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There’s nothing more infuriating than an itch you can’t scratch, whether it’s coming from your ear or your inner thighs. And it’s especially difficult to seek relief when it’s your vagina that’s calling out for some attention. I mean, there are very few ways to discreetly deal with itchy vagina lips.
That being said, vaginal itching every now and then isn’t cause for concern. “But if it’s consistent or gets worse, it can be a sign of something more serious,” the Cleveland Clinic reports.
The truth is, while self-cleaning, a healthy vagina needs still needs hygienic attention just as you would care for other parts of your body. Similar to your face, “the skin of the vagina is susceptible to dryness and itching if not taken care of properly,” says Sheryl A. Ross, MD, known as “Dr. Sherry,” ob-gyn and author of the book “She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period”.
The vagina is also susceptible to certain infections and allergens that could cause irritation and leave you googling, “Why does my vagina itch?”
Itching involving any part of your body is uncomfortable and annoying, especially when it comes to the sensitive skin of the vagina. “Persistent vaginal itching could create emotional and physical disruptions in your daily life activities,” Dr. Ross says.
The solution will depend heavily on what’s causing your vagina to itch in the first place and can range from vaginal cream for itching to prescribed antibiotics. Ahead, here are the nine most common reasons why your vagina has been so itchy lately.
Why Does My Vagina Itch?
An itchy vagina can be both uncomfortable and scary. But it’s not always a sign to freak out. Your vagina may be itchy for a number of reasons, from the soap you use to a potential skin infection.
The accompanying symptoms can also tell you a lot about the cause of your itchy vagina. Are you experiencing vaginal burning and itching? That could be a yeast infection. No discharge, just itching? It might just be your detergent. What about vaginal itching and white discharge? It could be bacterial vaginosis. Read on to understand more about what’s causing your itchy vagina and when to contact your doctor.
Fragrances and Other Irritants
Everyday unsuspecting rituals can disrupt the pH balance of your vagina and cause irritation. Common irritants you may or may not realize are problematic include fragrant soaps, bubble bath liquids, bath salts, talcum powder, detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets, scented tampons and pads, warming gels and scented lubricants, Dr. Ross says. You may also find that your vagina does not react well to certain fabrics. Nylon underwear or certain bathing suits fabrics that trap moisture can also cause vulva irritation leaving you itchy and uncomfortable.
If you’ve recently added one of these new fragrance-heavy products or fabrics into your routine and notice that your vagina has been itchy, stop using them and see how your vagina reacts. Then, “see a doctor if the symptoms still persist,” per the Cleveland Clinic.
Yeast infections are one of the most common causes of itching and irritation of the vagina and vulva. “The irritation is typically accompanied by white discharge and redness,” says Christine Sterling, MD, ob-gyn. “The fungus candida albicans is the usual suspect in yeast infections.” Fortunately, most yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter creams, vaginal tablets, suppositories, and oral pills.
Still, “it’s a good idea to have your doctor confirm that it’s yeast, because if you use a yeast treatment for another type of infection, like bacterial vaginosis, which causes similar symptoms, it won’t work, and your condition could get worse,” Alyssa Dweck, MD, a gynecologist and author of “The Complete A to Z for Your V” previously told POPSUGAR.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is essentially an infection that is caused by the overgrowth of disruptive bacteria in the vaginal microbiome. “There is a distinct odor that accompanies bacterial vaginosis, so if you’re noticing a strong ‘fishy’ smell coming from your vagina, paired with itching and irritation, this could be a tell-tale sign,” per Cleveland Clinic. Pale gray or white discharge is also common for some people. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, flag them to your doctor, because while BV can clear on its own for some, others may require antibiotics.
Shaving, Waxing, or Depilatory Creams
Pubic hair removal can cause micro abrasions in the skin, increasing the risk of skin infections and ingrown hairs which can cause irritation and itching. “I see so many complications from women striving for a perfectly coiffed bush, or lack thereof,” Dr. Sterling says.
“Even if these abrasions don’t end up infected, they lead to histamine release in the skin that causes itching. I universally advise against shaving and depilatory creams. If you must remove your pubic hair, I recommend waxing with a highly experienced professional or laser hair removal,” Dr. Sterling says.
Not only can those fragrance-heavy products or chemical irritants mentioned earlier disrupt the pH balance of your vagina, but you could also be having an allergic reaction to a new product. Yup, vaginas have allergies, too.
That’s why it’s best to “use mild fragrance-free soap and lotion on your vulva (the external portion of your sex organs),” Dr. Sterling says. “If you are concerned about the smell of your vagina or discharge, please, please, please do not try to ‘clean’ your vagina or use a douche.” You might only make the problem worse.
Vagina allergies don’t only stem from fragrance or chemical irritants, though. You can also be allergic to other things that come in close contact with your vagina, including latex (used in condoms and some swimwear), spermicide (used in some condoms or lubricants), or even semen. If you think you may be allergic to any of the above, chat with an ob-gyn to find out which condoms and lubricants are best for you.
“The vulva can be affected by the same skin conditions found elsewhere on the body,” Dr. Sterling says. Things like contact dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis can cause irritation down there. “If you have vulvar itching accompanied by a rash or skin changes, go see your ob-gyn or dermatologist that specializes in the vulva,” Dr. Sterling says.
Keeping the skin hydrated, clean, and cared for will also help prevent dryness. “Daily hygiene rituals include using a gentle, non-fragranced soap and a natural skin moisturizer, especially ones made specifically for the vagina,” Dr. Ross says. Taking a 20-minute warm bath with a handful of extra virgin coconut oil three to four times a week will also rehydrate the skin of the vagina. And adding oral or vaginal probiotics to your daily regimen can aid with hydration, but it’s best to contact your doctor before starting any new course of medication.
Your doctor may also want to prescribe a steroid ointment such as hydrocortisone when it comes to the treatment of certain skin conditions down there, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Sexually Transmitted Infection
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are common causes of vaginal itching, odor, and sometimes discharge, per the Cleveland Clinic.
In particular, STIs like trichomoniasis, herpes, and genital warts are associated with vulvar and vaginal itching. A specific STI test for the above infections or a full STI panel will be able to best inform your doctor about what’s causing your itching down below.
There are three forms of this parasitic insect — the eggs, the nymph (like a pubic lice preteen), and the adult. “The eggs are small, white or yellow, and attached to the hair shaft. The nymph and the adult have six legs with two large front legs that look like the claws of a crab. To live, they must feed on blood. So, yeah, tiny crab-like vampires on your pubic hair — not pleasant,” Dr. Sterling says. They are typically spread through sexual contact, but fortunately they are treatable via OTC and prescription medication, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dealing with hemorrhoids can be a painful experience. These pesky piles, or swollen, inflamed veins around the anus or the lower part of the rectum, can occur for a variety of reasons, from straining when you poop to eating a low-fiber diet, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hemorrhoids can also spread to the vagina, per the Cleveland Clinic, causing itching and irritation. You can find hemorrhoid relief by using home remedies like aloe vera or having good hygiene, and some OTC ointments can help, too — but “if you’re experiencing persistent itching and rectal bleeding, see a healthcare provider,” Cleveland Clinic states.
The Bottom Line
There’s no need to be embarrassed about an itchy vagina — it happens to the best of us. But it is a reason to chat with your doctor, especially if the itching is happening consistently or getting worse over time. Your ob-gyn will be able to tell you whether you’re dealing with one of the common reasons above or something else entirely and advise you on the best course of action for your V.
— Additional reporting by Alexis Jones