Sex may be messy. So, it’s important to know good sexual hygiene habits that can help keep you in tip-top intimate shape.
Clean is Good
Sex often includes bodily fluids, sweat, and saliva. Transferring intimate liquids between partners has the risk of transmitting infections. Sharing sex toys may also lead hygienic concerns.
Studies have found a correlation between hygiene and health with regards to sexuality. Research found hygiene can be an expression of sexual values and that women in particular use a variety of practices to achieve a desired vaginal condition in preparation for sexual activities.
Overall, healthcare recommendations suggest good hygiene lowers a person’s risk for diseases and illnesses commonly spread through viruses and bacteria. A couple of examples of the health benefits of cleanliness are—flossing teeth to decrease the risk of gum disease and removing sweaty socks after exercise to avoid athlete’s foot.
Interestingly, a study found household cleaning may be the key to great sex, which shows how being clean in your external and personal environments may factor into satisfying sex play.
There are a few best-practices to try prior to having sex in order to help you have a better, healthier experience.
It’s a good idea to wash before any type of penetrative sex. Because genital skin is incredibly sensitive, I recommend using a mild, unscented soap on these areas. While washing won’t prevent the spread of infections, it may be helpful in making you feel more confident and prepared. And for those men who are uncircumcised, it’s important to clean under the foreskin as well.
Genital skin is also susceptible to dehydration, which may lead to sensitivity, itchiness, and quite possibly dry, painful sex. Dehydration has also been linked to erectile dysfunction. For these reasons, it’s essential to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.
Another recommendation is to change underwear on a daily basis to help avoid infections, irritation, and odor. Cotton is a great breathable material, which gives bacteria less opportunity to grow.
Be aware of your body and any possible changes. This means making it a habit to visibly check for redness, bumps, or anything that looks out of the ordinary and may be worth bringing to the attention of your physician.
Cleaning your sex toys is an important practice. I recommend properly and thoroughly cleaning pleasure products before and after each use with cleaners specifically made for cleansing sex toys. Ensure the toy is completely dry before storing in an individual storage container.
Dr. Sunny Tip: I suggest storing sex toys individually in clean cotton socks, which will discourage bacterial growth.
While a report by the World Health Organization found most people believe douching protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), this is not the case. Douching should be considered for hygiene and not for infection prevention purposes.
Throughout the world women have unique intimate care rituals. Studies found that to maintain vaginal health and well-being, women in Indonesia, Thailand, Mozambique, and South Africa reported using specific soaps, tonics, and methods to clean and prepare for sex. This research found that women use vaginal cleanliness practices to achieve their desired personal grooming, sexual enhancement, and intimate health and wellness goals. Women’s primary objectives were cleanliness and condition of their vaginas using folk medicine, household ingredients, and traditional pharmaceuticals in order to better enjoy sex with their partners.
Cleanliness + Sex
When it comes to sex and safety, my number one rule is never switch from anal to vaginal intercourse, which could introduce unhealthy bacteria into the sensitive vagina. This pertains to oral sex as well—moving from analingus to vaginal play is not recommended.
This is also a good rule for sex toy usage. Consider placing a condom over toys during penetration play. This way condoms can be removed and replaced when moving between anal, oral, and vaginal areas.
Plus, I recommend using liberal amounts of top-quality lubricant. While you may not think this relates to cleanliness, it actually does since every time a woman has penetrative sex there is the possibility for micro-tears. Micro-tears have a tendency to happen during sex when the vagina isn’t properly lubricated and these tiny openings can make it easier for bacteria to enter the body and possibly cause infections. Using plenty of lubrication can help prevent micro-tears.
It can be helpful after sex to clean your genitals to eliminate as much bacteria as possible. Keep in mind, the vagina is designed to keep itself clean with the help of natural secretions, but external washing is also helpful.
It’s also a good idea to put on a pair of clean, dry, breathable underwear. As previously mentioned, cotton is an ideal material that is soft, absorbent, and allows air to flow through to help prevent the growth of bacteria in the genital area. Synthetic materials, such as nylon and polyester, may trigger sweating and chafing.
If you experience urinary tract infections (UTIs) that are commonly associated with sex, it’s a good idea to contact and discuss options for medication or supplements with your physician. Urinating after sex, while won’t prevent an infection, but will help flush bacteria out of the urethra.
Routine check-ups can help keep you sexually healthy. Make sure you’re honest with your doctor about your sexual history and any concerns you may have. Annual appointments are recommended even if there are no visual symptoms.
Do you have an intimate healthcare routine? Do you practice hygiene habits for your sex life? I would love to hear from you! Have a question about sex or sex toys? Let me know. I am here to help.
Dr. Sunny does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.