It happens to us all; one minute, we feel cool and confident and the next we’re wondering what is happening down there.
Whether you’re experiencing an unpleasant feeling (like irritation, burning, or itching) or noticing an “off” smell, a vaginal pH balance issue can put you in a seriously big mood and affect your entire day.
Relax. Vaginal pH imbalances are really common. In fact, most women will have at least one vaginal pH issue, like a yeast infection, at some point in their life. Thankfully, there are solutions that help restore your balance, and your sanity.
We’ll give you the scoop on vaginal pH, what causes imbalances, and how you can bring everything back into perfect harmony.
What is Vaginal pH Balance?
Ph balance is a measure of how acidic or alkaline something is. To find a pH balance, we measure how many hydrogen atoms a substance has. The more hydrogen atoms, the less acidic the substance will be, and the lower the pH rating.
Ph balance is measured on a scale from 0-14. Battery acid has a pH balance of 0, which means it is extremely acidic. Drain cleaner and bleach both have pH balances of 13-14, which means they are extremely alkaline. Water measures 7, placing it directly in the middle of the scale.
What is the pH Balance of the Vagina?
Normally, the pH balance or your vagina measures somewhere between 4 and 4.5, which means it is more acidic than alkaline. During different times of your monthly cycle, this measurement can change.
There are other activities and situations that can affect your vaginal pH balance. Even your period can change the balance, because blood is more alkaline than acidic. Normally, your vagina does a great job keeping its pH balance regulated.
How Does the Vagina Maintain pH Balance?
Your vagina is like a tiny little microbiome. Just like you have gut flora that helps you digest your food properly, and healthy bacteria on your skin to keep it strong and protected, your vagina also plays host to healthy bacteria.
The healthy bacteria living in your vagina maintains your vaginal pH balance. There are numerous types of different bacteria in your vagina, most of which are strains of healthy lactobacillus.
These bacteria keep your vagina balanced and healthy, especially when it encounters something that could interfere with its pH level. Imbalances still happen, and it can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience.
What Causes Imbalanced Vaginal pH Levels?
Numerous factors can cause imbalance in your vagina’s healthy pH level. Here are some of the most common.
Having unprotected sex with a man can expose your vagina to semen, which is naturally very alkaline. The alkaline property of semen can disturb your vaginal pH balance. Normally, your vagina is able to “self-correct.” If you are prone to imbalance, having unprotected sex may exaccerbate the delicate balance.
Because blood is alkaline, it’s natural that your period can cause a little disturbance in your otherwise healthy vaginal pH balance. Again, your vagaina is usually really good at self-correcting, but some of the products you use for period protection can interfere with that process.
Tampons are notorious for containing harsh chemicals that can interfere with your hormones and irritate your most delicate regions. Some of these chemicals are a result of the bleaching process, which many manufacturers use to give tampons a solid white appearance.
The chemicals used in that process can interfere with vaginal pH levels (not to mention causing reproductive toxicity and endocrine disruption), and leave you with an imbalanced vaginal microbiome.
If you want to play it safe on your period, stick with organic cotton tampons. They contain zero chemicals.
Douching is the process of cleaning the inside of the vagina with water, soap, or other ingredients. Not only is this not necessary, it’s also not safe and can seriously damage your vaginal pH level.
The vagina is like a self-cleaning oven. It takes care of itself and sheds off anything it doesn’t need in the form of discharge. Much like your uterus which cleans itself each month, your vagina (and the happy bacteria that live there) keep a really clean house.
Douching can remove healthy bacteria from your vagina, which can allow the overgrowth of bad bacteria, resulting in infection. The more you introduce douching to your vagina, the worse it can get.
If you don’t feel fresh, there are numerous other options for helping you feel more confident without disrupting healthy pH levels.
Antibiotics help kill bad bacteria that makes us sick, but it also wipes out a fair amount of good bacteria. This is why you sometimes get a yeast infection when you have to use an antibiotic for something completely unrelated.
We all lead busy lives, and sometimes you have to run from the gym to the store (and beyond). Before you know it, it’s 5:00 p.m. and you’re still wearing your spandex leggings from spin class.
Tight clothing (and sweaty clothing) can lead to disruption in your vaginal pH levels. Bacteria loves to grow in dark, damp places, so leaving your gym clothes on, or simply having on tight clothing during the summer months, can promote the growth of bad bacteria that can lead to imbalance.
Practicing good personal hygiene plays a major role in keeping your vaginal pH balance regulated. In addition to your regular hygiene practices, making sure you regularly change out your period care products like pads, liners, and tampons, is essential in helping prevent the growth of bad bacteria.
If you use a menstrual cup, keeping it clean between uses will also help make sure you don’t introduce harmful bacteria that could disturb your vaginal microbiome.
Most of the time, a vaginal infection, like bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection, are the result of an imbalanced vaginal pH level. However, some infections, like urinary tract infections, which aren’t specifically related to the vagina, can interfere and result in imbalance.
What Are the Symptoms of Vaginal pH Imbalance?
When your vaginal pH is off-balance, you’ll probably know. Normally, you’ll experience symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of unbalanced vaginal pH are:
- Itching on and around the vulva.
- Burning or irritation.
- Discharge that is different from your normal discharge (it can vary from grayish-green to white, be thin or lumpy).
- Off-smell that is noticeable; it may smell metallic or fishy.
These are indications your vaginal pH is off-balance and needs to be restored.
How to Restore Vaginal pH Balance
Even though your vagina does a great job maintaining peace in its microbiome, sometimes it needs a little reinforcement. Whether you notice irritation or discomfort after your period or after sex, you just need to get relief.
Remember, douching doesn’t work; in fact, it makes it worse. Instead, grab these vulvar care products that help promote pH balance, soothe irritation, and alleviate aggravating symptoms without harming the balance of your microbiome.
- Rael Soothing Gel to Foam Feminine Wash. Formulated with natural ingredients to help restore balance, soothe irritation, and help you practice the deepest form of self care, our gel to foam wash is ideal for the most sensitive skin on your body. Safe enough to use daily, our wash helps support healthy bacteria levels which keep your most intimate regions healthy, fresh, and completely comfortable. Our wash doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals that could irritate or strip your skin of natural moisture, or interfere with your hormones.
- Rael Soothing Vulva Relief Gel. Nothing is worse than an itch you literally cannot scratch. Avoid the feeling altogether with our soothing vulva relief gel. Formulated with natural ingredients to soothe irritation and calm itching, our gel creates a barrier on your skin to prevent it from exposure to external stressors, like tight clothing, or irritating laundry care products. Our gel does not contain harsh chemicals or ingredients that could disrupt your hormones, irritate your skin, and ruin your day.
- Rael Soothing Feminine Mist. Feeling a little less than fresh? Dont’ mask odors, fight them. A little feminine mist helps alleviate uncomfortable feelings and deliver a burst of freshness that helps combat odor and restore pH levels. Easy and discreet, or mist is the perfect little accessory to tuck in your bag so you can feel great all day long.
Vaginal pH is usually perfectly balanced, but sometimes our activities and even our cycles can cause it to become a little off-balanced. When this happens, you might experience discomfort and odor, which can seriously sideline your day.
With Rael’s vulvar care products, you can get relief fast, restore your pH levels, and get back to life. It’s the holistic way to restore common vaginal pH issues and feel better.
Vaginal Yeast infections | Womens Health.gov
The Vaginal Microbiome | NCBI
Tips for Choosing Healthier Feminine Care | Made Safe.org