From managing common vaginal health conditions & keeping your vagina clean, to the best ways to remove pubic hair down there, we talk all things women’s intimate health

When it comes to caring for down there, we know there's a lot to think about – from the health of your vagina, to all the different ways to remove pubic hair (if you choose to do so). Not to mention how to clean your vaginal area without upsetting the delicate pH balance.

We're here with advice, services and products to help look after your vaginal care needs, so read on for your ultimate guide to self-care down there...

What are vaginal health conditions?

You don’t need us to remind you how delicate our intimate areas are. A happy, healthy vagina is made up of a balance of bacteria that help keep everything down there running as it should, but certain lifestyle factors, health conditions and even bodycare products can disrupt this equilibrium. When this balance is out of whack, it can lead to some common vaginal health conditions and some uncomfortable feelings.

So, what’s the difference between thrush, cystitis and BV? And how can you look after your vaginal health? We have the answers.


Vaginal thrush is a common infection that most people with a vagina will experience at some point in their life. It’s a fungal infection caused by the yeast candida, and although it’s usually harmless, it can be uncomfortable and may keep returning.

Symptoms of vaginal thrush include:

• White vaginal discharge (often described as looking like cottage cheese) which doesn’t usually smell

• Itching and irritation around the vagina

• Soreness and stinging during sex or when you pee

Read more about thrush.

Treatments for thrush include an oral capsule, a vaginal tablet, an internal cream or a gel pessary. Or, to help soothe external symptoms of thrush such as itching or irritation, you could consider an external cream. There are also some small lifestyle changes which may help, like wearing cotton underwear, drying properly after washing and avoiding sex until the thrush has cleared up. You can read more about thrush on our Boots Health Hub.

See a GP if:

• You have symptoms of thrush for the first time

• You have thrush and are under 16 or over 60

• Thrush keeps coming back (more than four times in 12 months)

• Treatment for thrush has not worked

• You have thrush and are pregnant or breastfeeding

• You have thrush and a weakened immune system – for example, because of diabetes, HIV or chemotherapy


Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is actually the most common cause of vaginal discharge in women of child-bearing age. There are many different bacteria and fungi that are naturally present in the vagina (known as flora) and help to keep it healthy. However, sometimes the natural balance of flora can change, this may lead to BV, although what causes this change to happen is not fully understood.

There isn’t usually any redness or soreness with BV – half of those with BV don’t notice any symptoms. However, you may notice:

• A white or grey discharge with a strong ‘fishy’ smell

• A change to the colour and consistency of discharge, such as discharge that’s thin or watery

Read more about BV.

Certain factors may cause you to become more likely to get BV, including being sexually active, having a change of partner, having an IUD (contraception device), or using perfumed products in or around the vagina.

There are products available which may help, however it’s important visit your GP or local sexual health clinic if you think you have symptoms of BV to rule out other possible causes and access appropriate treatment.

Consider: Boots BV Gel

• 7 x 5ml applicators

This BV gel provides temporary relief and helps restore pH balance and natural vaginal bacteria, while rapidly soothing irritation and itching. It also helps relieve odour and abnormal discharge.


Cystitis is a relatively common type of urinary tract infection (UTI). It’s thought that most cases of cystitis happen when bacteria found in your bowel move into the bladder. Although it can be uncomfortable, it’s not usually a cause for serious concern and often clears up on its own without treatment.

Symptoms to look out for include:

• Feeling pain or a burning sensation when you urinate

• Needing to pee more urgently or frequently than normal

• Urine that is dark or cloudy and has a strong odour

• Pain in the lower abdomen

• Feeling achy, sick or fatigued

Read more about cystitis.

If you’ve had mild symptoms of cystitis for less than three days, you can usually manage your symptoms at home by taking over the counter pain relief (if suitable for you), drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and avoiding sexual intercourse until you start feeling better. If your symptoms are severe or you have symptoms and you’re a man, a child or a pregnant woman, or your symptoms don’t improve within three days, you should see your GP, who may prescribe you with a course of antibiotics. Alternatively, you may be able to access treatment through our Boots Online Doctor Cystitis Treatment service.*

Contrary to popular belief, there’s actually a lack of evidence to support the effectiveness of drinking cranberry juice to help with cystitis (sorry!).

There are also some small steps you can take to help prevent cystitis such as wiping from front-to-back and keeping genitals clean and dry.

Vaginal dryness

Did you know that vaginal dryness symptoms include more than just a feeling of discomfort down below? You might also experience:

• Itching or soreness in and around the vagina

• Pain and discomfort during sex

• Peeing more often than usual

• Recurring UTIs

While vaginal dryness is a common problem that will affect many of us in our lives, there are a few things can cause it to happen, such as:

• The menopause

• Breastfeeding

• Taking the contraceptive pill or an antidepressant

• Having your womb removed (a hysterectomy)

• Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy

• Perfumed soaps, washes or douches in or around your vagina

• Underlying conditions, such as diabetes or Sjögren's syndrome

Read more about the causes of vaginal dryness.

So, how can you treat vaginal dryness? Well, first it’s important to understand the cause before you consider a vaginal dryness treatment, so we’d suggest going to see your GP for a consultation.

There are a number of products which may be suitable to help with the vaginal dryness including soothing products like a vaginal gel that helps provide long-lasting relief. If your vaginal dryness is related to menopause you may want to consider our Boots Online Doctor Vaginal Dryness Treatment service.*

Consider: Boots Vaginal Moisturiser Gel

• Fragrance-free formula

• One-month supply

Whether it’s a result of childbirth, during breastfeeding or menopause, this soothing gel helps provide relief from dryness, itching, irritation and discomfort, with each application lasting up to three days. Helps provide long-lasting relief by adhering to the lining of your vagina.

