20 Healthy Habits I Started in My 20s

Something I’ve been reflecting on more lately has been self-improvement. Namely, I’ve been thinking that it’s something I’d like to write about more on my blog, since it’s always been such an important part of my life. Ever since middle and high school, I have always been interested in ways that I could better myself. I’ve tried adopting habits like meditating, creating the perfect morning routine, and learning study skills, all from my various quests for self-improvement over the years. Many of these habits have even stuck!

That being said, I firmly believe that establishing healthy habits in your 20s is key to staying healthy throughout your lifetime. When you’re a young adult, you’re building the foundation that sets you up for a lifetime of success. You might not think the way you eat or the way you talk to yourself now matters very much, since you have years ahead of you — but it matters in that, once they are established, bad habits are difficult to correct. You’ll be much healthier and happier in your 30s, 40s, and beyond if you set yourself up for success now.

Granted, I’m still working on building healthier habits. I’m trying to exercise more, which I haven’t done much of since the pandemic started. I’m also trying to be cleaner and more organized. As usual, the quest for self-improvement is never over, since we, as humans, are never done growing. But, I do think I’ve done a good job establishing a number of healthy habits throughout my 20s that will set me up for success.

These are 20 of those healthy habits — ones I think every woman should adopt in her 20s to set her up for a lifetime of success. While I say every woman should adopt them, I also recognize that building healthy habits takes time. It’s best to start with one small change at a time, and work to make them part of your routine before moving onto the next thing. Don’t feel pressured to be “perfect” or adopt an entirely new lifestyle at once!

1. Drinking Less Sugar

I’m not one to focus on calories, but I do think there is way too much sugar in everything. Instead of reading labels and stressing about the numbers, one easy way to reduce your sugar intake is to stop drinking sweetened beverages. Not long ago, I stopped putting sugar in my coffee, because I realized all that sugar adds up. Soda and juice (even the so-called “healthy” kinds like Naked) add up even faster. Like a lot of people, however, I don’t like drinking plain water all that much. Two things that helped me cut back on sweetened beverages are drinking green tea with lemon and drinking Spindrift sparkling water. Spindrift uses just enough real fruit juice to add flavor, but not enough to give yourself a cavity!

2. Going to Therapy

Maybe it’s that I’m a future therapist, but I genuinely believe that everybody should go to therapy at least once in their lifetime. Everybody has their sh*t, but few people realize how their past continues to affect them today. If you are interested in self-improvement, then going to therapy is one of the best things you can do. Interrupting toxic behavior prevents it from becoming a pattern that you pass down to your kids, and they pass down to their kids, and so on. Most people have learned at least one toxic behavior from their families. Let the cycle of toxicity end with you.

3. Joining a Gym

The moral of the story isn’t that you need to join a gym — it’s that you need to find the type of exercise you actually like and stick with it. Me joining a gym is the perfect example: I love to run, but I hate the cold. So, I joined a gym so I could use the treadmill instead of lying to myself that I would go for a jog outside in the snow. When your workout is miserable, you’re never actually going to do it. Whether it’s doing yoga, jumping on a trampoline, or riding a bike, find a way to get active that you genuinely love.

4. Watching Less TV

This wasn’t a change I made on purpose, but I do believe it has had a positive effect on my life. Over time, I found that if I wanted to keep up with my other hobbies, like bullet journaling and blogging, then I didn’t have time to binge watch entire seasons of TV shows in one day. Over the past year, I’ve watched exactly one TV show (Schitt’s Creek, for anyone who’s wondering). Watching less TV frees up my time for other, healthier habits — like reading!

5. Washing Off My Makeup

I admit that I am still working on this one, because sometimes I just want to collapse in bed at the end of a long day. However, I do think it’s essential to wash off your makeup every night before bed. Eye infections, pimples, and tons of other yucky problems can result from leaving the remnants of last night on your face while you sleep. If you’re super lazy like I am, I highly recommend getting a Makeup Eraser. Since you don’t need anything except water, it requires little effort to wipe off the day’s makeup — and it’s more eco-friendly than using disposable face wipes.

6. Making My Bed

Recently, I’ve started making my bed — and it has seriously transformed my morning routine. Something about having a freshly made bed helps me start off my day on the right foot. I like the ritual of it all, and it helps me clear my head and feel more organized. It’s also so much more satisfying to crawl into bed at the end of the night when it hasn’t just been slept in.

7. Embracing What Makes Me “Weird”

Throughout college, I was very self-conscious about some of my interests that were considered “weird.” I didn’t think it was cool to like video games or kawaii things, and thought I had to dress and act a certain way to fit in. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I’m a lot happier accepting the things that make me “weird” and worrying less about other people’s perceptions of me. Sure, I know that people are judging me sometimes. But I’ve decided to actively try not to care about other people’s opinions. The only one that matters is my own!

8. Eating Real Meals

I don’t know which college girl needs to hear this, but coffee is not a meal! I used to pick up a Starbucks Frappuccino before night class and think that it was dinner. Not only is this a super unhealthy attitude to have toward food — I thought that eating less made me superior somehow — but it’s the worst way to fuel your body. Your brain needs carbs, fats, and protein to function optimally. Eating complete meals that combine all three keeps you full longer and helps boost your brainpower. You can’t focus on work or school when you’re starving. In other words, eating real meals can literally make you more productive!

9. Following a Budget

I am, admittedly, the type of person who spends more than she saves. While I still don’t save much, I have gotten much stricter with my spending over the past few weeks — a habit that I hope to keep up throughout 2021. Something about having adult expenses for the first time, like a car payment and rent, helps me stay accountable to my budget. Because I’m worried about the consequences if I can’t make my payments, I’m less likely to spend my money on frivolous or unimportant expenses before getting to the important stuff.

10. Starting a Bullet Journal

You don’t necessarily need a bullet journal to be healthy, but I do think a bullet journal has provided me with two much-needed things in my life. Firstly, it helps me stay organized. Everyone needs to find a system of organization that works for them and helps them keep up with important tasks. For me, that has been a bullet journal, but for you, it could be a digital calendar, to-do list, or something else entirely! Secondly, it has been a wonderful creative hobby that helps me express myself and gets me away from screens. In my opinion, everyone needs a hobby that helps them bring out their artistic side. Bullet journaling has accomplished that for me.

11. Ending Toxic Relationships

It took me a long time to value myself enough to want to leave my toxic relationships behind. In the past, I have had toxic relationships with friends, family members, and romantic partners. Previously, I felt trapped in these relationships, but no longer talking to my dad was the impetus that empowered me to stop letting people walk all over me. Now, I’m much more selective with the people I spend my time with, and I won’t enter a relationship — platonic, romantic, or otherwise — unless I’m certain it will serve me.

