Ask The Doctor: Will soap affect my private parts?

Dear Doctor, I normally use scented body wash when showering and even use it 'down there'. However, a friend has warned me against it even though I have never had any complications. Is it wrong to use scented body wash or soap in general to wash my privates? I always feel super fresh after a shower so I don't see what the problem is.

Dear Doctor,

I normally use scented body wash when showering and even use it ‘down there’. However, a friend has warned me against it even though I have never had any complications. Is it wrong to use scented body wash or soap in general to wash my privates? I always feel super fresh after a shower so I don’t see what the problem is.

Tabitha, 26

Dear Tabitha

1416427691Dr-Rachna-Pande
Dr Rachna Pande

One does feel great after a shower, particularly if the soap or body wash is scented. The body and mind both get rejuvenated and energised. But all the body washes available contain strong chemicals. The perfumed ones contain more chemicals to create that fragrance. These body washes and other body care products are not entirely healthy in the long run.

Commercial soap makers often remove glycerin molecules from soaps and body wash to make room for perfumes and other chemicals which serve as preservatives. Firstly, due to strong chemicals like sodium laureth sulphate and closely linked sodium lauryl sulphate being used, there is dryness of the skin, manifesting as itching.

One may have to use a hand and body lotion or nourishing cream after to prevent that dryness. That also, if made of strong chemicals, can be harmful. These chemicals cause damage to hair follicles, can cause permanent skin and even eyes and liver damage.

The chemicals present may cause eczema, running of nose, skin rashes and aggravation of asthma in those who are susceptible to it. Eczema, over any body part, can cause eruptions, sores with extensive itching, which if present over private parts can be troublesome and embarrassing. Scratching can result in super added bacterial infections causing boils.

The chemicals present may be abrasive to the skin. This risk is particularly high over genital parts where the skin is normally very soft and vulnerable. Abrasions can occur over this part, which though minor can facilitate entry of germs. This increases risk of infection of pelvic parts.

Some of the chemicals depress immunity of the body thus increasing susceptibility to infections and cancers. Hormonal system of the body is disturbed by some chemicals like diethyl phthalate, synthetic ketone, among others, used in scented body wash and other body care products.

Hypothyroidism, menstrual abnormalities and both male and female infertility has been linked to such chemicals.

Any average scented product contains about 13 or more chemicals which can harm the body in more than one way.

These types of body wash are not harmful for the user alone but can cause headache or allergy problems to another person present in the vicinity also. The left-over of this liquid wash which goes down the drain is mostly not biodegradable and causes problems for the environment and even animals.

In contrast, non-scented body wash is more gentle to the skin, does not cause much dryness and is more safe. As such if somebody washes every day, uses clean clothes, keeps good oral hygiene, there is no need of any scent, because the natural fresh odour of the body is always present in a clean body.

Dr. Rachna is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital.