My clitoris is an "innie" -- how can I keep it clean?
Siân replies:My clitoris is deeply covered by the clitoral hood. It’s sort of like my clit is an “innie.” To expose the “nub”/harder part I have to pull back the skin of the hood a lot. When I do that I often see it’s not clean! :( Stuff seems to gather... like little white lint from TP or sanitary products (or who knows). It’s hard to get in there! Any advice? I worry about cleaning too vigorously but also not enough. I notice that if I feel uncomfortable or am not enjoying things during sex/masturbation I’ll check and often find some gunk. :/
It sounds like you're describing the build-up of smegma* - that's dead skin cells mixed with oils and fluids produced by your genitals. The good news is that this is totally normal! Vulvas and penises alike can produce it. Regular, gentle washing should be enough to manage it.
The clitoral hood protects the glans of your clitoris from what might otherwise be overly-direct and potentially painful stimulation. Whether your glans clitoris tends to sit hidden beneath its protective hood or protrudes, the hood should glide smoothly over the surface of the glans - in part due to the fluids your body produces. However, if that fluid sits around too long it can build up, mix in with dead cells and solidify a bit into smegma.
Everyone's body is different, but wherever genitals have crevasses smegma can build up, whether that is under the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis, amongst the folds of labia or, in your case, within the clitoral hood. Left too long, it can cause irritation, provide a breeding ground for bacteria or cause painful adhesion, where the clitoral hood (or foreskin, in the case of the penis) becomes stuck and stops moving smoothly over the glans. It sounds like this is what you're experiencing when sex or masturbation becomes uncomfortable.
So, how do you keep clean and avoid any sticky situations? Well, you don't want to be rough with your genitals or use any harsh cleaning products, but it is good practice to wash in amongst all your bodies crevasses regularly. Gently move the hood of the clitoris around and wash with warm water using your fingers or a soft washcloth. Little and often is better than occasional blitzes that leave you sore afterwards! If you want to use a cleanser, just be sure it's something gentle, unmedicated and ideally unscented: a good rule of thumb is often that anything gentle enough to wash your eyes with is usually also okay to wash genitals with. If you wouldn't wash your eyes with it, you probably don't want to wash your vulva with it, either.
If you want a flavour of how widely vulvas vary, and to see some illustrations that include much more tucked away clits like you're describing check this out:
Since you're here, I'll also leave you with a refresher on anatomy and a reminder that vulvas don't like lots of perfumed cleaning products.
*yes, this is the actual technical term - isn't that great?