Aunt Vadge: am I wiping too much?

Hi Aunt Vadge,

Can wiping too much cause tears around my labia?

I’m usually a very clean person when it comes to that particular area. I just changed toilet paper and sometimes when I have in the past as well, I have small tears or cuts.

Is it possible I just wipe too often or wrong?

And I know it’s a silly question, but how do I wipe front to back correctly?

Yours, 
Wiper

___________

Hi there Wiper,

Thanks for your email. There is no such thing as a silly question – the idea of ‘wiping front to back’ is actually a bit of a confusing statement, so don’t worry – you are not alone!

Overwiping and vaginal fissures, cuts, and tears

Overwiping can be a problem since the skin – all skin – is protected by a layer of oil that protects the skin from damage. The labia are not very oily by nature, but overwiping with dry toilet paper is going to be a problem because the labia are delicate, and toilet paper is dry and after a short time, scratchy and irritating. So yes, this can cause cuts and tears on your labia.

Look at a diagram in Vag Basics and see where your urethra actually sits. This way you can target your wiping. You can’t really see your urethra even when you look, as the flesh tends to all look the same – pink and shiny. Obviously since your urethra is tucked in between your labia, when you pee, urine will get onto your inner labia, but it’s very minimal most of the time. From time to time a lip will be pointing in the wrong direction and urine goes elsewhere, but usually it’s not like that. Urine is not offensive either if the tiniest little droplet remains, so don’t get too overzealous.

When you wipe your vulva, just dab it. Don’t scrub, rub, go inside. A firm dab or two, or a gentle swipe, is generally enough. Overwiping will cause you a problem, so try reducing it, and see how you feel. There is no need to go overboard.

Other culprits

It could also be the toilet paper you are using, so stick to hypoallergenic, very soft toilet paper. Also, there are lots of reasons you may be getting cuts and tears, not related to toilet paper or wiping, but if you think it’s the wiping, try wiping differently and see if the cuts disappear. They heal quickly and you should be able to tell. If the cuts do not heal, you need to investigate this further.

Wiping from front to back

As for the concept of wiping from front to back, this applies to wiping done after a bowel motion, and just means don’t wipe faeces into your vagina – go from front (ish) to the back. Most women don’t wipe back to front anyway, but when you wipe your anus clean, wipe upwards, not downwards towards your vagina. This usually means putting your hand behind you, instead of between your legs.

What wiping from front to back does not mean is wiping all the way from your vagina to your anus and upwards. It only refers to wiping your butt.

Wiping faeces into the vagina is something kids are prone to, since they don’t really understand the difference between urine and faeces, or their anus and vagina. They are just learning how to wipe themselves clean, and infections can result when the two get mixed up.

You are probably doing it fine, and this is a general guideline for people who get regular infections, not a strict rule that must be adhered to. You can wipe your butt any way you see fit, but just don’t get poo in your vag! Easy.

Let us know if you need anything else.

Warmest regards,
Aunt Vadge

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.
Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Latest posts by Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N) (see all)