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Sometimes the hygienic things we’re told to do down there are in reality not good for our vaginal health. Here’s five things that you should avoid doing to your private parts:

1. Use Soaps With Parabens

We first want to point out that “cleaning” down there doesn’t need to be a huge process. Using harsh soaps and cleansers can disrupt your vagina’s pH level (which is naturally acidic) and cause irritation and discomfort. The vagina is a self-cleaning part of the body that does a great job at keeping things regulated.

That being said, sometimes you do want to freshen up down there. If you feel the need, just make sure the product you use is mild and paraben-free, like these Afterglow Freshening Wipes. Why paraben-free? Here’s the low-down:

Parabens are a type of preservative used in cosmetics to prevent bacterial growth. Now parabens have been around for a long time with no recorded health risk but some people think that they are not safe because they have been classified as xenoestrogens, meaning they mimic the reproductive hormone estrogen. Why could this be dangerous? Fooling around with your body’s hormonal levels has been linked to breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine cancer.

2. Douche

Again, we recommend staying away from harsh products down there. Douching is just about as harsh as you can get. When you douche, you are disrupting the body’s natural balance of bacteria, good and bad. The result can be a case of bacterial vaginosis or other irritating conditions.

Douching is also bad if you’re trying to conceive. Some studies have shown a link between douching and infertility and/or an ectopic pregnancy.

Lastly, douching can be down right dangerous. If you do have an infection that is resulting in a foul odor or discharge, when you douche you’re just pushing that bacteria up towards the fallopian tubes and ovaries, which can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. Do yourself a favor and go see a doctor if your exhibit such symptoms.

3. Use Lubricants That Contain Glycerin

Lube is a wonderful thing. Lubricants that contain glycerin are not a wonderful thing. Glycerin is a sugary substance found in a lot of drugstore lubricants. Because glycerin is a sugar it can promote yeast growth when used internally. In addition to causing yeast infections, glycerin can just be down right irritating.Sliquid is a great brand of lubes that don’t contain glycerin and parabens.

4. Use Spermicide

Spermicide, which contains the chemical nonoxynol-9, is great at killing sperm but might also kill your vaginal tissues and put your health at risk in the process. Nonoxynol-9 can damage vaginal tissues and cause vaginal lesions, ouch! Another problem is that when these tissues are damaged, it increases the risk of contracting HIV and other STDs. If you want to use birth control without hormones, talk to your doctor about a non-hormonal IUD or other similar methods.

Check out Planned Parenthood for more info on the pro’s and con’s of using spermicide.

5. Use Sex Toys Made Of Jelly Rubber

There’s nothing wrong with sex toys, except when they’re made of materials that are harmful to your body. Never buy one that is made of jelly rubber because this material contains a lot of questionable materials. In fact, most of the time it’s hard to figure out what is actually in jelly rubber. Phthalates are just one of these harmful chemicals. Phthalates are plastic softeners that are used in a variety of plastic products, including water bottles, shower curtains and kids toys. Unfortunately these substances have been connected to obesity and insulin resistance AKA diabetes.

The downside is that jelly rubber toys do tend to be the cheapest option. If you’re on a budget, go for a phthalate-free rubber or hard plastic material that is inexpensive and body-safe.