How else can I look after my intimate health?

STI testing

STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing is important as it’s the only way to know if you have an STI which may require treatment. While some STIs may show obvious symptoms (like abnormal discharge, bleeding or rashes), others may show no signs at all.

It’s advised to get tested if you have recently changed partners or think you’ve been exposed to an STI. If you don’t have a regular partner and are having casual sex, you may wish to test more frequently than someone who is in a committed long-term relationship.

If you’d like to get an STI test, speak to your GP or visit your local sexual health clinic. Alternatively Boots Online Doctor offer a range of sexual health testing services which you may want to consider.* 

Cervical screening

Also known as a smear test, the screening checks the health of your cervix to help prevent cervical cancer. During your appointment, a small sample of cells is taken from your cervix, which is the opening to your womb from your vagina. The sample will be sent away to be checked for certain high risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause changes to the cells of your cervix.

Read more about what happens at a cervical screening appointment.  

Smear tests are important as they’re one of the best ways to protect yourself against cervical cancer. Anyone with a cervix aged 25 to 64 years will be periodically invited by letter from their GP to make an appointment for a smear test. The appointment is usually with a female doctor or nurse.  

How do I clean my vaginal area?

First things first, a quick anatomy lesson – the term “vagina” is often used to describe all of a woman’s sexual organs, but in reality, the vagina only refers to the canal inside the body. So, the vagina itself doesn’t need cleaning, but the vulva does.

The best way to wash your vulva is just using warm water every day. You can use plain, unperfumed soaps if you’d like, however avoid anything heavily fragranced as this can disrupt the balance of flora.

In terms of the best method for cleaning, you can spread your outer labia (sometimes called the ‘lips’) apart and gently clean around with your hands or a gentle washcloth. Then, let the area dry naturally or pat it dry with a towel.

While it’s best to stick to plain water, there are some feminine products, like vaginal wipes, you can use to help you freshen up between showers if necessary.

How should I remove hair down there?

To remove or not to remove – the choice is up to you. How you decide to wear your pubic hair is a really personal choice, but if you do decide you’d like to remove any or all your body hair, there are a variety of methods you can use to do it. Let’s do a quick run through the basics:


Shaving your bikini line and pubic hair is a quick, easy and relatively inexpensive method of hair removal. It should be a painless one, too.

But let’s address the age-old question – how do you shave down there without getting bumps? Make sure to take a hot shower or soak yourself in a hot bath before you begin, as this will help to soften the hairs. Pick a shaving foam or moisturising shower gel to help the razor glide over the skin, and remember to gently exfoliate a few times a week to shed any dead skin and prevent ingrown hairs.

Take your time, as your skin down there is rather delicate and you don’t want to cause any unnecessary nicks. Make sure the blade is sharp too, so you don’t have to go over and over the same area of skin.

When it comes to the best bikini line shaving products, choose a razor that you’re comfortable with – ones with a reusable handle tend to be designed for a comfortable grip, which is a good choice if you’re inexperienced or want to ensure you’re being precise. There’s also a world of shaving foams, moisturisers and serums to explore.

Try: Venus for Pubic Hair and Skin, Daily Soothing Serum

• Size: 50ml

• Dermatologist- and gynaecologist-tested

• Made without dyes or fragrance

Use after you shave to soothe and moisturise the area and help reduce itching. With lactic acid to help reduce build-up of dead skin cells and ingrown hairs, it can also be used between shaves to maintain hydration and smoothness.

Hair removal cream

These specially formulated creams contain ingredients that break down the proteins inside the hair and destroy the base, allowing you to easily wipe away the hair once they’ve worked their magic. Simply apply, leave on for the allotted time and rinse off for results.

It’s a pain-free option, but some options might not be suitable for all skin types (someone with sensitive skin may find the formula a little irritating). Test out a patch on a small area of skin before you begin if you’re unsure.

Try: Veet Expert Bikini Line

• 2 x 50ml

• Takes between two to six minutes

With everything you need for a smooth hair removal experience, this expert kit includes a spatula to help with application and a multi-benefit foam to prep the skin and provide moisture in-between hair removal sessions.


If you’re looking for long-lasting results for a holiday or would like to save yourself time throughout the week, waxing is a great option. Using warm wax and wax strips, the hair is pulled out from the follicle, meaning grow back time is much longer than shaving or hair removal cream (which only trim the hair that’s above skin level). You can buy an at-home kit or splash out and go and see a professional.

However, waxing is one of the more painful options. While it might not be for the faint-hearted, the pain only lasts for a second. Most importantly, remember to keep the skin moisturised afterwards to avoid any angry-looking red bumps.


Epilators are handheld devices that use a number of mini tweezer-like blades to grip hair and pull it out from the root (similar to waxing, without using the sticky stuff).

This option requires an investment into an epilating device – and an ability to deal with a bit of pain – but it’s worthwhile in the long run, as over time your hair will become thinner as is grows back.


Don’t want to remove the hair completely, but would like a little tidy up? Invest in a bikini trimmer or a small pair of cuticle scissors to neaten up edges or trim down the length.


Intense pulsed light (IPL) uses light rays to target hair at the root and disable key areas within the follicle, reducing regrowth. Over time, repeated use of an IPL device means your hair will grow back more slowly and more sparsely.

Again, this option includes investing in the right device to get you started, and it’s worth noting that you’ll need to be extra careful where you use it in your intimate area – avoid any extra-sensitive bits, such as inside the labia.

So there you have it – intimate health 101. The good news about self-care down there is that taking care of your vaginal health doesn’t require much time, energy or effort – and you can always speak to a healthcare professional if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

*Access to treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.