Feeling Fresh

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 if people notice they have their periods. 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 when everything's normal, no one smells any odors from a girl's vagina. If a girl has an infection like bacterial vaginosis, she may notice a fishy smell. But even then, it's unlikely that people around her will notice it. Girls who notice an unusual smell should see a doctor just in case they have an infection.

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.

Avoid Douches, Wipes, and Feminine Sprays

Douches, feminine sprays, deodorants, or wipes supposedly keep a woman's vaginal area smelling fresh and clean. Douching means washing out the vagina, usually with a product you buy in a store. But it's not a good idea to douche (unless a doctor tells you to). Douching can cause allergic reactions, irritation, and even infections.

Feminine sprays, deodorants, and scented tampons aren't a good idea either. As with douching, they can lead to things like allergic reactions and irritation. Your vagina has its own natural cleaning system that flushes out bacteria, so you don't need to add any chemicals to help it.

Smells caused by infections need to be treated with prescription medicines. Perfumed sprays don't make infections go away, they just cover up the smell for a short time. If you notice a bad smell or think you may have an infection, see a doctor or go to a health clinic right away.

It's easy to keep your vagina clean without making it smell like a flower shop. You just need to shower or wash every day with a mild soap and plenty of warm water. Some girls like to take warm baths during their periods to help relieve 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 2015

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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Related Resources
Web SitePlanned Parenthood Info for Teens This site from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has information on relationships and sexual health for teens.
Web SiteGirlsHealth.gov GirlsHealth.gov, developed by the U.S. Office on Women's Health, offers girls between the ages of 10 and 16 information about growing up, food and fitness, and relationships.
Web SiteGo Ask Alice! Go Ask Alice! is Columbia University's health question and answer service. It offers open and frank discussions of sensitive topics.
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