12. Quitting Drinking

I’m not morally against drinking alcohol, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that alcohol is a drug. The fact that it’s socially acceptable to drink alcohol (as opposed to snorting cocaine, for example) doesn’t make it any better for you. Besides the studies linking red wine to heart health, there’s no evidence that drinking alcohol has any benefits. Personally, I had a negative relationship with alcohol in college. Like most of us, I partied a little too hard at some points, and I think I was using it to compensate for my social anxiety. If you are still binge drinking in your 20s, it’s time to ask yourself why and get to the root of your relationship with alcohol. You don’t necessarily need to quit like I did, but you definitely can’t keep up these behaviors with zero consequences.

13. Gossiping Less

Seriously, if you don’t have anything more interesting to talk about than what other people are up to, then you should focus on making your own life one worth talking about! I’ve found that the friendships I’ve gossiped most in are often the least genuine. If someone doesn’t accept and embrace your unique interests, and you can only bond over your shared hatred of someone else, that friendship probably isn’t going to last.

14. Putting My Hair Up

Growing up, my parents used to tell me I should pull my hair off my face so that I wouldn’t break out, but I never listened. Now, I make an effort to put my hair up in a messy bun or pull back my bangs with a hair clip to avoid trapping oil and dirt beneath. I honestly believe making this change has reduced the number of pimples I get on my forehead, and it’s definitely helped my hair look less greasy between washes.

15. Not Using Credit Cards

In college, I accumulated a lot of credit card debt. Some of this debt, I don’t regret — it allowed me to travel abroad, for example. But a lot of the money I spent, I spent trying to compensate for insecurities and keep up with the Joneses of my college. I was in a sorority where a lot of the girls had more money than me, and I felt like I needed to present myself a certain way. Today, I am still repairing my credit score from the damage I inflicted. The only reason I’m not still in crippling debt is because I’ve been privileged enough to have money from my family. While I think it’s important to utilize credit in a healthy way to establish a credit history, I do think being unable to rely on credit cards has helped me feel the value of my money more when I spend it. A debit card feels less like a magical plastic card that will get me whatever I want because it’s directly tied to my bank account. I can’t spend money I don’t have with a debit card. Someday, I realize I will need to use a credit card again, but for now, I am more comfortable living without.

16. Getting a Pap Smear

A lot of women think they can put off their Pap smear because they’re young and healthy, but a cervical cancer diagnosis can change all of that in an instant. Whether or not you’re sexually active, you should get your first Pap smear when you turn 21. I don’t know about you, but a lot of women I knew talked about a Pap smear like it was a painful, invasive test. All that talk really intimidated me — but when it was time for my first Pap smear, I was actually surprised by how quick and painless it was. I remember asking my doctor, “is it over already?” because I expected something much, much worse. Long story short, don’t be afraid of getting a Pap smear, and don’t put it off until it’s too late.

17. Buying a Good Razor

I’m the kind of person who used to buy the cheapest razor, or the one that came in the prettiest color, rather than the one that would work the best. I’m also the kind of person who used to put off changing my razor blades, but this is another thing that I’ve recently started to rectify. As strange as it may sound, finding a good razor is as healthy as it is satisfying. Keeping your razor sharp and rust-free is important for good hygiene, especially if you shave “down there.” A gross razor can introduce bacteria that promotes infections. Personally, I’ve become a huge fan of my genderless Flamingo razor from Target, but many women are big fans of using men’s razors, since they tend to be sharper and come with more blades than women’s razors.

18. Finding the Right Birth Control

Having endometriosis and depression, I know the value of finding the right birth control method. It may take a few tries to find the right one, but once you do, it’s so worth it. For me, that has been the hormonal IUD, which does a good job of controlling my endo symptoms without worsening my depression. But birth control is highly personal, and I would never force my preferred method onto another woman. The takeaway? Don’t feel the need to put up with uncomfortable side effects when there are literally dozens of birth control brands out there. You should never be afraid to talk to your doctor about changing methods if your current one isn’t working for you.

19. Saying No

Throughout high school and parts of college, I was the type of person who couldn’t say no. I overcommitted myself because I thought that’s what I had to do to a) be successful and b) make people like me. But you should never feel like your success or your friendship is conditional on how much you can do for someone. I’ve had to learn to take a step back and not to say yes to commitments just because I want to please people.

20. Unfollowing Negative People

To be clear, when I say “negative people,” I don’t mean that in a toxic positivity, “no bad vibes” kind of way. I mean unfollowing anyone who makes you feel negatively about yourself. In my 20s, I unfollowed all of the influencers from my eating disorder days whose bodies subconsciously made me feel like mine wasn’t good enough. I got rid of anyone whose life appeared so “perfect” that it made me question the worth of my own. As a result, I think I have been a lot happier and experienced a lot less FOMO!

Got Vaginismus? Here’s Your Ultimate Guide to Using Vaginal Dilators

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission from any purchases made on my blog. This does not affect the price you pay for products or services. Thank you for supporting Heal with Haley!

If you have pain with penetration, you know that simply looking at a set of vaginal dilators can be overwhelming. For many people with chronic pelvic pain (CPP), even the smallest dilator in the set feels daunting — nevermind the largest one! But as someone who struggles with vaginismus and vestibulodynia, I believe that it is possible to overcome pain and fear surrounding penetration… and research shows that dilators can play an important role in the healing process for people like me.

Nearly 3 out of 4 vaginismus patients are able to have pain-free intercourse after completing a full vaginal dilator protocol — which takes, on average, about five weeks. Still, the experience of healing from vaginismus is often physically and emotionally challenging for us. While research shows that dilator therapy is an effective treatment for vaginismus, it also shows that womxn healing from vaginismus often lack access to the emotional support they need throughout the process.

I may not be able to give each and every one of you a hug in person, but I’d like to think that my blog can support you through your journey in some small way. Whether you’re starting dilator therapy on your own or with the guidance of a physical therapist, this post is designed as a jumping off point to get you through the early days of treatment — with all the patient-only insight that a doctor or PT won’t be able to give you.

How Do I Know If I Have Vaginismus?

You might be here because you think you have vaginismus, but you aren’t quite sure. Unfortunately, I’m not a doctor or physical therapist — and only a medical professional can let you know for certain if you’re struggling with vaginismus. Still, there are some telltale signs and symptoms that often go along with vaginismus.

