pH is a scale used to specify the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. The scale runs from 0 to 14. 7 is neutral and a pH less than 7 is considered acidic and above 7 is basic.
What does any of this have to do with my vagina?
The pH plays a key role in keeping the vagina healthy. The acidic environment is a natural defense against unwanted bacteria and yeast.
A hugely oversimplified explanation of how the vagina stays acidic
The vagina is colonized with “good” bacteria. The most researched one is Lactobacillus. Lactobacillus helps keep the vagina acidic by producing lactic acid as a by-product of its glucose metabolism. In very simple terms, Lactobacillus eats glycogen (glycogen is a form of carbohydrate stored in cells), digests it, and poops it out as lactic acid.
How do I know my vagina is too alkaline?
· Fishy smell.
· Itching and burning.
· Unusual discharge.
What can disrupt the pH?
Antibiotics. Since they’re not selective, antibiotics kill all bacteria, including the good ones.
Your period. Your blood has a pH of 7,4. Blood also encourages bad bacteria to grow, especially with menstrual hygiene products like tampons which hold the blood inside your vagina for longer than your body intended to. Make sure to change tampons/pads often or use a menstrual cup.
Semen. Has a pH of 7,2-8,0. Don’t go to sleep directly after sex. Think gravity and let it do its thing.
Hormonal fluctuations. There is a correlation between estrogen and glycogen (the “food” for the good bacteria that produces the pH-lowering lactic acid)
Foaming agents in intimate cleansers. All products that lathers alter pH levels when used on the vulva. They are also compromising the barrier function and microbiome balance.
Douching. As with the antibiotics, you mess things up with the good bacteria too.
What can I do about it?
If you notice any of the symptoms above, visit your healthcare provider to figure out what’s going on. They can help you to treat the symptoms. Avoid the above disruptors, when possible. “Normal” hormonal fluctuations can’t be avoided but stress really messes with your hormones.
A good probiotic supplement really makes a difference in keeping a healthy vaginal microflora. And make sure no harsh chemicals get near your vagina.
A personal lubricant is crucial for vaginal health to prevent chafing, but make sure it’s pH balanced so it doesn’t mess with your vaginal pH. If it contains prebiotics (as in our lube Wet Lips) it's a great benefit since prebiotics is food for the good lactic acid-producing bacteria.
What is the pH of the cleansing oils?
This is a question we get a lot. Only aqueous solutions have pH, oils do not have a pH value. So oils can not mess with the pH either.
3,8-4,5 (during your reproductive years)*
* Before menstruation and after menopause, the pH tends to be higher than 4,5.