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For Girls

Feeling Fresh

As you’ve probably noticed, puberty comes with all kinds of changes — including the way your body looks and even the way you might think it smells. These changes are a normal part of becoming a woman, but lots of girls worry about them.

Do I Smell — and Can People Tell?

Many girls wonder if they smell “down there” — or whether people will notice they have their periods. And some girls wonder if they should use douches, wipes, or any of the other products that claim to make women feel cleaner and fresher. But do these work? And does a girl really need them?

The truth is that, under normal circumstances, no one ever smells any odors from a girl’s vagina. If a girl has an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis, she may notice an unpleasant fishy odor, in which case she should definitely see a doctor. But even then, it’s unlikely that people around her will notice a smell.

As far as periods go, if you change your pads or tampons frequently, shower or bathe daily, and wear clean clothes, no one can smell that either.

Douches, Wipes, and Feminine Sprays

Douches, feminine sprays, deodorants, or wipes supposedly keep a woman’s vaginal area smelling fresh and clean. Douching (the name comes from the French word for “wash”) refers to washing out the vagina, usually with a prepackaged mix of fluids. Unless a doctor tells you to, you should not douche. Douching can cause allergic reactions, irritation, and even infections.

Feminine sprays, deodorants, and scented tampons aren’t a good idea either. They are often heavily perfumed and, like douching, can lead to allergic reactions, irritation, and infections. Your vagina has its own natural cleaning system that flushes out bacteria, so you don’t need to add any chemicals to help it.

When it comes to odors caused by infections, the treatment is not a spray, but a prescription medication that treats the infection rather than covering it up. If you notice a bad smell or think you may have an infection, see a doctor or gynecologist right away.

It’s easy to keep your vagina clean without making it smell like a flower shop. Washing every day with a mild soap and plenty of warm water will do the trick. Shower daily — although some girls like to substitute warm baths during their periods to reduce menstrual cramps.

What Else Can Help?

Wearing cotton underwear, especially in hot weather, can help a girl feel fresher because cotton and other natural fibers are more breathable.

During your period, change your pads or tampons often. It may be a good idea to keep a spare pair of underwear in your backpack to change into in case you happen to soak through your pad or tampon.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013