Self, Sex

5 Reasons Your Vagina Itches (And 5 Ways To Stop It)

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why your vagina itches and how to stop it

By Kelsey Kloss

Itching down there that just won't go away is uncomfortable to talk about, and even more uncomfortable to deal with.

But before you assume you're dealing with yeast infection symptoms (which is likely, but not certain), it's important to know the symptoms of other common conditions and talk to a doctor. Vaginal itching that just won't go away could be something as innocuous as irritation from a dull razor or something that requires immediate treatment like a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

"In general, I don't recommend people try to treat symptoms at home before they come in, unless they're sure it's something they've had before like a yeast infection," says Mae K. Borchardt, MD, a gynecologist at Houston Methodist Hospital. "If that one treatment doesn't work, don't keep trying over-the-counter products or home remedies. Go to a doctor, and once we know what you're dealing with, there are lots of products you can get over-the-counter and use to treat it at home."

It's important to rule out more serious causes—for instance, vaginal itching may be caused by trichomoniasis, a common STD that requires a powerful antibiotic to treat. In rare cases, itching accompanied by a non-healing ulcer may not be a sign of vaginal infection, but rather of vulvar cancer.

However, if your doctor says your itching is a result of one of the following causes, an over-the-counter treatment may be an easy fix. Read on for five things that may be causing you discomfort, and five products with doctor-approved ingredients that could help you stop itching for answers.

For itching caused by lifestyle factors.

vagina itching solutions 1

Try: Vaseline Original Petroleum Jelly

Buy now: $4,

When you're dealing with external itching on the vulva—not internal itching that stretches into the vagina—it may be dermatitis or inflammation of the skin. Caused by dull razors, tight pants, or sweaty workout clothes (if you don't change right away, that wet post-exercise garb can cause friction that irritates the vulva), dermatitis may be to blame if other tests come back as negative.

"About 25% of the time when women come in and get tested, we won't find an infectious cause of their symptoms," says Borchardt. "That means the itching may be caused by lifestyle factors or other conditions."

Swap out your dull razor for a new one approximately every five uses, give your nether regions some room to breathe with not-too-tight clothes and wash anything that's sweaty right away to avoid rubbing. If you still experience a rash or itching, a simple home remedy can help.

"For mild, non-specific itching, I have patients apply something that's bland and soothing with no active ingredients in it," says Paul Nyirjesy, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Drexel University College of Medicine. "That could be petroleum jelly, coconut oil, or even Crisco vegetable shortening. Just putting a little on your finger and rubbing it into the areas that are itchy can be very soothing."

For itching caused by sex.

vagina itch solutions 2

Try: Blossom Organics Natural Moisturizing Lubricant

Buy now: $10-13,

If you recently tried a new lubricant with your partner (or you aren’t using enough), it may cause vaginal itching and discomfort.

"Many lubricants have alcohol in them, which can be very irritating to the vaginal area, and some people might have an allergy to something they are using, including latex, which is found in the main types of condoms," says Bochardt. "Having intercourse without adequate lubrication can also cause a lot of friction, which can cause itching." (Make sure you avoid these 4 harmful lube ingredients at all costs.) 

If you're not using condoms, Borchardt says a good natural lubricant is coconut oil, (keep in mind oil degrades the quality of latex and can increase the risk of condom breaks). If you do use condoms, opt for a water-based lubricant that’s fragrance-free to enhance pleasure. Consider polyisoprene (latex-free) condoms if you have a latex allergy.

A good one to try: Blossom Organics Natural Moisturizing Lubricant. It is an organic, water-based lubricant that's pH balanced to reflect a woman's chemistry. Free of parabens, alcohol, silicones, hormones, artificial fragrances, or dyes, this lubricant is compatible with both natural rubber latex condoms and polyisoprene condoms.

We also like NATURALOVE Organic Personal Lubricant, another non-irritating, water-based lube that’s naturally flavored with organic agave and chamomile.

For itching caused by menopause.

vagina itch solutions 3

Try: Luvena Restorative Vaginal Moisturizer

Buy now: $22,

The lower estrogen levels you experience as you approach menopause can actually change the pH balance of your vagina, causing the vaginal walls to thin and dry—a condition called vaginal atrophy

"Estrogen decreases throughout your lifetime, but it can cause symptoms including itching, irritation, and painful intercourse," says Borchardt. "Prescription treatment can be very helpful, but is not an option for women with certain health problems."

It's best to talk to your doctor about the best options for you, but an over-the-counter medication such as Luvena may help by regulating pH and restoring moisture in the vagina. With natural odor control, Luvena is free of parabens and estrogen.

For itching caused by hygiene products.

vagina itch solutions 4

Try: Dove Beauty Bar, Sensitive Skin

Buy now: $5,

You've likely heard that douching is not welcomed by your vagina, and can throw off its natural, healthy bacterial balance. Even if you're not douching, however, the wrong soap can get you scratching.

"In general, products used in the vaginal area shouldn't have any perfume in them, and should be as gentle and mild as possible," says Borchardt. "I usually recommend a Dove bar with no perfume, which is very moisturizing. Only use it on the outside of the vagina [the vulva], not on the inside—the vagina is a self-cleaning oven, and you don't have to clean it yourself."

Also steer clear of vaginal wipes or deodorants. It's normal for the vagina to have some sort of scent, but see your doctor if you notice an unpleasant odor. These products can also throw off the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina.

You have bacterial vaginosis.

vagina itch solution 5

Try: Pro-B Probiotic Feminine Supplement

Buy now: $19,

Despite its scary name, bacterial vaginosis is actually a very common infection, and occurs when an overgrowth of the vagina's naturally occurring bacteria causes inflammation. Although it can affect women of any age, women of reproductive age are most likely to contract it, and frequent douching and unprotected sex increase your risk.

Symptoms beyond itching include a gray discharge or a fishy odor. You may need an antibiotic to treat bacterial vaginosis, but supplements may prevent it from becoming a chronic issue. "If someone has bacterial vaginosis that keeps recurring, probiotics can be helpful," says Borchardt.

As they do throughout the rest of the body, probiotics help build up the good bacteria in your vagina and prevent the bad bacteria from growing out of control. Pro-B Probiotic Feminine Supplement is clinically tested and specifically developed to balance both yeast and bacteria.

But what if it really is a yeast infection?

vagina itch solutions 6

Try: Monistat 7 Vaginal Antifungal Cream

Buy now: $14-16,

If it's the first time you've experienced yeast infection symptoms, it's important to see a doctor to rule out other issues. If you know for certain it's a yeast infection, over-the-counter medications such as Monistat or Lotrimin can be helpful.

"There are one-day, three-day, and seven-day products, but I recommend the seven-day products," says Nyirjesy. "They have lower rates of burning, itching, and irritation than the shorter-term products."    

Monistat 7 Vaginal Antifungal Cream provides seven days of cream to relieve itching and cure the infection. Along with itching, a yeast infection may cause a burning sensation (particularly during intercourse or urination), a vaginal rash, thick and odor-free vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese, or watery vaginal discharge.

This article was originally published at Prevention. Reprinted with permission from the author.