Written by: Dr. Meredith Taylor, PT, DPT
Are you hot and bothered that your vulva or vaginal tissue is hot and bothered? There are many reasons for vulvar and vaginal skin irritation, scarring, or thin and fragile skin. Some examples are skin changes and/or vaginal atrophy associated with hormonal changes due to long term birth control use or menopause, Lichens Sclerosis, yeast infections or other infections including STIs, scars from vaginal births, and fragile skin tearing with intercourse. As irritating as vulvar irritation is ,these tips should help you heal and manage the irritated skin. The will not, however, treat the underlying/root cause of why the irritation is occurring. If you have recurring irritation, please see your doctor. Your pelvic floor physical therapist can also help you decide on your next course of action.
Let’s dive into some actions you can take right now to help with sensitive skin.
- Use Use cotton underwear, white with no dye (100% cotton Haynes from the big box store will work)
- Use cotton underwear, white with no dye (100% cotton Haynes from the big box store will work)
- Wash underwear using a mild detergent or sensitive skin detergent and perform an extra rinse on these garments
- Change your underwear if you’re sweating a lot, especially after exercising or going for a brisk walk, or urinary leakage. (or, like us, if you live in the humid south!)
- Don’t use a pad to protect your underwear while wearing a healing cream, because the pad can be irritating, but change underwear multiple times instead
Cleaning & Toileting:
- Don’t wipe with toilet paper but pat the area instead. Or, use a peri bottle to rinse
- If you have to use a wipe use “Water Wipes” or something similar that has no fragrance, scent, or other ingredients that will contribute to a flare up of vaginal skin irritation
- https://www.waterwipes.com/us/en, Water Wipes are sold at big box stores
- Even if the skin isn’t irritated, but especially if the skin is sensitive or irritated, avoid soaps on the vaginal opening a.k.a vaginal vestibule/inside labia majora/minora (labia means “lips”). If washing external labia region make sure to use a sensitive skin soap that doesn’t trigger any vaginal irritation for you and be aware even if washing externally the soapy water may travel to the sensitive area you are trying to heal.
- Do not use a loofah or loofah like cleaning sponge on your vagina (if I had to say it, then you know someone’s done it!). Use your hand and warm water to gently wash the vaginal vestibule/inside labia majora/minora and clitoral tissue.
- Gently pat dry the vulva and vagina, but if the skin is really irritated use a blow dryer on a low temperature setting to dry this area.
- Avoid using feminine spray, deodorant, scented oils, bubble baths, bath oils, talc, or powder as they may be an irritant to the vaginal region
- Avoid intercourse while allowing tissues to heal, use a mirror and check for irritation before/after to monitor the skin condition
During intercourse be sure you are naturally lubricating enough or use additional lubrication if you suspect this to be a primary cause for vaginal skin irritation
- See our lubricant guide for tips on which lubrications are better for your specific needs or sensitive tissue
- You may find certain positions are more tolerable for stretching, and this can be unique to the individual
If you are currently experiencing itching, burning, or general vulvar/vaginal discomfort, here are some ideas for relief:
- Soak in waist deep warm bath for relief of itching or pain
- Use Aquaphor as a barrier to an area that needs healing
- Keep in mind: emollients (products like Petroleum jelly) should be used in patients with vulvar irritation sparingly. It is not recommended to insert emollients vaginally
- Wear loose clothing (skirt, dress, or nightgown during the healing process) or even go commando when appropriate to help reduce rubbing that leads to further itching
- Cups, discs, and tampons can sometimes be more tolerable than pads because they reduce friction. Use plastic tampon applicators if needing to wear a tampon and use a sensitive skin lubricant to insert/remove the tampon