irritated you naturally want to scratch the area, which can lead to infection. Once you upset the vaginal pH-balance the skin naturally becomes sensitive and you are open to bacterial infections which will need to be treated by a doctor.

    The most common symptom of a change in your pH is itching. When the intimate environment becomes irritated you want to naturally scratch which can lead to infection. Once you upset the vaginal pH-balance the skin naturally becomes sensitive and you are open to bacterial infections which will need to be treated by a doctor.

  • Why are some women prone to irritation more than others?

    It’s purely down to skin type. Some women can do anything and never get a reaction. Women’s urethra, vagina and anus are naturally close together so bacteria can be easily spread. There is also a huge variation in the distance between the vagina and anus in women - some can be as close as a few mm apart and this closeness may mean they may be more prone to cross infection. Bacteria can be passed by wiping the wrong way after going to the loo or during sex too, so it’s essential to keep the area as clean as possible.

  • I’ve heard that if you have an infection or irritation you should wash with water only. Is this true?

    If your intimate area is irritated or there are signs of infection, this can be due to an imbalance of pH levels. When this imbalance occurs water is a gentle way of keeping the skin clean to limit the irritation, however we're talking about skin here and we understand that for some girls washing with just water isn't enough. femfresh has been designed to care for down there using a specially designed formula that's pH-balanced, caring for your intimate skin without disrupting the natural workings of your body which can lead to irritation.

  • What about douching?

    Douching is a method of spraying water or specific douche formulas upward inside the vagina to wash and flush out secretions. There is much discussion around vaginal douching amongst health experts, with the disadvantages outweighing the positive benefits - NHS UK say douches ‘…can disrupt the normal vaginal bacteria, so it isn't recommended that you use one’.

    The femfresh range is pH-balanced and specifically designed only for use on your external intimate skin (also known as the outer skin of the Vulva) and should not be used as a douche or for use inside the vagina.

  • What causes irritation after sex and what can you do to reduce the risk?

    The main cause is when bacteria that live quite harmlessly in the bowel get into the urethra. Another cause of infection is using unclean fingers or sex toys that carry bacteria to reduce the risk of infections urinate before and after sex to flush out any bacteria.

    The pH-balance of your intimate skin is naturally more acidic to prevent and discourage infections. This low, acidic nature is caused by good bacteria ’Lactobacilli’ that naturally keeps your intimate area healthy. The pH of semen is alkaline so you need to wipe away semen as quickly as possible or you could upset your ’good’ bacteria.

    If you're highly prone to attacks it's best to shower straight away using pH-balanced femfresh washes. If you can’t shower at the very least cleanse using femfresh wipes which will remove sweat, bacteria and leave a good pH environment. Remember to always wipe front to back too.

    The use of spermicides with diaphragms alters vaginal flora, increases pH and decreases lactobacilli concentration which promotes irritation. If you are prone to irritation talk to your nurse about other contraceptives.

  • Is cystitis like cold sores, once you’ve had one infection you’re likely to get them again and again?

    About half of all women have at least one bout of cystitis. For many, only one or two bouts occur in their lifetime. However, recurring bouts of cystitis occur in some women. This most commonly occurs in women in their late 20s, and in women over 55 and is usually down to bacteria pushed into the urethra during sex or bad hygiene habits, for a minority there is a significant problem and re-occurring attacks require medical investigation. If you are suffering re-occurring attacks you should discuss it with your GP who may decide to investigate further.

  • Why is irritation more common during pregnancy?

    Cystitis and urine infections are more common during pregnancy than at other times1. One reason for this is the high levels of progesterone, the pregnancy hormone, which makes the bladder larger and more relaxed than usual so it doesn't empty as efficiently. Also, as the uterus grows it puts pressure on the bladder and urethra which can make it difficult to pass urine properly. When the bladder is not emptied, bacteria hangs around for too long and can multiply leading to infection.

    1www.babyworld.co.uk/information/pregnancy/pregnancyproblems/pregprobs_cystitis.htm

  • Why is irritation more common in menopausal women?

    As the function of the ovaries decline, the body's estrogen levels drop. The pH level in menopausal and post-menopausal women also changes making it more alkaline, this imbalance of pH levels can increase the risk of irritation and infection.

  • How can I relieve the symptoms of dryness/irritation?

    Whatever the cause or severity of dryness/irritation there are things you can do to relieve the symptoms. You can see your GP to discuss prescriptive remedies, but there are some steps you can take yourself to help.

    • Take in lots more water than usual to ensure you are suitably hydrated. Avoid any dehydrating products like alcohol and caffeine.
    • Avoid any intimate irritants, like perfumed shower gels, soaps or bath oils. Opt for femfresh Ultimate care Soothing Wash which is hypoallergenic and at the right pH-balance for the intimate area.
    • Avoid strongly perfumed washing powders. Opt for the most sensitive on the market.
    • Use a natural lubricant during sex.
  • Can femfresh cause BV?

    All femfresh variants are independently tested by a clinical test, in-vivo. The study is monitored by a gynaecologist and a dermatologist.

  • Does femfresh contain any aggressive chemical and is it free of known carcinogens like parabens?

    All ingredients used in Femfresh comply with EU cosmetic legislation. Please see information sheet attached from the professional trade association.

  • Is the type of perfume used synthetic?

    The perfume has been specially developed for use in intimate hygiene areas and complies with EU cosmetic legislation. They are then independently, clinically tested in-vivo and the study is monitored by a gynaecologist and a dermatologist.

FAQs