Pain during sex, or dyspareunia, is the most characteristic sign of vaginismus. But dyspareunia alone doesn’t say much, since so many conditions can cause it. People who have vaginismus often describe their particular sexual pain as burning, stabbing, or like something is “blocking” penetration.

The pain is usually felt at the vaginal opening upon penetration. Sometimes, it is so bad that it prevents sex from happening at all, whether because the person with vaginismus avoids sex due to the pain or because their muscles clench so hard that not even a Q-tip could penetrate them comfortably.

Another important characteristic of vaginismus, which makes it different from other CPP conditions, is that it causes anxiety or fear surrounding penetration. That penetration doesn’t always have to be sexual: it could also mean fear of inserting a tampon or having a gynecologic exam due to painful penetration.

Vaginismus can be primary, meaning that it occurs without a trigger, often from a person’s first sexual experience, or secondary, meaning that it occurs later in life and is often triggered by another event. This event could be emotional, such as sexual trauma, or physical, such as childbirth or another CPP condition. For example, many people with vulvodynia go on to develop vaginismus.

Other signs and symptoms of vaginismus that aren’t related to pain or anxiety surrounding sex include:

  • Constipation. People who have tight pelvic floor muscles often can’t relax them in order to have a proper bowel movement, leading to constipation and painful poops.
  • Urinary problems. If your pelvic floor muscles are tight, you may experience incomplete emptying, leading to urinary frequency (a.k.a. needing to pee more often than usual). If you have muscle spasms, you might also experience a sudden urge to use the restroom.
  • Anxiety disorders. Vaginismus itself does not cause an anxiety disorder, but people with anxiety disorders appear to be more prone to developing the condition.
  • Low sexual desire. When sex is painful, we naturally want to avoid the source of the pain. This can lead to a low sex drive and sexual dysfunction (such as inability to orgasm or to become aroused during sex).

How Dilators Work

Dilators are phallic-shaped medical devices (not sex toys) that are used to progressively stretch and relax the pelvic floor. They are used for many CPP conditions, but were originally developed by infamous sex researchers Masters & Johnson as a treatment for vaginismus.

For vaginismus, most dilators are sold as a set ranging from small to large. The smallest dilator may be no larger than the width of your pinky finger, while the largest may be somewhat wider than the average penis. You should start with the smallest dilator and work your way up.

There are two main types of vaginal dilators: silicone and plastic.

Silicone Dilators

  • Silicone is body-safe, non-porous material that doesn’t accumulate bacteria
  • These dilators are softer and more flexible than rigid plastic dilators
  • They may be easier to insert and less anxiety-inducing for first-timers
  • The first silicone vaginal dilators were designed by Soul Source

My favorite silicone dilators are made by Soul Source. These are the only silicone dilators made in the USA to date, and they are endorsed by the official Academy of Pelvic Health. You can check out my collaboration with Soul Source for more information on getting started with pelvic floor PT at home. You can also use my code ENDOSTRONG for 15% off your first purchase from Soul Source! Click here to shop.

Plastic Dilators

  • Plastic dilators have been traditionally used to treat vaginismus
  • More rigid dilators are better for trigger-point therapy and for breaking up scar tissue
  • They can be used for other conditions, like recovering from gender-affirming surgery

I love the company VuVa Tech’s Smooth Vaginal Dilator Set for its affordability and the fact that it comes with a full set of progressive sizes. However, Soul Source makes the only dilators specially made for use in transgender patients.

Using Dilators for Vaginismus

No matter whether you choose silicone or plastic dilators, the protocol for treating vaginismus is pretty much the same. (Please note that I can’t offer advice on dilating for gender-affirming surgery or any other medical condition or procedure that I don’t have personal experience with.)

You should always start with the largest size that you can comfortably insert without pain. In my experience, it’s best to try the smallest dilator first, rather than to overshoot and wind up in more pain than you expected. If the first dilator is easy to insert on the first try, feel free to move up until you find one that’s more challenging for you. More than likely, however, you’ll need to start with the first size (I did) and work your way up from there — and that’s okay!

Some people might even find that the largest size is too large at first — and there’s no shame in that. Some dilator kits come with large, fluffy Q-tips for this purpose, so you can start even smaller than the smallest dilator. Other times, you may want to try inserting a finger before working with the dilators. The protocol for practicing is still the same, even if you are using a Q-tip or finger instead of a dilator to start.

Everyone’s PT has a different approach to dilator therapy. Some people will advise you to start with 5-10 minutes of dilator training a day, while others will push you to go for 20-30 minutes. I think 10-15 minutes is a happy medium to start with, if you aren’t dilating under the guidance of a pelvic floor health provider. Most will agree, however, that you’ll need to practice every day, at least for a few minutes, in order to keep up the good habit.

You’ll want to use a lot of lubricant when practicing with your dilators. A water-based lubricant is the best option, especially if you are using silicone dilators (silicone-based lubricant should NEVER be used with silicone dilators). As someone with vulvodynia and vestibulitis, I find that good old-fashioned Astroglide is the best option. However, I also have had a good experience with Sliquid H2O.

You should also clean your vaginal dilators before and after use, just to be safe. I use #ToyLife foaming cleanser, which is meant for sex toys but works great on vaginal dilators, too. It is safe for use on both silicone and plastic products, is hypoallergenic, and contains no harsh ingredients like alcohol that may dry out your sensitive skin down there.

To practice dilator therapy, choose the dilator you’re going to start with (if it’s your first time, choose the smallest in the set). Cleanse and dry it thoroughly, then apply plenty of water-based lubricant and find a comfortable position to insert the dilator in.

If you have ever been successful in using a tampon, I say try whatever position you’ve been able to insert a tampon in before. Squatting slightly with your knees apart, or laying down with your knees spread (as if you’re at the gynecologist’s office), are both good positions if you aren’t sure where to start. Remember that you’ll need to stay in that position for at least 10 minutes, so make sure you’re good and comfortable — get pillows and blankets if you need them!

Before inserting the dilator, I like to close my eyes and take a few deep breaths from my belly. This relaxes the pelvic floor muscles and alleviates some of the anxiety. As you get ready to insert the dilator, you might find it useful to start by resting the tip against the vaginal opening before pushing the dilator inside. This helps you get used to the feeling of having something near the vaginal opening, especially if you have been avoiding it or never done it before.

Your first time using a dilator, that might be as far as you go. You might find that your muscles contract as soon as they feel the dilator at the opening — and that’s okay. Stay in that position and breathe through it for the full 10-15 minutes. If you’re comfortable, however, try pushing the dilator inside, a little bit at a time, as far as it will comfortably go.

