What Should Your Vagina Really Smell Like? A Hormone Expert Explains

Photo: Katarina Simovic

It’s an issue many women avoid discussing at all costs: the scent of their lady parts. But let’s get real: We all want our vaginas to smell as pleasant as possible, and it can be disconcerting and anxiety-evoking to wonder whether or not your particular aroma is "normal."

While every woman is different and can have a slight fluctuation in smell partially influenced by diet, in general, you should have a baseline scent that you’re intimately familiar with. There should be a healthy musky scent to it and remind you of any time you’ve gotten a good sweat on at the gym; the same signature odor you produce from a workout is the same "perfume" you should have everywhere.

Getting to know your baseline scent is a seriously big deal. I have so many women who come to me and ask about what’s normal with their vaginal secretions and what’s normal regarding their scent. Ultimately, you and every woman should know what her normal is so that you’ll be able to sense a change and take immediate action. By becoming an expert on your body, you can not only prevent problems but optimize your own overall well-being.

So now that you know how crucial it is to know your normal, what do you do to maintain a baseline aroma that’s as fresh as possible? Here are my tips for a naturally amazing fragrance:

1. Get your microbiome in check.

Achieving and maintaining a healthy bacterial balance in your gut is the key to alleviating so many hormonal systems. Eating alkaline-rich foods like lemons and leafy greens may help detoxify your system, which could potentially sweeten your scent. But the bigger issue is cutting out the foods that could be causing you harm, specifically an overabundance of animal protein, sugar, dairy, and coffee, which will all negatively affect your microbiome and, consequently, your scent.

2. Avoid the wrong products.

I’ve heard of women using all kinds of crazy products to artificially alter the scent of their vaginas, from bizarre bath salts to heavily perfumed douches. Just say no! Avoid all of these overhyped, potentially problematic products. Instead, check out the great options from Sustain. The safe and natural products include everything from pH-balancing and vagina-friendly wipes, condoms, lubes, and tampons.

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3. Evaluate your hormone levels.

Have they changed recently? If you’re chronically battling a post-sex case of BV or a yeast infection, you’ll want to really take a long hard look at all the factors that could be contributing to these chronic issues. Are you on the pill or using a ring or intrauterine device (IUD)? For some women, these forms of synthetic hormones can disrupt the microbiome, setting up a vicious cycle in which you contract an infection and treat it with pharmaceuticals, which further disrupt your bacterial balance, and set you up for more infections. Instead of immediately opting for drugs to remedy these issues, try natural solutions like boric acid suppositories or D-mannose supplements, a type of simple sugar that’s been shown to be just as effective as antibiotics at preventing recurrent UTIs and funky scents.

4. Use the right stuff for sex.

Photo: @lovewellnessco

And when it comes to the actual act, be extra cautious with what you’re allowing into your body. The golden rule: If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, it doesn’t belong in your vag! So opt only for products that contain all-natural ingredients. One particular option I love is Sustain Natural’s Organic Lubricant, which is free of silicon, petroleum, parabens, and other icky additives, and it’s made of 95 percent organic ingredients. Aloe Cadabra is another great natural option for solo play since it’s a vaginal moisturizer as well as a lubricant. These should keep your vag happy and smelling fantastic.

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5. Upgrade your underwear.

If you’re spending the night sleeping in your skivvies, it’s time to rethink your bedtime outfit. I recommend sleeping at least half the month panty-free to let your lady parts breathe. And when you do wear underwear, make sure they’re made of mostly organic cotton and/or include a breathable cotton gusset. Thongs are fine, but if you’re going to wear something synthetic and lacy, save it for a romantic night when you know your knickers will be off your body and on the floor in a hurry.

So often, we’re led to believe that the only way to assess our well-being is to go somewhere and get tested. While this is certainly the case for a lot of health and well-being answers, the reality is, as a woman, your body is giving you all sorts of biomarkers all the time. (If you have any concerns, it's always good to see a doctor.) Between the color of your menstrual blood, the smells and secretions of your vagina, and what’s going on with your skin month to month, you’re constantly getting free biofeedback (especially if you track your period) to gauge just how well your diet and lifestyle are working for your inner ecosystem.

If something isn’t sitting well internally, you’ll have the external signs and symptoms to tip you off. Getting your vagina to smell amazing isn’t about pleasing a partner; it’s about getting to a place where your body is telling you loud and clear that you’re caring for it properly. That’s a goal worth having.

While you're exploring, here's what the "perfect" vagina looks like and how (and why) to find your magical cervix.

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