Is TP Ruining the Health of Your Vagina?

Itís never fun when something goes wrong in your vaginal area. Skin irritation, puffiness and even infections are fairly common, but figuring out what caused these issues can sometimes be a mystery. Once youíve spoken to your doctor and ruled out any obvious concerns, you might want to take a look at your toilet paper.

Yes, toilet paper. This seemingly innocent part of our daily lives can actually have a negative impact on your vaginal health. And before you assume this is something youíll just have to live with, rest assured there are safe and effective alternatives to toilet paper that your vagina will thank you for.

WHAT EXACTLY IS IN TOILET PAPER?

Most toilet paper starts out as trees that are ground up and processed into paper. But, it has to go through some intense chemical processing to make it so white and soft. First, the raw wood gets chipped and mixed with water and various chemicals to extract the fibers and make pulp. And if the toilet paper is being made from recycled paper, the paper is combined with water and processed to remove any staples or other debris as well as the ink.

The wet pulp is then bleached until all color is removed, and eventually dried to make the final toilet paper. Certain brands of toilet paper may also add formaldehyde or other additives for extra softness and absorbency, as well as lotion, wax, perfume, colored dyes or antibacterial chemicals to the final product.

Unfortunately, a lot of these production chemicals are considered trade secrets, and toilet paper manufacturing companies arenít required to disclose exactly what they use. This makes it difficult to find out exactly whatís in your favorite toilet paper, but itís going to be a mix of residual processing chemicals, bleaches and final additives.

HOW COULD TOILET PAPER BE AFFECTING YOUR VAGINA?

1. Microcuts

Keep in mind that toilet paper is made from trees. Itís been highly processed, but youíre still essentially wiping yourself with wood. You may have acutely felt this in some brands of TP that have rougher fiber pieces in them compared to others that are softer.

Not only can this be uncomfortable, it can also damage the tissues around your vulva. If you find youíre swollen or puffy, or have an infection, it could be from small abrasions and cuts caused by your toilet paper. Wiping too harshly can also make matters worse.

Try using some of the alternatives discussed below instead of TP for a few days and see if that helps. Also, dabbing with toilet paper when possible is gentler than fully wiping.

2. Vaginal Infections

Your vagina is naturally quite acidic. This is mainly to fight off any potentially harmful bacteria you may encounter. But, some of the additives in toilet paper can disrupt your pH balance and impair your vaginaís natural bacteria-fighting capabilities. Thatís often how an infection takes hold, such as yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.

To reduce your risks, avoid toilet paper thatís scented or has other obvious additives, and consider using ones that are hypoallergenic.

3. UTIs

This may be more of a technique issue rather than the fault of toilet paper itself. When you wipe from back to front, bacteria-laden fecal matter can be wiped forward up to your urethral opening. Here, bacteria can travel up your urethra into your bladder and potentially start a urinary tract infection. Thatís why doctors always recommend to wipe from front to back, then dispose of your toilet paper and get a fresh piece for a second wipe.

4. Allergic Reactions

Some people may have allergies to one or more of the various dyes, perfumes and other chemicals added to TP. Allergies can show up as itching, dermatitis or other forms of skin irritation around your vulva and possibly anus.

Toilet papers that are softer, more absorbent and thicker often contain more additives to make them this way. Look for brands that are thinner, unscented and off-white. These often have less added chemicals and less potential for allergic reactions.

Related: 20 Things Every Woman Should Know About Her Vagina

WHAT CAN YOU USE INSTEAD?

Toilet paper is not as necessary as we may think. Many countries throughout the world simply do not have or use toilet paper. And thereís also a serious environmental cost of producing TP. Aside from the chemicals and pollution created during processing, itís estimated that about 27,000 trees are cut down every day just to make toilet paper. Around 50 percent of these trees come from virgin and old growth forests throughout the world.

You can help reduce this ecological impact and safe guard your health by using alternatives to toilet paper. These alternatives will also save you money because theyíre more sustainable and you wonít have to continuously buy a disposable product.

1. Rinse with Water

If youíre used to toilet paper, switching to water might feel a bit weird at first. But washing with water is a very common practice in many countries. Also, people often find it actually gets you cleaner and is more hygienic than using TP. Itís also much gentler on your body and is chemical-free.

The easiest way to start is to get a bottle you can keep next to your toilet. You can buy a peri bottle or irrigation bottle at a pharmacy. A squeezable water bottle also works well. After using the toilet, simply spray yourself off instead of using TP. You can also pour a bit of water into your cupped hand and wash with your hand if needed. And, of course, wash your hands afterwards.

With a bit more expense, installing a bidet is also an excellent choice.

2. Reusable Cloths

If you still donít feel clean enough after washing with water, or youíd simply like to dry off afterwards, consider adding reusable cloths to your routine. Also known as ďfamily cloths,Ē these are much softer on your skin than TP and donít have the chemical residues and additives.

You can buy reusable diaper wipes, wash cloths or search for ďfamily clothsĒ online. A free option is to cut up old flannel sheets or pajamas, towels or baby blankets. Simply cut them into appropriate-sized squares with pinking shears, which will prevent fraying on the edges.

Make sure they donít get flushed down the toilet by keeping a diaper bin or other sealed container next to your toilet to put them in. Then wash them in hot water when you have enough for a load in your washing machine.

Related at Care2

 

165 comments

Cindy S
Cindy Smith2 months ago

omg thanks

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Elaine D
Elaine D2 months ago

Thank you

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JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris2 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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michela c
michela c2 months ago

Thanks

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Greta L
Greta L2 months ago

Thank you

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hELEN h
hELEN hEARFIELD3 months ago

TYFS

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Olivia M
Olivia M3 months ago

tyfs

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Ruth S
Ruth S3 months ago

Thanks.

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Trish K
Trish K3 months ago

I am allergic to TP and I use water instead of wiping most of the time. Do not use those cleanse cloths. They are full of chemicals and will cost you sewage repairs because they say they are flushable. They aren't.

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Sophie L
Past Member 3 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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