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A healthy vagina usually has a slight scent, but choices of food, drink, hygiene practices, and clothing can all affect it. A stronger odor can also indicate a health problem that needs medical attention.

Nutrition, health status, and other factors can affect the natural fragrance of the vagina. Many products offer to “improve” vaginal odor, but this is neither medically necessary nor safe.

In fact, doing so can lead to infections that could cause or exacerbate an unpleasant odor.

In this article, we explore strategies for reducing vaginal odor safely and addressing any underlying medical concerns.

Negative feelings about vaginal odor can lead to difficulties with self-esteem and body image.

However, it is normal for the vagina to have a mild, musky smell.

This odor changes with hormonal shifts during pregnancy, menopause, and the menstrual cycle. A subtle smell is not a cause for concern.

However, females with other vaginal odors may wish to seek consultation with a doctor.

The sections below cover these odors in more detail.

Fishy vaginal odor

When certain factors affect the complex chemistry of the vagina, harmful bacteria can grow out of control, producing a fishy odor.

Bacterial vaginosis can have this effect. This is the most common vaginal infection among females aged 15–44 years.

Some females with bacterial vaginosis may experience other symptoms, such as itching or burning. This may feel similar to a yeast infection. For many, however, the fishy odor is the only symptom.

Prescription antibiotics can help treat this infection, and adopting certain healthful habits can reduce the risk of experiencing it again. These include:

  • Avoiding douches: These can affect the delicate pH balance of the vagina.
  • Not using scented or flavored products in or around the vagina: Perfumes and other products, such as scented tampons, can alter the chemistry of the vagina and give rise to bacterial vaginosis.
  • Limiting sexual partners and practicing safe sex: Although bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI), having multiple sexual partners can affect the bacterial balance of the vagina, potentially causing bacterial vaginosis.

Sweet or beer-like vaginal odor

An overgrowth of yeast in the vagina can produce a sweet smell, similar to that of honey or cookies. The vagina might also smell like beer, flour, or bread. It can also smell sour sometimes.

Intense burning, itching, or feelings of dryness usually accompany yeast infections. These symptoms tend to get worse over time. Some females may also notice a discharge that resembles cottage cheese.

These conditions are treatable using over-the-counter medications. However, females who have not had a yeast infection before should seek consultation with a doctor to rule out other causes.

Many of the same measures that can prevent bacterial vaginosis, such as avoiding scented products and never douching, are also effective in preventing yeast overgrowth.

Other strategies include:

  • Only taking antibiotics when necessary: In some females, antibiotics can kill beneficial vaginal bacteria, triggering the growth of vaginal yeast.
  • Not engaging in oral sex with people who have thrush in their mouth: People can pass on thrush through mouth-to-genital contact.
  • Keeping the vaginal area relatively dry: As yeast develops most rapidly in moist environments, it is important to avoid leaving moisture on the vagina after cleaning. Towel off after taking a bath or shower, and avoid sitting in wet swimwear or underwear.

Other odors

Hormonal changes during menopause can alter the scent of the vagina and leave the vagina feeling dry.

Some STIs can also alter the smell of the vagina, notably trichomoniasis.

Females should seek consultation with a doctor about any noticeable changes in vaginal odor — mainly if the smell is strong or unpleasant. However, they should not use perfume to mask the smell.

The following sections will list some tips for preventing vaginal odor.

1. Adopt good hygiene measures

Adopting safe and gentle vaginal hygiene practices can help reduce vaginal odor. Some tips include:

wiping the vagina from front to back, as this prevents fecal matter from entering the vagina

  • urinating immediately after sex
  • using a gentle, fragrance-free soap on the vulva only
  • changing underwear daily, or when the underwear is sweaty or soiled
  • washing underwear in unscented products
  • taking a shower after sweating, as trapped sweat can increase vaginal odor
  • if there is an unpleasant odor, washing the vulva with water
  • using a washcloth between showers to gently wipe down the area

Inserting soap into the vagina can affect vaginal pH, potentially leading to infections and an unpleasant odor.

