The Basics of Vulvar Skin Care

I have always had sensitive skin that required special care – especially my vulva. With a tendency toward yeast infections, an auto immune skin disease called Lichen Sclerosus, and the challenges of menopause, I finally made an appointment to see a Vulvar pain specialist. I found an amazing doctor who immediately put me at ease by asking questions and listening to my story.  What surprised me most was the importance she placed on the basics of vulvar skin care.  Many of her tips confirmed practices I had already put in place, but these important guidelines might be helpful for you too.

Laundry

For years I’ve used Tide Free and Gentle detergent and avoided dryer sheets. The guidelines suggest using an ALL FREE and CLEAR detergent for every load in your washer and using 1/3 – 1/2  the suggested amount. Also avoid all fabric softeners or dryer sheets. Avoid stain removers on underwear, but if you must, then rewash them to rinse thoroughly.

Clothing

Cotton underwear is the only way for me, but the guidelines took it a step further. They suggest only white cotton underwear during the day and flying free at night.

Of course also avoid tight clothing, especially those made from synthetics. If you need to wear pantyhose, buy them with a cotton crotch and then cut a diamond in the center of the crotch for extra air.

Bathing and Hygiene

For years I’ve been too afraid to try a bath bomb or bubble bath. Even when I shower, I know that my self-cleaning oven needs nothing more than warm water and gentle hands. I don’t scrub with a washcloth or towel afterwards. I gently pat dry.

The guidelines not only restrict soap for your vulva but also for your partner’s penis. Use only soap designated for sensitive skin like Dove, Neutrogena, Basis, or Aveeno. And if your husband wants to wash his penis, make sure that he thoroughly rinses it with warm water.

Obviously, no bubble baths, scented oils, douches or lotion applied to the vulva. Beware of hair removal products, or even shaving. Trimming using a clipper is a safer option to avoid skin irritation.

Don’t use deodorized pads or tampons. Stay away from nylon mesh weave on pads and look for cotton products. Suggested brands include Stayfree, Carefree and 7th Generation.

Even your toilet paper should be unscented and free of aloe or other lotions.

If you have chronic dampness, don’t constantly use panty liners.  The guide suggests carrying an extra pair of cotton underwear and changing halfway through the day. Gold Bond or Zeasorb powder may also be applied but don’t use powders that contain cornstarch or talcum powder.

Proactive Vulvar Skin Care

Ever since I discovered coconut oil as a lubricant during sex, I have realized how good it is for my skin. My fingers no longer crack in the brutal winters of Minnesota.

The guide advises applying coconut oil to both the penis and the vagina for the best protection during intercourse.  My doctor also suggested using coconut oil after each time I use the toilet to proactively protect my vulvar skin.

The only other lubricant the guide recommended was Slippery Stuff. Over the counter water-based lubricants  don’t last long enough and can irritate your vulvar skin.

Final Thoughts

Whether or not you have sensitive skin, women’s vulvas are made from very sensitive tissue.

I remember applying Shellac, a alcohol based finish, to a large piece of furniture . With a room full of fumes, I squatted to reach the lowest points, and I was suddenly aware that I could feel the effects of the alcohol  on my vulva. The skin of our vulva is basically an open membrane. It is so sensitive and must be treated with the utmost care.

To promote healthy vulvar skin watch out for deodorizers, soaps, shaving creams and scents that expose your skin to chemicals. Control moisture by letting your vulva breath naturally through cotton products. Reduce friction by avoiding tight clothes or and by using a good lubricant during intercourse. Rejuvenate your skin with coconut oil and show your vulva some care.

Understanding Sexual Fantasies

Fantasies allow us to experience pleasure during sex in the midst of boredom, conflicted feelings, or even painful memories. Though fantasies are complex and not simple to understand, let me at least give you some basic insight. I like to think of fantasies in three categories. Dreams, Fantasy to Orgasm, and Ingrained Fantasies.

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5 Ideas for Couples Struggling to Connect After a New Baby

Recently I received an email from a woman that had taken an Awaken Love class. Though she has embraced God’s design for sex, the arrival of another baby has left her struggling to connect with her husband.

I just had a baby about two months ago. During pregnancy and now with an infant and toddler our intimate life has been a struggle. I’m really having a hard time getting in the mood. I have a baby nursing all day long and still have some residual healing that needs to take place post birth. My husband is getting sexually frustrated and I’m sort of at a loss. It feels like I serve the kids all day long and then don’t have it in me to serve him by being there sexually. I feel like my body is just a milk machine. Do you have any advice? Is it okay to be less intimate during this life phase? I just mentally struggle with feeling like I’m ‘faking it’ with him because I do not feel sexual or turned on, no matter how hard I try 🙁 Any advice would be wonderful!