It’s helpful to know that most women’s vagina slopes upwards a tad, so you may want to insert the dilator at a slight angle. You may also want to time your breathing with the insertion of the dilator. Inhale as you push the dilator in and exhale as you pause. Stop any time your pain level exceeds a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1 to 10. You should never get past that point when practicing using dilators, as severe pain conditions your body to fear penetration even more.

After you locate your stopping point, hold the dilator in place, actively breathing and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles, for at least 5-10 minutes. Once you can comfortably insert the entire length of the dilator without any pain, you should try pushing the dilator in and out, as you would during penetrative sex. Go slowly and, as always, stop anytime your pain level exceeds a 3 or 4. And, when you can finally do that without any pain, you’re ready to move on to the next largest size dilator!

Continue this process as long as it takes to comfortably insert the largest dilator without any pain, and to move it in and out. After that, you might move onto sex toys or penetration with a partner. If you’re going to work with a partner, start by having them insert the dilator for you a few times until attempting penetrative sex. The process of trusting someone else not to hurt you is very different from trusting yourself, so don’t feel bad if you find this step difficult, even if the dilator is smaller than the largest one.

Remember that completing the entire course of dilator therapy, from the smallest dilator to penetrative intercourse, takes time. On average, an entire course of treatment takes most vaginismus patients about five weeks. You might find that it takes more or less time for you. No matter the case, that’s okay. What’s important is that you don’t rush yourself or force yourself to “push through” the pain before you’re ready, as pain conditions your body to fear sex even more than you already might with vaginismus.

In a healthy relationship, your partner should not pressure you to move faster, either. They should be willing to wait until you are fully better before attempting penetrative intercourse. Many doctors recommend taking a mini break from P-in-V sex (if you’re able to have it) until you complete your dilator therapy and/or course of PT.

In the meantime, know that avoiding penetration does not mean that intimacy is off the table. Other activities, like mutual masturbation, external sex toys, oral sex, or manual stimulation, can help you feel physically close to your partner without worsening your pain. If even the thought of intimacy is scary to you (which is not uncommon with vaginismus), you can also try a sex therapy exercise called sensate focus, which works gradually toward penetration in the same way that dilators do. Get the directions for it here.

Dealing with Vaginismus Emotionally

If you have vaginismus, you know that dilator therapy is only half the battle of getting better. The other half is working on the psychological origins of the disease.

Whether it’s related to trauma, anxiety, or fear of pain, know that vaginismus is a totally normal response to what you have experienced emotionally. Even so, it might not feel that way when you are in the throngs of struggling with sexual pain. In order to understand how vaginismus can impact you emotionally, it helps to understand how the cycle of pain works in our brains.

Source: Vagi Wave

First, I think it’s important to acknowledge that sexual pain can occur for a lot of reasons besides vaginismus. The most common cause is a lack of lubrication due to inadequate foreplay or simply not using lube. For most womxn, one experience of sexual pain won’t rewire your brain to expect pain every time. It’s only when pain reoccurs two, three, or more times that we begin to anticipate pain.

Our body has a natural physical response to anticipating pain: we tense our muscles to “brace” ourselves for pain. This can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction in women with chronic sexual pain. As we tense our vaginal muscles to protect ourselves from pain, they can become too tight by default, leading to CPP. In vaginismus, those vaginal muscles become so tight that penetration is painful or even impossible. Some womxn with vaginismus can’t even insert a Q-tip comfortably without excruciating spasms of pain.

As a result of ongoing pain, we begin to associate sex with pain. This leads many of us to avoid sex, since it’s something we associate with pain — and, obviously, we would rather avoid pain whenever possible. When this cycle goes on for a long time, the avoidance can gradually extend to any kind of intimacy. My pelvic pain doctor has told me that many of the womxn she sees in her clinic will avoid any kind of touching, hugging, or kissing with their partner, for fear it will lead to sex.

The key to interrupting the pain cycle is rewiring our brains to no longer anticipate pain with penetration. This takes a lot of time and practice. Vaginal dilation therapy is one way to train your body to comfortably tolerate penetration, little by little. As we mentioned previously, it’s critical that you don’t exceed a 3 or 4 on a pain scale of 1 to 10 when dilating to ensure your brain doesn’t continue to associate penetration with pain. You can also incorporate pleasure into dilation to create a positive association, by masturbating while you use your dilators or even using sex toys instead of traditional dilators.

Many pelvic pain doctors will recommend you temporarily avoid partnered penetrative sex while training with vaginal dilators. The goal is to achieve pain-free penetration with the largest size dilator before moving on to partnered penetration. In the meantime, however, that does not mean you cannot enjoy other non-penetrative activities to stay close to your partner(s), physically and emotionally.

If you are someone who avoids any kind of intimacy, you may want to try a sex therapy exercise called sensate focus with your long-term partner. Like dilator therapy, it focuses on gradually working your way up to partnered sex, starting with completely non-sexual touching for 10-15 minutes at a time. This works as a type of exposure hierarchy, to condition your brain to no longer fear intimate touch — and to rediscover the pleasure of being with your partner.

What Else Can I Try for Vaginismus Pain?

For years, vaginal dilators have been the gold standard treatment for vaginismus. Still, not every womxn gets relief from vaginal dilators — or feels comfortable using them. At best, they are unfamiliar and uncomfortable for all of us. But some womxn find them overly-clinical, meaning that using them zaps their already low sex drive.

Nowadays, some physical therapists and other sex experts are advising that womxn use different sized vibrators or dildos instead of dilators. For some people, sex toys feel more human and less medical. For others, it helps ease the pain to incorporate self-pleasure into their dilation routine. (By the way, you can still try this when using dilators — clitoral stimulation might make insertion more pleasurable and less painful!)

In addition to dilator training, you might get relief from adding stretches, yoga, and/or foam rolling into your routine. These types of exercise can be customized to specifically target the pelvic floor muscles. Rather than contracting or strengthening, they ask that you relax and release your pelvic floor muscles, which can help with the pain of hypertonic pelvic floor (a.k.a. vaginismus). The resources section below offers links to some stretching and foam rolling videos I’ve found helpful — so keep reading!

For severe pain, your doctor can prescribe certain medications, such as antidepressants, muscle relaxants, or numbing agents, to help you relax your pelvic floor muscles. Some of these medications are taken orally, while others are applied directly to the affected areas. You might also consider trigger point injections, in which Botox or another muscle relaxant is injected directly into tight points along the pelvic floor.