2. Use internal menstruation products

Some females might notice a stronger vaginal odor during menstruation. Hormonal changes can cause an odor similar to iron or ammonia. Some menstrual products can trap odor, compounding this effect.

To reduce vaginal odor due to menstruation, try using internal products. The moisture of maxi pads and reusable cloth pads can contribute to odor. Sitting on a wet pad can also give rise to infection.

It is also important to change menstrual products frequently.

3. Care for the vagina after sex

Some people notice a strong, fishy odor immediately after sexual intercourse, which is a sign of bacterial vaginosis. Others may note a less distinct smell.

Sometimes, semen interacts with vaginal fluid, contributing to vaginal odor. Some lubricants can also affect the pH of the vagina, which can affect the scent.

People may wish to take to following steps after vaginal intercourse to reduce any odor:

  • Use a condom to prevent contact between semen and vaginal fluids.
  • Rinse the vulva with water. Doctors do not recommend douching.
  • Avoid using scented or flavored lubricants.

4. Consume probiotics

Probiotics support healthy bacteria throughout the human body, including in the vagina. They may also help prevent some vaginal infections, especially yeast infections.

Probiotics can reduce the risk of vaginal odor, as they help restore the vagina’s normal pH.

5. Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing

Clothing can trap fluids and substances around the vagina, including:

  • sweat
  • dead skin
  • discharge
  • semen from previous intercourse

Very tight-fitting clothing, including some shapewear, is often responsible for trapping these. Fecal matter that reaches the vagina can cause infections and odors, so it is important to avoid clothing that encourages this spread. This includes tight-fitting thong underwear.

Breathable cotton is the best choice for those with concerns about vaginal odor, as it is less likely to hold moisture close to the vagina. This makes it more difficult for bacteria and other sources of odor to build up and produce a strong smell.

6. Cut sugar and boost hydration

Consuming sugary foods can trigger an overgrowth of yeast, which can strengthen the odor of the vagina.

No research is available that supports the use of any specific food to change the smell of the vagina. However, some anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming sweet-smelling foods such as watermelon, apple, and celery might help.

Females should also try to drink plenty of water. Remaining well-hydrated prevents bacterial overgrowth. It can also prevent sweat from smelling irregular, resulting in a less pronounced vaginal odor.

Read this article in Spanish.

Below, we give some examples of products which may help with vaginal odor.


Probiotics may help reduce vaginal odor in some cases. For example, 2022 research suggests probiotics can reduce the symptoms associated with bacterial vaginosis. This is a condition causing various vagina-related symptoms including odor.

Probiotics are present in some whole foods, including pickles, sauerkraut, kimchee, salsa, and some other vegetables. Additionally, yogurts with live cultures may be a good source of probiotics.


  • List price: $12
  • Size: 30 pack

This company provide a daily probiotic blend capsule costing $12 for a 30 day supply.

It is suitable for vegans and gluten-free.

It contains three strands of ‘good’ bacteria including:

  • L. acidophilus
  • L. rhamnosus
  • B. lactis


  • cheaper per capsule than the below product
  • suitable for vegans
  • does not contain gluten


  • requires a subscription to Care/of before purchase
  • only one size pack available
  • FDA does not regulate sale of probiotics or supplements
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  • List price: $0.50 per pill
  • Size: Not clear

Persona supply a daily probiotic which costs $0.50 per day.

The capsule contains gelatin so is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.

Ingredients of the Persona daily probiotic include:

  • Proprietary Acidophilus Blend
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus La-14
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum SD-5857
  • Lactobacillus salivarius Ls-33
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus Lb-87


  • affordable price
  • contains five strains of “good” bacteria
  • according to Persona, they manufacture their products in the USA under strict cGMP and FDA guidelines
  • also offers international shipping


  • requires a subscription to Persona before purchase
  • not clear if there is a minimum order amount for this product
  • FDA does not regulate sale of probiotics or supplements
  • more expensive per capsule than above product
  • not suitable for vegans or vegetarians
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Menstrual cup

2021 research suggests that a menstrual cup can reduce odor compared to other period products.


