Not to sound cliché, but every person with a vulva has their own unique body parts. It’s easy to feel like
everybody else must have a hair-free, smell-free, and tightly packaged WAP but that’s not the case.
Today I want to talk about what’s “normal” when it comes to vulvas, vaginas, and everything else
between our legs.
Normal is Subjective
There’s really no such thing as a “normal” looking vulva, everyone’s looks a little different. For a quick
refresher, the vulva is the outside visible part of your genitals. While vulvas may include the same parts
(labia, clitoris, vagina, urethra) everyone’s looks a bit different. Sometimes the labia (inner and outer
lips) of the vulva are small, puffy, or dangly. The inner lips can stick out past the outer labia or be more
tucked in. Don’t expect things to be symmetrical down there, one side may look different than the
other. Even the clitoris can look different across individuals, it may be tucked in or stick out.
What is Normal Discharge?
Most discharge is normal, it’s part of your vagina’s way of cleaning itself. It changes throughout your
menstrual cycle, some days it be may be clear, white, or slightly yellow. Around your period it may take
on a darker color or get thicker or thinner. It’s also normal for your vagina to have a mild smell, even
when it’s clean. It’s important to take note of what normal discharge looks like for you. If you have
discharge that’s green, grey, foamy, clumpy, and/or has a strong fishy smell, make an appointment with
your doctor. Or if something just feels different than what you’re used to, consider getting it checked
out. Vaginal infections are really common and usually easy to treat.
The best way to clean your vulva is to wash the outside parts with water and mild soap. It’s not
necessary to use special cleaners or washes and scented products can even cause irritation and
What About Pubic Hair?
There is a point to public hair! Pubic hair (or the hair around your genitals) is thought to play a role in
reducing friction during sexual intercourse. It also plays a role in preventing dirt or other debris from
entering this sensitive area. This doesn’t mean it’s wrong to remove your pubic hair, but know that it is
natural to have it. Pubic hair comes in all different colors and textures. If you choose to remove your
pubic hair, consider using an electric trimmer instead of shaving. Many Black women experience issues
with repeat ingrown hairs after using razors to shave their vulva and bikini line, a trimmer can help
reduce the risk of ingrown hairs.
A Note About Dark Spots and Hyperpigmentation
It’s common to experience patches of skin that are darker in color than the skin around it, also known as
hyperpigmentation. You may notice darker areas around your bikini line or thighs caused by the
production of excess melanin. Body hair removal, like shaving and waxing are big contributors to
hyperpigmentation because they can irritate the skin. This is another reason to consider leaving your
pubic hair alone, or using an electric trimmer or scissors to gently remove hair. Another common cause
of hyperpigmentation in the bikini and thigh area is chafing. Or as I like to call it “chub rub”.
The rubbing of your panties or skin of your thighs can cause damage to the skin leading to hyperpigmentation. This kind of chafing can happen to anyone regardless of size or weight. Consider wearing 100% cotton underwear or less tight panties to avoid irritation. You can also use body balms as a barrier or wear natural fiber clothes when working out or under skirts and dresses. I personally deal with
hyperpigmentation in this area and have always felt really embarrassed by it. It helps me to know that
this is a super common occurrence that many women experience.
It’s easy to feel shame and embarrassment around the way our body parts look due to the societal
pressures we see enacted in the media and in popular culture. Despite what we are led to believe, your
body is perfect the way it is. Know that you’re not alone if you feel self-conscious about the way your
vulva and accompanying parts look, but whatever you have going on is most likely normal. We have to
choose to accept and love ourselves every day in order to be the carefree and light humans we deserve
to be. As always, be gentle with yourself.
Sara Fails is a health communicator and content strategist. In her free time, she enjoys living
vicariously through Black heroines in fantasy novels and having dance parties with her toddler.