It also helps to practice good vaginal hygiene. Practicing good hygiene ensures that irritation from soaps, fabrics, detergents, or other contaminants isn’t contributing to your vulvovaginal pain. This list of tips comes from the National Vulvodynia Association, but is also helpful for vaginismus:

  • Wear all-white, 100% cotton underwear (or underwear with a white cotton swatch inside the crotch).
  • Use dermatologist-approved laundry products, such as All Free & Clear and wool dryer balls.
  • Do not use fabric softener or scented laundry products on your underwear!
  • Gently wash the vulva with unscented soap and cool to lukewarm water only.
  • If you menstruate, use 100% cotton, unbleached, unchlorinated pads. Avoid tampons if you’re prone to irritation or vaginal infections, such as yeast or BV.
  • Use a gentle water-based lubricant, like Astroglide or Sliquid H2O.
  • After sexual intercourse, wrap an ice pack in a soft washcloth and gently ice the vulva for 15 minutes to relieve burning pain.
  • Urinate after sex to prevent urinary tract infections, which can worsen pain.
  • Consider taking a fiber supplement and/or probiotic supplement to keep your bowel movements soft and regular. (Constipation is a common side effect of a tight pelvic floor.)
  • Don’t swim in chlorinated pools or soak in hot tubs.
  • If you must sit for long periods of time, consider using a foam donut.

More Resources for Your Vaginismus Journey

Blog Posts

Vagi-WHAT?! What Is Vaginismus? The Cycle of Pain

This blog post is a great introduction to vaginismus for the newly diagnosed or explaining the condition to loved ones.

Vaginal Dilator Therapy

An introduction to dilator therapy with one of Soul Source’s doctor partners.

How Can I Relax My Pelvic Muscles?

The VuvaTech dilator company has many helpful posts on their blog, including this one on how to relax your pelvic floor.

How to Overcome Fear of Physical Intimacy

Fear is one of the driving factors behind vaginismus. Here’s another gem from VuvaTech on how to cope with anxiety surrounding sexual activity.

PDFs

Woke is the New Sexy Workbook

A free PDF to help you explore the underlying beliefs you hold about sex, which are a contributing factor in vaginismus for many womxn.

Come as You Are Worksheets

Free worksheets from Emily Nagoski’s book, Come as You Are, which explores what you need to feel sexually comfortable and aroused.

What I Want to Do Worksheet

A great questionnaire to fill out with a partner so you can set sexual boundaries while healing from vaginismus.

Vaginal Dilator Basic Instructions

Printable directions to help you get started with vaginal dilator therapy. Keep it in your PT kit!

Erotica Menu: Ideas for Alternatives to Traditional Sex

Exactly what it sounds like — a list of alternatives for intimacy and physical touching that don’t involve penetration.

A New Way to Look at Sex

This one is all about changing your perspective so you don’t feel “broken” by missing out on penetrative sex and can instead focus on the healing process in its entirety.

Books

Heal Pelvic Pain by Amy Stein

If you’re tired of me talking about this book, GO OUT AND BUY IT ALREADY! This is the first book I ever read on pelvic pain and it’s considered a classic when it comes to PT exercises for CPP.

Sex Without Pain by Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

This book by Heather Jeffcoat, DPT provides a home treatment plan for pelvic pain conditions like vaginismus, vestibulodynia, and more. Use my code ENDOSTRONG at Soul Source for 15% off your purchase!

Videos

From Ouch to Oh Yeah

This digital course from the sexual wellness app Rosy comes with 55 minutes of video content around reducing sexual pain with dilators, lubricants, and other products and techniques. Check out my review of Rosy on the blog!

How to Use Vaginal Dilators

There are so many excellent videos from the PTs at Intimate Rose. This one is a basic introduction to using vaginal dilators for vaginismus — you may find it helpful to visualize the dilator by watching a video, versus reading PDF instructions, the first time you try dilation.

Vaginal Dilators: How Deep and How Long Do I Put It In?

This one from Intimate Rose is all about how deep and how often to insert your dilators when practicing dilator therapy. It’s a common question that many of us are afraid to ask!

Pelvic Floor Release

The last one from Intimate Rose on this list is all about releasing your tight pelvic floor muscles. I find it especially helpful that she uses a model of the pelvis to really visualize what she means.

45-Minute Sequence to Release Pelvic Floor Tension

The Flower Empowered is a great YouTube channel if you’re looking for 30-45 minute stretching routines you can do to relax your pelvic floor at home alongside your dilator therapy.

Foam Rolling Exercises to Relieve Pelvic Pain

Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center is another must-follow YouTube channel for pelvic floor PT exercises. This routine uses a foam roller for myofascial release of the muscles surrounding the pelvic floor.

App Review: Rosy Wellness | App for Female Sexual Dysfunction

Would you feel comfortable talking to your friends, or even your gynecologist, about sexual dysfunction? With endometriosis, symptoms of sexual dysfunction — such as lack of lubrication or inability to orgasm — as well as sexual pain (known officially as “dyspareunia”) are common. However, they are also incredibly isolating, since there is so much stigma attached to sexual dysfunction, and sex in general.

It’s not easy to talk about female sexuality, which is why Dr. Lyndsey Harper created the app Rosy. Rosy is an app dedicated to women’s sexual wellness. The app contains educational videos and courses, as well as erotic stories and options for telemedicine appointments with sexual health providers, to teach women how to prioritize their pleasure.

I have been on Rosy’s mailing list for some time now, but never spent much time exploring the app. So, when I got an email that the app was launching a new course related to sexual pain, I knew I had to give it a try. The course — called “From Ouch to Oh Yeah!” — is available for free in the Rosy app through August 14. I completed the course, which was about an hour long, and also had the opportunity to explore some of the other content inside Rosy.

The Rosy app itself is free to download, with some features unlocked only through a $9.99/month subscription. You can get a one week free trial of Rosy’s premium subscription in the app as well. I’ll talk more about my experience with the Rosy Premium free trial as I get deeper into my review of Rosy.

Before I start talking about my experience with the Rosy app, I want to make the disclaimer that I was NOT sponsored by Rosy to make this post. I have no affiliation with Rosy whatsoever, and simply wanted to explore the app to see if its sexual wellness content was helpful for patients with endometriosis.

I also want to make the disclaimer that some of my language in this review may seem centered on cisgendered women. While Rosy makes an effort to talk about male and female partners in its content, it doesn’t do much to address transgender womxn or non-binary folx. The app’s branding is also incredibly feminine, with the app slathered in pink backgrounds, cursive fonts, and a rose as its logo. I am obviously not trans, but based on my experience, the app could make an effort to be more inclusive of gender identities outside the binary norm.