  • List price: $24.90
  • Size: Small or large

This product is available in either a small or large size. However, the company recommends that only experienced individuals purchase the larger size.

Lena designed this product for teenagers as a beginner-friendly menstrual cup. They say it is soft silicone and a person can wear it for 12 consecutive hours.


  • is hypoallergenic
  • does not contain latex, BPA, or dioxins
  • according to the company, is biocompatible and safe during the manufacturing process
  • suitable for beginners and teenagers
  • three color choices


  • some reviews mention that the product hurt them and they experienced adverse side effects
  • some reviews also suggest the material is too hard and the cup was difficult to remove
  • no medium size option
  • menstrual cups can take some time to get used to
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  • List price: $28.99
  • Size: Small or regular

This product from Saalt is available in a small or regular size.

It is made from super-soft silicone which Saalt claims is gentle, flexible, and suitable for those with bladder sensitivity, or those who experience discomfort with firmer cups.

Saalt says it contains 100% medical-grade silicone and dyes that are safe and do not cause skin irritation.

A person can wear the cup for up to 12 hours.


  • available in three colors
  • suitable for vegans
  • for every purchase, Saalt donates 2% to donate period care in places in need
  • has a reinforced cuff to prevent folds and leakage
  • contains grip rings to help a person remove the product easily


  • more expensive than the above product
  • no larger size available
  • menstrual cups can take some time to get used to
  • some reviews mention difficulty removing due to the suction being too strong
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In this section, we provide some examples of products a person should avoid when looking to reduce vaginal odor.


Using a douche in the vaginal area may temporarily remove odor. However, this is not a long-term solution.

Research suggests that 29-92% of females worldwide douche in the vaginal area.

According to a small 2019 study, douching did not have an effect on vaginal odor for most of the participants.

Scented tampons and pads

The chemicals included in these scented sanitary products can cause an individual’s vaginal odor to worsen.

Research states that scented vaginal deodorant products, like scented tampons and pads, may cause irritation which can worsen vaginal health.

Scented soaps

Research suggests that 29-92% of females worldwide douche in the vaginal area.

Using a douche in the vaginal area may temporarily remove odor. However, this is not a long-term solution.

According to a small 2019 study, douching did not have an effect on vaginal odor for most of the participants.

Scented tampons and pads

The chemicals included in these scented sanitary products can cause an individual’s vaginal odor to worsen.

Research states that scented vaginal deodorant products, such as scented tampons and sanitary pads, may cause irritation which can worsen vaginal health.

Scented soaps

The use of scented soaps can also cause irritation and infection in the vaginal area, according to the same research as above.

A person should consider seeing a doctor if their vaginal odor does not improve after a few weeks.

Additionally, a person should contact their doctor if they experience the following symptoms as well as vaginal odor:

  • increased or unusual vaginal discharge
  • irritation, itching, or burning of the vagina
  • vaginal soreness
  • burning sensation when urinating

Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about vaginal odor.

What causes vaginal odor?

Vaginal odor usually occurs as a result of a pH imbalance. This may be due to infection, aging, sexual activity, or vaginal douching.

The typical vaginal pH is somewhere between 3.8 – 5.0, which is moderately acidic. A higher pH can allow unhealthy bacteria to grow, causing infection and possibly an odor.

Other factors that may cause vaginal odor include clothing, hygiene habits, and certain foods and drinks.

Is vaginal odor normal?

It is normal for a person to experience vaginal odor. However, if this odor becomes strong or smells different than usual, they may have an infection.

Should I see a doctor for vaginal odor?

A person should see a doctor for vaginal odor if the odor does not go away after a few weeks. Additionally, if they experience other symptoms alongside vaginal odor, they may wish to consult a doctor.

There are various factors that can cause vaginal odor, including food and drink, some clothing, hygiene, and infections.

There is a variety of methods a person can try to attempt to combat this vaginal odor. Additionally, there are also some products a person should avoid in order to reduce vaginal odor.

A person should contact their doctor if any unusual vaginal odor does not disappear after a few weeks after trying to eliminate the smell.