While “flower” may be a delicate euphemism for vagina, it is not what a vagina is supposed to smell like.
Vaginas are not meant to smell powdery, or fresh, or like rain; nor are they meant to smell like gardenias or roses or tropical fruit. They’re meant to smell like vagina, which will vary based on who you are, where you are in your cycle, and maybe your physical activity that day. The vagina smells and behaves the way it does because it is self-cleaning, which is why all of the vaginal washes and towelettes that claim to clean the vagina and balance the vagina’s pH can actually be quite irritating. The vagina naturally maintains a pH level of 3.5 to 4.5. The healthy bacteria in the vagina helps maintain that pH level, which, if thrown off balance, could result in infection. Again, the vagina does this all by itself; and if it needs help doing so, a doctor can prescribe medication to help balance things out again.
By this point, it seems that most people can agree that vaginal douching is unhealthy for the vagina. If, however, you are still in need of some convincing, know that douching is proven to trigger pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and bacterial vaginosis. Douching “causes harmful changes in the healthy bacteria that live in the vagina,” which can cause infection and disease. Women who douche often do so because they believe douching will clean or help balance their vagina, or even to help combat the infections douching itself can cause. However, douching actually increases the chance of getting these infections again, and can exacerbate symptoms rather than ease them. Douching is also linked to developing urinary tract infections, commonly known as UTIs.
But what about the washes, sprays, and towelettes that aren’t douches, but claim to clean the vagina, make it smell better, and/or balance its pH?
Most of these products are for external use, which means they aren’t as harmful as douching. Douching goes inside the vagina, and while it claims to kill the unhealthy bacteria, it ends up taking all the good, healthy bacteria out with it. However, because external pH- balancing products are only applied on the vulva, rather than inside the vagina, it’s unlikely they actually have any effect on vaginal pH. So the problem with these products isn’t necessarily that they imbalance vaginal bacteria and cause infections; it’s more that they don’t do anything regular soap couldn’t do. Plus, the ingredients that make the wash smell like a tropical vacation and the dyes that tint it could end up causing external irritation.
So what should you actually be doing to keep the vagina clean and healthy?
The general consensus from gynecologists seems to be pretty simple; wash the vulva with unscented soap and water daily, and let vaginal discharge take care of what’s going on inside the actual vagina. There’s no need to mess with what nature intended. If for some reason you think your vagina is looking or smelling a little off, it’s best to go to the doctor if you are able to, and avoid any scented products near the area.