The Internet and society’s pop culture feminism has contributed to at least one good thing: the fact that a lot of taboo women’s issues aren’t quite as secret as they once were. Sure, we’re not running around outside screaming about female masturbation or filling in first dates on the size of our labia. But we are getting less afraid to talk about our periods or show off parts of our body hair we haven’t shaved off. That said, there is still one subject that is still extremely taboo, despite how common and normal it is – vaginal odor.
I get it: talking about how your genitals smell is not the most pleasant form of conversation. I seriously doubt any of us will be sitting around with our girlfriends, discussing the different smells coming out of our underwear (or, actually, I don’t doubt that – it probably happens!). One look at the Clean Panty Challenge from a few months ago will tell you that we still have a long way to go when it comes to the way we think about vaginas. Smells down there might not be fun to talk about, but they are totally normal, and nothing to be ashamed of! So let’s stop acting like they don’t exist, and instead discuss exactly what’s going on.
Obviously, you know that your vaginal odor should never be fishy or extremely strong in a nose scrunching kind of way. If that’s happening, you probably have some sort of infection and you should head to a gynecologist. But do you know literally anything else about vagina smells? Probably not. Here are a few things every woman needs to know about vaginal odor.
It Can Be A Serious Turn OnDon't freak out too much about how you smell down there - apparently, that can play a key role in arousal. A psychotherapist specializing in sexuality named Amanda Luterman told Refinery 29 that the smell should be different than the smell of skin, and that it SHOULD smell like genitals. In fact, that's exactly why it turns people on, as Refinery 29 points out: "And many people are turned on by sniffing genitals precisely because the scent is 100% natural, so it can bring up primal, animalistic urges, says Galen Fous, a kink-positive sex therapist and fetish sex educator." In fact, this rings so true for so many people that there is even a vaginal odor scented perfume on the market. A few months ago, a Cosmopolitan writer walked around wearing a perfume made of her own vaginal odor to see what would happen. Don't try to cover it up - your natural scent is a good thing. Source: iStock
It's Supposed To Smell Like...Okay, so we now know that an odor is normal, but we also know that some odors are not. So then what IS a normal odor? According to Broadly, "It's likely that your vagina has a slightly sour smell. There will also most likely be a slight musty smell, from sweat that builds up in the nooks and crannies of the human body. Neither of these smells should be overpowering. In a blog post on WebMD, Dr. Heather Rupe says you should be able to smell a vagina from one foot away. So, it will just smell like... something that will be hard to explain. But trust us: if something is off, you will almost definitely be able to tell. Source: iStock
The Smell Is Made Up Of Lots Of Mini Smells and BacteriaWhat makes your vagina smell, you ask? Well, according to a fairly recent study, there are thousands of scent molecules in a vagina that make up lots and lots of "mini-odors," which in turn contribute to your own unique scent. Bacteria is also at play, and your smell can also be affected by sweat, the clothing you're wearing, and what you eat. Which brings us to our next point... Source: iStock
It Will Smell Like What You EatYou've likely heard the saying, "you are what you eat." It's true, even in the case of vaginas. Your vaginal odor is basically a secretion, like sweat, so naturally, really strong smells that you put into your body will make their way out. If you eat fish, you might notice your odor is a little bit more on the fishy side (although this can quickly get confusing). If you eat garlic, you might notice that scent too. This is probably why a lot of people say that things like pineapples can make your vag smell better - because it's sweet smelling. Source: iStock
Drinking Water Can HelpVaginal odor is different for everyone, and some people might find that their natural odor might be a bit too strong for them. If that's the case with you, and you desperately want to change it, there's not a ton you can do. Odor is normal and necessary, you can't eliminate it completely. That said, there are a few things you can do to make ti smell less strong: drink a lot of water, wear cotton underwear, bathe regularly, and don't sit around in sweaty clothing. Source: iStock
The Smell Will Change Depending On MenstruationAnother important thing to note about vaginal odor: it changes pretty regularly. One of the biggest things that can affect your odor is your menstrual cycle. Sara Gottfried, M.D., founder and medical director of The Gottfried Center for Integrative Medicine in Oakland, Calif., and author of The Hormone Cure told YouBeauty: "Many women notice after having their periods that there is a different odor. That scent relates to the pH in the vagina." Your period alters your pH levels, which can change the way you smell down there. And, of course, period blood has a scent that mixes in as well. The same line of thought goes for sex. Having sex can alter your pH levels, making you smell differently down there. And, like period blood, semen can also affect the scent. Source: iStock
Products Made For Vaginal Odor Usually Make It WorseI am sure that by now you have heard this many times, but seriously: products made for vaginal odor don't work. In fact, they will usually make things worse. Don't body body washes or wipes or creams with scents that are supposed to make you smell good down there. Those added scents will mess with the bacteria and can lead to an infection that will make things smell a lot worse. It's not worth it. Source: iStock
Are you ever concerned about your vaginal odor? Which one of these things surprised you? Fill us in in the comments.