To give it a fair review, I’m going to be talking about the app exclusively in the context of my experience with it as a cisgendered female. But, it’s still worth mentioning that the app could be perceived as alienating, in many ways, to transgender womxn and non-binary folx.

Facts About Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)

First thing’s first: why is an app like Rosy even necessary? To understand the “why” behind Rosy, we need to talk more about female sexual dysfunction, or FSD for short.

FSD encompasses a number of disorders that get in the way of females’ desire and enjoyment of sex. (By ‘females,’ we mean people with vaginas and vulvas, though the official medical language is, TBH, more than a little transphobic.) The word “dysfunction” refers to any impairment in normal functioning. In the context of FSD, dysfunction can affect any aspect of the sexual experience, from desire to arousal to orgasm.

FSD also encompasses sexual pain disorders. As I mentioned previously, the medical term for pain during sex is “dyspareunia.” It’s important to note that dyspareunia itself is a symptom, not a disorder. Dyspareunia can signal the presence of disorders like vaginismus (a reflexive tightening of the vaginal wall in reaction to any type of penetration), vulvodynia (chronic pain of the vulva, often due to skin sensitivity), vestibulodynia (a subtype of vulvodynia affecting solely the vestibule, or the area around the vaginal entrance), and pelvic floor dysfunction (tightness and spasming of the pelvic floor muscles).

Dyspareunia can also be a symptom of diseases like endometriosis, or a symptom of menopause. It might also be a side effect of certain medications, like birth control or breast cancer treatments. But dyspareunia is NOT a diagnosis. Do not let your doctor write “dyspareunia” on your chart and proceed never to talk about it again, as my former primary care doctor once did with me!

By some estimates, FSD affects half of all women in a typical outpatient practice. That means 50 percent of females aren’t getting the pleasure they deserve during sex, and might even be experiencing pain! If left untreated, FSD can take a harmful psychological toll on mental health and relationships.

Unfortunately, however, there aren’t many options for women to address their FSD. Many women aren’t believed by their doctors, especially when it comes to pain. Or, they may have been taught that pain during sex is “normal.” Let’s get something straight: just because dyspareunia is common, doesn’t mean that it’s normal!

The treatment options for FSD are also scarce. If you have a sexual pain disorder, there are slightly more options. Laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis might alleviate your dyspareunia. Or, if you suffer from vaginismus or pelvic floor dysfunction, physical therapy is often an effective treatment (though it often takes months to work).

But if the cause of your FSD is unclear, or perhaps psychological in origin, there are fewer choices for treatment. You can try sex therapy, but not everybody has access to a qualified sex therapist. Or, your doctor might prescribe you Addiyi, that “little pink pill” that was meant to be Viagra for women — but Addyi only works for 10 percent of women and causes dangerous drops in blood pressure when users drink alcohol.

The lack of effective help for FSD explains how Rosy came about. Dr. Lyndsey Harper, the founder of Rosy, saw lots of patients in her OB/GYN practice who had FSD. Dissatisfied with the options for treatment, she designed the app as part of a multifaceted treatment plan for FSD. Rosy is focused on self-help and can be used in the privacy of your own home. It also offers options for telemedicine appointments, though it should be used in addition to, rather than instead of, in-person appointments with your own gynecologist.

Review of Rosy’s Features

Rosy comes with a multitude of features, many of them free, that are designed to address FSD. There’s a library of free educational videos, as well as a series of several courses covering some of the most common problems behind FSD. You can also access some erotic stories for free, though most of them are included only with the premium subscription. Finally, Rosy also has a telemedicine feature that allows you to connect with sexual health providers from the comfort of your home. I won’t be reviewing the telemedicine or erotica features because I didn’t use them, but I will talk about the features that I did use.

From Ouch to Oh Yeah! Course

Rosy’s new course “From Ouch to Oh Yeah!” took me about an hour to complete, which matched up with the app’s estimate of 55 minutes of content. The course consists of videos, guided journaling prompts, and resources to help you cope with sexual pain. It’s led by Dr. Angie Stoehr, who is an OB/GYN and Pelvic and Sexual Pain Specialist who works with Rosy. For context, I have endometriosis, pelvic floor dysfunction, and vulvodynia. If you suffer from different pain conditions, or don’t know what the cause of your dyspareunia is, you might find different parts of this course more or less helpful than I did.

The course consists of five overarching “lessons,” which each have a video and action items following the video. The first lesson talks about potential causes of sexual pain, such as vaginismus, vulvodynia, endometriosis, and even interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome. It’s followed by guided journaling exercises to help you identify when your pain starts and what it feels like, which is incredibly helpful information to have if you’ve ever gotten to the doctor’s office and clammed up the minute you had to speak!

The second lesson is all about sexual pain and desire. This was my personal favorite lesson in the course, as it explains why painful sex makes us want to stop having sex. If you’ve ever felt “broken” because of your sexual pain, this video helps it all make sense again. The information Dr. Stoehr shares proves that yes, you are normal and no, you’re not crazy for wanting to avoid sex due to pelvic pain. The guided journaling exercises in this lesson were also awesome! The first was to create a list of reasons why you deserve to have amazing, pain-free sex. I’ve never really thought of myself as “deserving” of sex before, so this was an important mental shift to make. The second was to write a letter to your partner telling them everything you want them to know about your pelvic pain. If you don’t have a partner, this is obviously not applicable, but it might still be helpful to write a letter to your future partner. The idea is that writing these things down makes it easier to discuss them, allowing you to better speak up for yourself sexually.

Next, lesson three is all about reducing sexual pain. Dr. Stoehr provides some lifestyle recommendations here, mainly focused on diet and exercise. This lesson is less applicable to you if you have a pain condition that isn’t interstitial cystitis (IC). She talks a little about inflammatory foods, like refined carbs and fried foods, you might want to cut out of your diet — but mostly, she talks about the dietary recommendations for IC, which include cutting back on acidic foods and drinks, like coffee and chocolate. Dr. Stoehr’s exercise recommendations are more universal. She mentions that yoga and Pilates are both backed by tons of research showing that they’re effective for pelvic pain, due to the fact that they elongate the muscles and help you relax. Yoga is especially helpful due to its focus on deep breathing. I already enjoy yoga and Pilates, so it’s nice to know I’m doing the right kind of exercise for my body! But, I did not find the dietary recommendations in this lesson especially helpful or pertinent to my particular pain conditions.

