In a recent survey, 44 percent of women were unable to identify the vagina on a medical illustration of the female reproductive tract. Even fewer were able to identify the vulva, with 60 percent failing at this task. It’s important to understand your body in order to clearly communicate and advocate for your needs. Here’s what you should know!
To put it simply, the vulva is a woman’s external reproductive area. This area includes the labia majora (outer lips), labia minora (inner lips), and the vulvar vestibule, which lies just inside the lips. In the center of the vestibule is the vaginal opening. Slightly above that is the urethra, and at the top of the vestibule sits the clitoris. We can only see the tip of the clitoris, a tightly packed bundle of erectile tissue covered by the clitoral hood, but the clitoris actually extends inside of the body and wraps around the vaginal canal.
The vagina is a woman’s internal reproductive area, which connects the vulva with the cervix, or entryway, to the uterus. The vulva is the external genitalia, which includes the labia majora and minora, the clitoris, and the vaginal opening.
As with the rest of a woman's body, our vaginas also age. As a woman nears menopause, her estrogen levels decrease. These hormonal changes cause the walls of the vagina to become more relaxed and the tissue to become thinner. This loss of elasticity also affects the pelvic floor muscle, vulva, clitoris, and perineum, and these changes can lead to stress, discomfort, and loss of sexual desire for many women as they get older.
The vagina experiences noticeable changes during arousal and sex. Arousal increases blood flow to the tissues of the vagina, which engorges the area with blood and produces additional lubrication. The vagina also lengthens and widens as the cervix moves up to create space.
The answer differs for your vagina versus your vulva. The vagina is self-cleaning and doesn’t require intervention unless specifically recommended by your doctor. Your vulva, however, benefits from gentle cleaning and care to stay fresh and free from odor-causing bacteria. But how you cleanse and care for vulva is important.
The tissues of the vulva are very absorptive and have a low pH (between 3.8 and 4.5). Most skincare products contain harmful ingredients and have high pH levels (9-10) that can cause dryness, irritation, and discomfort when used around your delicate external intimate tissue.
After hearing from patients that women want more than water for their vulva to feel fresh and confident, our company's Ob-Gyn, Dr. Sarah de la Torre, formulated a line of intimate care products called HER Intimate CareTM. HER Intimate Care products have a balanced pH of 4.5 to 5 and help cleanse, hydrate, protect, and ward off unwanted scents without putting your V at risk. They include only clean, gentle ingredients that are free of parabens, propylene glycol, mineral oils, phthalates, petrochemicals, PEG, synthetic fragrance, dyes, and alcohol.
Learn more about HER Intimate Care.
Is there such thing as a perfect V? Rather than striving for perfection, let’s embrace our bodies just as they are. We come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and so do our vulvas. Vulvas can be symmetrical or lopsided, labia can be long or short, and clitorises come in every size. They are all beautiful. We implore women to strive for optimal intimate wellness while celebrating all that is unique to their V.