Seasons of life filled with exhaustion present extra challenges. But I am so glad this young mom asked for advice. Instead of letting the lack of sex drive a wedge in her marriage, working together they can embrace the opportunity to redefine intimacy. No easy answers exist for the exhaustion that babies, nursing and raising kids create. So let me just offer a few ideas for couples to ponder and maybe try….

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Anxiety – The Destroyer During Sexual Experiences

One of the biggest destroyers of having great sex is anxiety.  Worrying about sex prevents our body from naturally responding the way that God designed it to. Anxiety draws us into our head instead of letting ourselves enjoy what happens. Worry creates fear about performance that can  cause us to avoid sex. Even a small amount of anxiety can impact connection and enjoyment during sex. Anxiety can make you feel like you are drowning with nothing to grab hold of.

When my husband and I weren’t having sex often, my body often felt nervous each time we engaged. I remember telling my husband, “I don’t know if I remember how to do this.” It took me a long time to relax and to warm up. Each time I felt like I was starting over during sex because I didn’t know my body well enough and trust it to respond. I felt anxious and worried.

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Stepping Into Freedom

Before my awakening, I had no idea how much freedom God wanted me to experience in our marriage bed. Though we explored more than missionary position, I felt uneasy expressing myself. At times I reined myself in out of fear of going too far or losing control. Where were the guardrails? Could we enjoy what the world enjoys? What was okay and what was not? How much pleasure was too much pleasure?

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Adapting to Physical Limitations During Sex

A few weeks ago, I had a molar pulled that had bothered me for years. The recovery of an implant has been slow. With activities like kissing eliminated, my husband and are learning to adapt. Rubbing noses and burrowing into each other’s necks have helped us stay connected during sex. Rather than avoid sex we are learning new things, and grateful for what we have – not unlike a friend of mine.

I will never forget the night that Stacy showed up in class. With eyes that sparkled, and a smile that lit up the room, she rolled into class on her scooter. Years of a physical disability might have limited her mobility but God filled her soul with a passion for living that made me just want to hang out and learn from her.

After reconnecting with her at my book signing party, I asked if she would share a few thoughts to help others challenged by a physical limitation. What follows are her words.

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Finding Miss America

Marie is guest posting today from the mission field. For years has quietly spoken truth to women about sexuality, one woman at a time. This year she discovered Awaken-Love and is facilitating video classes to other missionaries.

I was on my way to another house visit in Asia. Temperatures were sweltering over 120 degrees and no one had air conditioning. I was soaked with sweat down to my underclothes, with my hair flat, wet and clinging to my face. Then I heard a desperate cry: “Miss America, wait”.  Images of Miss America in her tiara and evening gown began to flood my mind, and they just did not mesh with the hot, dusty, dirty streets surrounding me. “Miss America, please don’t go.” I turned around, and a lady who must have been following me began running toward me, crying.

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The Beauty of Our Vulva

God created women with amazing bodies. Our vaginas stretch large enough to birth a baby and still shrink to hug our husband’s penis. Breasts nurse our babies, provide hours of entertainment for our husband, and are sensitive enough to trigger an orgasm. Our clitoris created solely for our pleasure can provide a lifetime of new and pleasurable experiences. And yet, how many of us really know our vulva? Song of Songs 4:7 says, 

You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
    there is no flaw in you.

Early Messages

Girls and boys have completely different experiences discovering their bodies. When boys learn to go to the bathroom they form a very hands on relationship with their penis. A part of everyday life, their penis can quickly become a best friend. They know what it looks like, what it feels like, how it changes with temperature and what creates pleasure. Their penis, just a familiar part of their body doesn’t feel dirty or scary.

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The Challenges of Seeing Sex as Refreshment

I remember when we had young kids and feeling so exhausted that the last thing I wanted to do was have sex. Sex felt like one more thing on my to do list. It was one more thing that would suck my energy dry, something else to give. The last thing I expected from sex was refreshment.

Yet there were times when my husband would be so patient and would gently take me to that place. Afterwards I thought to myself, “Boy, did I need that.” Somewhere, deep down, I knew that sex was a good thing. That it would refresh me and that it was for me too. But this truth was buried deep beneath a pile of lies.

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Battling Satan’s Lies with God’s Truth

We are in a battle. Satan loves to fill us with lies that render us impotent to growth in marriage, parenting or even ministry. He picks at the broken parts of our soul causing us to feel defective, unlovable and stuck. We either lash out trying to prove ourselves or retreat into hiding. But when we embrace God’s unconditional love, rather than striving to measure up, we can learn from past experiences, conflict or suffering. Instead of shrinking into isolation, shame and believing Satan’s lies, we choose to move forward in confidence. We have the courage to live fully known by sharing our  insecurities, failures, hopes and dreams. But Satan doesn’t stop coming at us with lies. He waits for just the right moment and then he’s right back at it, speaking the same old lies, and trying to make us doubt who we are.

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