Good genital health can protect you against some infections. If you get to know your body, you can get medical advice about anything unusual as soon as possible.
Regular and careful washing is an easy way to care for and check your genitals.
Wash your genitals once a day with warm water or an emollient cream when you're having a shower or bath.
Do not use perfumed soaps and gels, even if they’re sold as genital hygiene products. These can irritate the skin. If you have a vagina, these products can affect the healthy balance of bacteria and pH levels inside the vagina.
Don’t forget to clean all around your genitals and anus. If you have a foreskin, pull this back and carefully clean underneath.
If you have a vagina, never wash inside your vagina. This includes ‘douching’, or flushing water up into it. This can cause infections like thrush or bacterial vaginosis. And there’s no evidence that it helps prevent STIs or infections. It may even increase the risk.
Vagina and vulva care
The vagina does an amazing job of keeping itself clean. There are good bacteria in your vagina that maintain a natural pH that's slightly acidic. This makes it hard for other, harmful bacteria to enter the vagina and cause problems. If the pH balance or the good bacteria in your vagina are disturbed, then infections like thrush and bacterial vaginosis can develop.
It’s normal for the vagina to have a scent, but if you’re worried about the way your vagina smells, or if the smell is very unpleasant, you should visit a sexual health clinic or your GP.
A healthy vagina also has fluid, called vaginal discharge, to keep itself clean. This is a clear or white fluid. It’s a natural and normal part of your vagina.
Healthy discharge does not cause itching, soreness or have a strong smell. If you notice any changes to your discharge that aren’t normal for you, visit a sexual health clinic or see your GP as you might have an infection.
Cervical screening is an important step in reducing the risk of cancer of the cervix.
Penis and testicle care
When you wash your genitals, check your penis and testicles for any lumps, swellings or sore areas. This can help you quickly spot signs of an STI or other issue. If you’re worried about anything you notice, talk to your GP or the nearest sexual health clinic.
Checking your testicles
From puberty onwards, you should check your testicles regularly for any changes.
During or after a warm bath or shower, look and feel for any unusual lumps or swellings. Do this at least once a month. If possible, stand in front of a mirror.
Check for any swelling on the skin around your testicles. Examine each testicle with both hands. Place the index and middle fingers under the testicle with the thumbs placed on top. Roll the testicle gently between the thumbs and fingers - you shouldn't feel any pain when you do this.
The testicles should feel smooth, without any lumps or bumps, and firm but not hard. You may feel a soft tube at the back of each testicle, which is called the epididymis.
If you notice any changes or anything unusual about your testicles, or if you feel pain during these checks, you should visit a sexual health clinic or see your GP.
STI testing is self care
Take care of your sexual health by testing for STIs regularly. It's easy to do with our at-home test kits.
We recommend that everyone who's sexually active does an STI test once a year. Even if you have no symptoms or are in a long-term, monogamous relationship.
If you change partners or have more than one partner, we recommend testing every 3 months.