Now, let’s talk about dilators. Lesson four is all about dilators: what they are, if you need to use them, and how to use them. The dilator protocol Dr. Stoehr recommends is primarily intended for patients with vaginismus, which is that reflexive contracting of the vaginal wall when anything attempts to penetrate the vagina. People with vaginismus often can’t even insert a finger or a tampon without these painful contractions, so dilator protocols are intended to help them retrain their bodies and brains to tolerate something inside the vagina. If you can have penetrative sex at all, even if it’s painful, you probably don’t need a progressive dilator protocol — which is why I was disappointed that Dr. Stoehr only talked about dilator use for vaginismus. As someone with pelvic floor dysfunction, dilators are also incredibly helpful to me for use in internal massage, which helps with myofascial pain related to PFD. However, Dr. Stoehr didn’t really talk about this use of dilators. She did mention the Ohnut, though — which, if you’ve read my blog at all, you know I am a huge proponent of this tool for pain-free sex!

Last but not least, lesson five talks about anatomy. Personally, I think it would have been more useful to discuss anatomy in the second lesson, right after talking about causes of pelvic pain — or even before discussing sexual pain at all. Once Dr. Stoehr is done breaking out the vulva hand puppet (yes, really!), she gets into discussing lubricants and comfortable sexual positions for different types of pain. To be completely honest, the positions she recommends aren’t ones you haven’t thought of before. She recommends missionary, doggy-style, and a side-lying position, which aren’t all that creative. I didn’t really need to watch this video to figure those out. Not to mention, the positions are pretty much made for P-in-V heterosexual sex, though she does briefly mention same-sex couples. But, more helpfully, Dr. Stoehr also talks about the differences between water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based lubricants, and which are most useful for sexual pain. For further reading on the topic of lube, I’d recommend looking into this page from Australian company Pelvic Exercises Physiotherapy.

After the five main lessons, there’s also a section called “More Help” that provides an introductory video and some further resources for addressing pelvic pain. Dr. Stoehr points you toward a helpful form from the International Pelvic Pain Society where you can log your pain over time for better discussion with your doctor. She also provides a list of vetted mental health providers who are certified in sex therapy, which can be an additionally useful resource.

Educational Video Content

Besides the courses, Rosy also offers free educational video content. The topics of these videos range from over-the-counter supplements for boosting your libido to the benefits of scheduling sex. I watched two videos — “Endometriosis” and “Exercise for Desire” — and learned a little bit, but not a ton, from each.

If you’ve never read or talked about these things before, Rosy offers a great introduction. Their videos are usually less than three minutes long, meaning they’re condensed and easy to understand, but can’t delve too deep into any particular topic. For example, as someone who already has endometriosis and knows a lot about it, I didn’t find the “Endometriosis” video helpful to me, but I feel that it would be a good introduction for anyone who’s wondering if endo could be the cause of their sexual pain.

As for the video “Exercise for Desire,” I didn’t love it. In the video, Dr. Harper talks about the benefits of exercise for boosting your libido. I do love that she says that you don’t need to run a triathalon; 10 to 15 minutes of exercise a day will do to start. But her recommendations aren’t specific as to what types of exercise are best for sexual pain or for boosting your libido. She just recommends that you do it — and if you are a woman in the healthcare system, you’ve definitely heard “just exercise!” as a one-size-fits-all solution before. That video comes across as a little tone-deaf.

Rosy Community

Rosy also offers forums to help people facing sexual problems connect with one another to talk about their issues. There are a bunch of forums, including one specific to COVID-19, that cover different issues related to sex. I jumped into the Low Libido forum to see what was going on and share my story, and quickly found a long list of people essentially complaining about their problems, with little interaction. I was expecting to find a supportive community, but it seemed like it’s just a wall for people to vent on. People aren’t really interested in making friends or connecting with others in their situation — which sucks, because the Rosy forums were one of the first places I’ve ever “met” other 20-somethings who suffer from the same issues that I do.

Rosy Premium

I also wanted to touch on the Rosy Premium subscription, since I signed up for their one-week free trial. I’m going to level with you: I cancelled it right away. The ad for the free trial is a bit misleading, because it claims you’ll have access to 20+ courses once you sign up. However, no new courses appeared when I started my subscription. It seems like they really meant 20+ lessons, which are different from the courses themselves. I sincerely hope they will expand the course content for premium and free users, though, because this was definitely my favorite part of using Rosy.

You also get access to a plethora of erotic stories when you sign up through Rosy Premium, when before you only got access to a few. I didn’t read any of them, but I did skim the section, and I can attest that their erotica is definitely more female-focused than anything you will find on Pornhub. Erotica is also certainly more ethical than porn, since there are no “performers” to be paid (or not to be paid) and no worries of potential sex trafficking involvement. So, I fully support this feature of Rosy Premium, too. It just wasn’t the reason why I downloaded the app.

Conclusion

Overall, Rosy has a lot of potential to become a great resource for people suffering from sexual problems. I loved the “From Ouch to Oh Yeah!” course, and I hope that other people will say the same so they are inspired to create more of this type of content. I also hope to see more content specific to endometriosis in the future, perhaps sharing tips and tricks I might not already know for coping with endometriosis in my sex life. If erotica is your thing, the app is also an inexpensive and ethical way to access female-friendly pornography.

On the whole, I have three recommendations to improve the Rosy app:

  1. Make Rosy less gendered to include all people with vaginas who might suffer from sexual dysfunction. Use more inclusive language and change the branding to be less overtly feminine in nature.
  2. Expand the course content to offer more specific suggestions for people with sexual problems to take back into their personal lives. Make sure that if you say the premium subscription includes 20+ courses, there are actually 20+ courses to access!
  3. Get rid of the community feature altogether. Honestly, from my experience in the “Low Libido” forum, it seems like the Rosy community doesn’t encourage friendly interaction and is instead more of a fountain of negativity.

Rosy is free to download in the App Store and on Google Play. Check it out today to form your own opinions and learn more about female sexual wellness!

Taking Care of “Down There:” My Favorite Vaginal Health Products

After years of struggling with chronic yeast infections, vaginal dryness due to birth control and vulvodynia, I’ve tried nearly every vaginal health product under the sun.

From this experience, I can confidently say that not all vaginal health products are created equal. The marketing slogan “gynecologist-recommended” doesn’t mean that you can trust them to be safe for the sensitive skin “down there.”

When you have endometriosis like I do, it’s also important to be conscious of what products go onto your skin — and your mucous membranes, like the vulva, are some of the thinnest, most absorbent skin on your body. In other words, the products you use on your vagina have a direct line to your bloodstream, making it especially important to choose organic, natural, safe products for your vaginal health.

