Washing your hands is more important today than ever, but do you do it before and after having sex with someone?
It can be uncomfortable – how to stop the act to ask your sexual partner: “honey, did you wash your hands?” – but sexologists insist that this rule of personal cleanliness is essential in intimate relationships.
It is a simple step to avoid, for example, a yeast infection (genital infection caused by a fungus).
“Cleaning the hands, mouth and teeth is vital, as these organs usually intervene during sexual intercourse,” Thamara Martínez Farinós, a psychologist and sexologist at the Espill Institute, in Valencia, Spain, tells BBC Mundo.
In addition to your hands, you should clean your genitals daily. But a “quick wash” is not useful here, clarifies the expert.
“Sexual hygiene is of paramount importance, since it can curb sexually transmitted infections (STIs)”, Vicente Briet, clinical psychologist and specialist in sexology, tells BBC Mundo.
The director of the Vicente Briet Clinical Center and head of the sexology area of the University of Alicante, Spain, considers that hygiene is “a powerful aphrodisiac and a libido stimulator”.
And “the cultivation of erotica begins with the importance we attach to caring for our body and the attention we pay to our sexual and personal hygiene.”
Let’s see how to put it into practice.
The UK Public Health Service (NHS) explains on its website how men and women should properly groom their intimate areas.
For men, doctors recommend washing the penis with warm water every day when showering or bathing, paying special attention to the area under the foreskin to prevent the accumulation of smegma, an antibacterial agent that also acts as a lubricant.
“The main treatment for smegma is based on good penile hygiene care,” says Dr. Briet.
If it accumulates, it can start to smell and become the ideal environment for bacteria to breed.
This can translate into redness and swelling of the head of the penis, which is called balanitis.
“It is very surprising how many men do not wash under the foreskin. Not only do they tend to experience complications from poor hygiene, but it is also very unpleasant for their sexual partner, ”writes Patrick French, a physician specializing in sexual health, on the NHS website.
Briet agrees: “Male intimate hygiene doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.”
“Whether due to lack of information or ignorance, some men make the mistake of not properly washing their genitals, despite the negative consequences that this can bring: bad smells, discomfort and infections,” he tells BBC Mundo.
“The genital region of man is conducive to the appearance of infections and other urological problems,” he indicates.
“Not only because through it we expel urine and semen, whose accumulation can cause infections, but because it is skin that is especially sensitive to friction.”
“And to all that is added that we accumulate sweat in it, which facilitates the proliferation of bacteria and fungi if it is not washed daily.”
The NHS advises against using too much soap and shower gels; lukewarm water is sufficient.
But if soap is used, it should be “mild or unscented to reduce the risk of skin irritation.”
Briet says that it is not enough to clean the surface of the penis, but that the foreskin needs to be retracted so that the water and soap also act on the glans area.
“Especially in those parts of the penis more hidden by the folds or the frenulum, it is convenient to use a neutral soap to clean the sexual organs and rinse with plenty of water”.
As for women, sexual health experts agree that there is misinformation, despite the huge industry dedicated to “vaginal hygiene.”
“The vagina is designed to stay clean with the help of natural secretions (vaginal discharge). You do not need either douches or vaginal wipes ”, it reads on the NHS website.
“There are many bacteria inside the vagina that are there to protect it,” he adds.
In fact, many sexologists consider such products not only unnecessary, but dangerous.
“The vulva (the external part of the female genitalia) can be cleaned with soaps and specialized products for the area”, comments Thamara Martínez.
“Still, depending on the person, they can cause irritation and increase the risk of infections. What I recommend is to wash with water at least once a day ”.
As for the internal part, the sexologist advises against douching: “The risks are many more than the benefits they offer, so we recommend not using them.”
Among the possible risks or adverse reactions she lists the following:
- Changes in PH (the hydrogen potential of the skin)
- Burning and itching
- Decreased cervical mucus (which is responsible for lubricating the vagina)
- Allergic reactions
- Increase the risk of developing infections
- Complications that can arise during pregnancy, such as increasing the risk of preterm labor
“Our body is so wise that it knows how to maintain its internal hygiene”, concludes the expert.
Briet says that, although there are moisturizing or repairing creams to combat irritation or itching in the female intimate area, “what should be avoided are those useless tendencies to perfume your parts with deodorants, colognes or soaps with odors that promote irritation the skin and make it more vulnerable to possible bacterial attacks ”.
He also advises against douching or using scented pads.
“The vagina normally cleans itself. The walls produce their own fluid that carries dead cells and other microorganisms out of the body ”, he clarifies.
“And intimate care must be taken extreme on the days of menstruation.”
Men and women
One tip from sexologists for both men and women is to urinate before and after sexual intercourse.
“Urinating after your sexual intercourse is one of the best measures to avoid contracting unwanted infections, whether in the form of microbes, bacteria or secretions,” says Martínez.
“Going to the bathroom at the end of your sexual intercourse helps to expel everything that has arisen, thus purifying it and preventing it from reaching sensitive organs such as the bladder,” he explains.
“And urinating before is of vital importance, mainly to have satisfactory relationships and not have uncomfortable sensations.”
Briet adds that this practice is “a good preventive of some urinary tract infections, but not all.”
The sexologist recommends urinating “immediately after sexual intercourse” to protect ourselves from disease and reduce the chances of contracting an infection.
“In fact, failure to do so has been shown to be one of the most common causes of urinary tract infections,” he adds.
According to the expert, women are more prone to this type of infection and must get used to urinating within 15 minutes of penetration.
Research published in The Journal of Family Practice (2002) says that healthy women who urinate within 15 minutes of intercourse may be slightly less likely to develop a urinary tract infection than those who do not.
“And while there is apparently no medical reason to go straight to the shower or bidet after sex, it’s still healthy to have a post-sex protocol in mind,” Briet concludes.
- Daily cleaning of the genitals with water.
- Cleaning the hands, mouth and teeth.
- Wear clean underwear and, if possible, not made of synthetic fabrics (cotton).
- See your doctor and perform routine exams once a year.
- Self-examine by direct observation and palpation to identify changes in shape, coloration, secretions, size, and / or texture.
- Use of condoms during sexual intercourse.
- If you opt for anal sex, you should avoid inserting the penis into the anus and later into the vagina, as this favors the development of infections.
- Shaving all pubic hair is not recommended, since hair is usually a protection for the genitals, it is best to trim it, but not remove it completely.
Source: Thamara Martínez Farinós, psychologist and sexologist at the Espill Institute