updated 3 Sep 2011, 12:04
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Sat, Sep 03, 2011
The Star/ANN
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Intimate hygiene
by Kon Khen Meng

JUST like overall hygiene for other parts of the body, proper feminine hygiene in women is often overlooked. While women today spend a lot on their facial care, make-up, and other grooming products, the very important intimate area is often neglected.

It is important to realise that just like other parts of the body, a woman's intimate area requires special care and attention.

Just like our digestive system, which contains "friendly" gut bacteria, the skin and lining surrounding a woman's intimate area contains "friendly" bacteria, which produces an acid known as lactic acid. This acid maintains a healthy environment and prevents the growth of "unfriendly" bacteria or yeast, which can cause infection.

Not surprisingly, these "friendly" bacteria are considered guardians of the intimate area.

What factors can affect this natural acidic environment? In our hot and humid weather, there are many factors which can disturb this natural acidic environment. When this acidic environment is disturbed, women are predisposed to infections that can cause discomfort and visits to healthcare professionals.

Now let's take a look at some common factors which can affect the intimate area.

  • Age - Most women are more prone to such infections. This is due to the changing hormonal levels that occur at different ages, which can affect the growth of "friendly" bacteria, and ultimately, the acidic balance in the intimate area.
  • Clothing - Women who wear tight undergarments or jeans for prolonged periods are more susceptible to infections. This is due to the increase in moisture levels which promote the growth of "unfriendly" bacteria.
  • Menstrual cycle - During a women's monthly cycle, it is especially important to maintain good daily feminine hygiene to prevent irritation and odour.
  • Sexual activity - During sexual activity, the natural environment in the intimate area can be affected, and this can predispose women to increased risk of infections.
  • Basic hygiene techniques - Using feminine hygiene wipes would be helpful, especially when using public toilets. Also, wiping in a "front-to-back" direction is the most appropriate. When using toilet tissue, use the unscented variety.
  • Using inappropriate feminine hygiene products - This is an important aspect of feminine hygiene to take into consideration.

In the Asiabus Research conducted in Malaysia in September 2008, the awareness of feminine hygiene products amongst women in Malaysia was 80%, and 73% of these women have used a feminine hygiene product in the past 12 months. Whilst the usage of feminine hygiene products is high, the choice of product is equally important.

Through this research, it was revealed that only 55% of women were using feminine hygiene wash, while the rest of the products used consisted of feminine hygiene deodorant, douching apparatus, talcum, wipes, spray, and gel.

Women who wear tight undergarments or jeans for prolonged periods are more susceptible to infections in their intimate regions.

If we look at the research, many women are using the wrong products for feminine hygiene. Talcum powder and deodorant sprays are not appropriate. They have a tendency to cause irritation in the genital area and can lead to itching and burning sensations.

Also, remember that soap and water which we use to bathe in is not ideal for washing the intimate area. Soaps are alkaline in nature, and this is opposite to the protective acidic environment. This will destroy the "friendly" bacteria in the intimate area and lead to overgrowth of "unfriendly" bacteria.

Hence, using a daily feminine hygiene wash is more appropriate for women when it comes to their genital areas. For added benefit, natural moisturisers such as that derived from milk may help to reduce skin irritation.

Knowing the basics of feminine hygiene can help you tremendously and avoid unnecessary infections. Taking care of the most intimate part of you is something you owe yourself!

-The Star/Asia News Network

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