These tried-and-true vaginal health products are some of my favorites for soothing vaginal irritation and dryness, as well as managing menstrual health conditions like endo.

Check out my picks for the best vaginal health products out there — and make sure to share this post on social media if you found it at all helpful!

Vmagic Feminine Lips Stick

If you suffer from vulvodynia, you may have heard to use vitamin E or another oil to soothe the skin “down there.” But once you’ve tried that, you quickly realize that it gets messy, often with more of the oils on the floor or your hand than on your vulva.

Vmagic’s Feminine Lips Stick solves this problem by providing moisture and protection in a convenient stick. Similar to a lip balm tube, the soothing honey and oil formula can be applied to the vulva easily and without irritation. There is a light honey scent due to the ingredients, but no added fragrances or perfumes — and the smell and taste are pretty unobtrusive.

I’ve personally used Vmagic’s Feminine Lips Stick and can attest to its power. Previously, I was using vitamin E oil from Trader Joe’s to soothe my sensitive skin, but now that I’ve converted to Vmagic, I’m never going back! It’s so much cleaner, more convenient and more portable than any vulvar moisturizer I’ve used.

Replens Long-Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer

Vmagic has you covered when it comes to your vulva, a.k.a. the external portion of your vagina. But what about the inner part, the vaginal canal? Many women suffer from vaginal dryness, whether due to menopause, oral contraceptives or stress, which can make everyday life, not to mention sexual activity, painfully impossible.

Replens is a long-lasting vaginal moisturizer that gynecologists everywhere swear by. It is FDA-approved, lasts up to three days and does not contain hormones or fragrance, so it will not mess with your delicate biochemistry. The formula is designed to mimic your body’s natural moisture — and I promise, after you apply Replens, you will hardly notice it’s there at all. It’s also affordable, costing about $12 for 14 applications. (If you apply Replens every three days, that’s a little over a month’s worth.)

Throughout my years on the pill, I suffered from painful vaginal dryness and recurrent yeast infections that took me from gynecologist to gynecologist. As a result, I’ve developed vulvodynia from the vaginal trauma. I hate to think that the answer could have been as simple as a vaginal moisturizer, but no one ever told me that Replens was an option before! Now that I’m on progesterone again to suppress my endometriosis symptoms, I happily use Replens every three days to restore my vaginal moisture to normal again after the hormones mess with my body’s natural balance.

Slippery Stuff Personal Lubricant

Do you suffer from allergic reactions or sensitivities to drugstore-brand lubricants — i.e. K.Y. Jelly and the like? I feel ya, sister: I’m so sensitive down there, even ultra-sensitive formulas of some lubes sting against my irritated skin. And because everyone knows that wetter is better, having a bad experience with lubricant can really pump the brakes on a happy, healthy sexual experience with a partner.

Enter Slippery Stuff. I happened upon Slippery Stuff from a Youtuber’s recommendation during my quest to find a female-friendly lubricant. Formulas containing aloe tend to irritate my skin, which rules out a lot of the “natural” options like Sustain or Good Clean Love (both of which I’ve tried and found flare up my vulvodynia). Thankfully, I found Slippery Stuff, which is glycerin- and paraben-free: two sources of irritation for many women that are found in typical personal lubricants.

Since it was originally developed for use in the medical community, Slippery Stuff’s gel formula is ultra gentle. You also don’t need a lot to feel the hydrating effects. I have very few criticisms of this product, but one I do have is that it can linger for awhile after use and feel a bit sticky. However, it’s water-based, so it washes off with a simple shower or wipe-down…. more on that in the next section.

Rael Natural Feminine Wipes

Like many women, I used to use drugstore wipes formulated for “sensitive skin” to clean up on my period and after sex. Then, I was diagnosed with suspected endometriosis and found out the importance of eliminating chemicals from your everyday life. My vaginal wipes were one of the last things I replaced, since I was so fond of my usual brand; however, I’d been hoping to try Rael for awhile, and I’m so glad I finally did!

Rael’s natural feminine wipes are not too wet, unlike some other products, so they won’t leave you sticky or uncomfortable, nor will they irritate your skin. They’re fragrance-free with soothing extracts that make these wipes both cleansing and nourishing. The package is portable, so you can carry a pack in your purse for those days when your period hits unexpectedly — not to mention, they’re affordable for a product branded “natural,” at just $4 a pack.

I’ve seen Rael at my local CVS and my local Target — but when in doubt, don’t forget that there’s always Amazon! I buy mine on Amazon because you can get a two-pack for $6, and I’m a sucker for a good deal. But you do you, boo. I won’t judge!

Love Wellness UTI Don’t Think So

Full disclosure: I haven’t tried this specific brand of cranberry pills. However, I’m a huge fan of Love Wellness and wanted to include their products (which I plan to write a review of very soon!) in this post. I’ve used many generic cranberry pills, but they weren’t nearly as sophisticated as Love Wellness’s UTI Don’t Think So — nor did they have the phenomenally clever name.

Studies show that over the course of a year, consuming cranberry as a supplement can reduce the incidence of UTIs by 35 percent. That’s a big deal for those of us who get recurrent infections, so cranberry should definitely be on your radar if you’ve ever had a UTI. But, it’s important to note that drinking cranberry juice doesn’t work the same way. It’s not concentrated enough to have the same effect — and it contains lots of sugar that adds up over time.

That’s why cranberry pills are such a magical modern invention. I chose to feature Love Wellness’s formula because they’re doing incredible things right now in the women’s health and sexual wellness spaces, and their products are made with high-quality ingredients you can trust. If I had the choice between Love Wellness and my local drugstore brand, I would choose Love Wellness every time. And they’re pretty much the same price, too!

L. Organic Cotton Panty Liners

I’ve raved (and raved….and raved….) about L.’s products in the past. Back when I used to get my period (LOL), I swore by their super pads for managing my monthly flow. Now, however, it’s all spotting thanks to the hormones I take for my endometriosis. Thankfully, L.’s organic cotton panty liners have got my back on days when spotting catches me by surprise.

L.’s organic cotton panty liners won’t irritate your sensitive skin, because they’re made from just that: organic cotton, and nothing else. That means no chlorine, no bleach and no hidden chemicals — which, sadly, you might find in traditional period products, since the FDA doesn’t regulate the ingredients in pads and tampons.

It’s important to use 100-percent cotton for other reasons, too. If you’re prone to bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections, synthetic materials can trap moisture that allows bacteria and yeast to breed. In fact, switching to all-cotton period products (and panties) is one of the things that helped me conquer chronic yeast infections, and one of the things that led me to L.!