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Your vulva and vagina are as unique as the rest of your body. Here’s everything you need to know about vulvas, vaginal discharge, and how to take care of your genitals.

Is my vagina normal?

Many people say “vagina” when they’re actually talking about the vulva. The vulva is the outside, visible part of your genitals — your labia (lips), clitoris, vaginal opening, and the opening to your urethra (the hole you pee out of). The vagina is the inside - the stretchy tube that connects your vulva to your cervix and uterus. Read more about vulvas and vaginas.

There’s really no such thing as a “normal” looking vulva. Vaginas and vulvas are as unique as faces — they all have the same parts, but everyone’s looks a little different. Labia (the inner and outer lips) come in all shapes and sizes. People can have dangly labia, puffy labia, or barely-there labia. Some people’s inner labia stick out past their outer labia, and others have inner labia that are more tucked in.

Some people have wide vaginal openings, others have smaller ones. The clitoris can be big or small, and it may stick out or be tucked away under the clitoral hood. It’s totally common for your vulva to be asymmetrical (when one side looks different than the other). And vulvas come in a whole rainbow of skin colors, from dark brown to purple to tan to light pink, with many different textures, types, and amounts of pubic hair.

Most people with vulvas are born with thin tissue that stretches over part of the opening of their vagina — this is called the hymen. Some people have hymens that cover most of their vaginal opening, and others barely have a hymen at all. As time goes by, normal, everyday activities can cause your hymen to stretch and open up — like riding a bike, doing sports, or putting something in your vagina (like a tampon or finger). Having penis-in-vagina sex can also stretch your hymen. Read more about hymens.

What’s the deal with vaginal discharge?

During puberty, you’ll start getting vaginal discharge (wet stuff that comes out of your vagina). You’ll probably start seeing this discharge on your underwear. It can look clear, white, or slightly yellow, especially when it dries on underwear. Around your period, it may be brown or pink (this is sometimes called “spotting.”)

Your vaginal discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle. Some days you’ll have more discharge than others, and it may get thicker or thinner, or change color a little bit. Most discharge is totally normal — it’s part of your vagina’s way of cleaning itself.

It's a good idea to pay attention to what your vulva and vaginal discharge normally looks and smells like, so you’ll know if something changes — it could be a sign of an infection. If you have discharge that’s green, grey, foamy, clumpy, and/or has a strong fishy smell, visit a doctor, nurse, or your local Planned Parenthood health center. Don’t worry — vaginal infections are really common, and they’re usually easy to treat.

When you’re sexually excited (horny or turned on), you might notice that your vagina feels more wet than usual. That’s because your vagina makes a clear, slippery fluid that acts like a natural lubricant, to lower friction during sex. This is your body’s way of getting ready for sex and making sex feel more comfortable.

How should I clean my vagina and vulva?

The best way to clean your vulva is to just wash the outside parts with water and mild soap (you can just do this when you’re in the shower). Never put soaps or other cleaners up inside your vagina. You don’t need to clean the inside of your vagina — it already cleans itself!

It’s normal for your vagina and vaginal discharge to have a light smell, even when it’s clean. But don’t stress — it’s not something other people can notice. And you don’t need to douche, or use vaginal deodorants or any other kind of “feminine hygiene” sprays or washes. In fact, douching and using scented “feminine hygiene” products can actually cause irritation and infections.

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