Don't fret—you have lots of doctor-approved options!
Can’t stop itching down there? Vaginal itching can be uncomfortable and even distressing, but it’s a common issue many women face at some point in their lives. It’s important to remember you’re not alone, and there are effective ways to address not only the itching itself but the root causes triggering it. In most cases, vaginal itching is nothing to worry about, but there are some symptoms you should be cautious of just in case you want to check in with your gynecologist or primary care doctor. Here’s everything to know.
What Usually Causes Vaginal Itching?
Several different factors can lead to vaginal itching (or make it worse). Here are the most common:
Bacterial infections: Bacterial vaginosis can lead to itching, an unusual odor and discharge.
Allergic reactions: Sometimes, irritation may occur due to an allergic reaction to certain soaps, detergents, or latex products.
Hormonal changes: Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, menopause, or your menstrual cycle can contribute to vaginal itching.
Yeast infections: A yeast infection is one of the most common culprits of vaginal itching. Other than making you itchy down there, it can result in redness and a thick white discharge. Fortunately, most only last for around one week and may clear up on their own.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): STIs, like chlamydia or gonorrhea, can cause itching and burning. Seeking medical attention is crucial if you suspect an STI.
It’s best to get checked out by a medical professional to prevent long-term health consequences if you suspect a skin disorder. Additionally, other inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema can result in itching.
How to Stop Itching Down There
Thankfully, you can do several things to relieve vaginal itching. These low-lift habits and natural remedies can make a huge difference and ease discomfort.
Lifestyle Habits and Swaps
Maintain proper hygiene—safely, gently, and thoroughly.
When bathing, it’s important to clean everywhere. Always wash the outer, visible vaginal area (e.g. vulva) gently with mild, fragrance-free soap and warm water.
But you don’t need to “wash” your vagina’s interior. “Use unscented, gentle soap to clean the vulva, but you don’t need to use soap in the vagina—it will clean itself,” says Victoria Scott, MD, a urogynecologist based in Southern California. Avoid douching, as it can disrupt the natural balance of the vaginal flora (your vagina has a microbiome, too).
Wear breathable fabrics.
Choose cotton underwear and looser-fitting clothing to allow air circulation, which can help prevent and alleviate itching.
Use over-the-counter (OTC) creams.
Nonprescription antifungal creams, like clotrimazole or hydrocortisone, can relieve certain types of itching down there. “If you’ve had a yeast infection before and are fairly certain that you have [another] one, you can try an OTC antifungal cream such as Monistat,” Dr. Scott says. “There are also OTC creams such as Vagisil that have low-dose steroids or numbing and soothing ingredients you can try for temporary relief.”
Stay well hydrated every day.
Drinking enough water throughout the day helps your body maintain a natural moisture balance, reducing dryness that may lead to itching.
Avoid irritants wherever possible.
Steer clear of products that may contain known irritants, like scented feminine hygiene products, douches, and certain laundry detergents.
Natural Remedies to Try
Try these natural remedies to ease the itch without medical intervention:
Aloe vera: The soothing properties of aloe vera can help alleviate itching. Apply a small amount of pure aloe vera gel to the affected area for relief.
Tea tree oil: You can topically apply diluted tea tree oil to help with itching and discomfort. Ensure it’s well-diluted to prevent further irritation, especially on such a sensitive area.
Baking soda bath: Soaking in a warm bath with a cup of baking soda can help reduce itching and discomfort. Ensure the water is cool enough not to cause more irritation.
Coconut oil: Applying coconut oil to the irritated area can moisturize and relieve itching. Ensure it’s pure, unrefined coconut oil.
Sitz bath: A sitz bath involves soaking your lower pelvic region in warm water. Fill a shallow tub or basin with warm water and sit in it for about 10 to 20 minutes or until the itching subsides. You can add Epsom salts or baking soda for additional relief.
Cold compress: A cold compress can temporarily relieve itching down there by gently numbing the area and reducing inflammation. Use a clean, cold washcloth or ice pack wrapped in a cloth for just a few minutes at a time.
Yogurt: Surprise! Applying plain, unsweetened yogurt with live active cultures to the affected area can help restore the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina, particularly in the case of yeast infections.
Petroleum jelly: Applying a thin layer of unscented, non-medicated petroleum jelly can lock in moisture and create a protective barrier. The area should be clean before you apply to avoid trapping harmful bacteria or yeast. “Oftentimes you can use an emollient such as Vaseline petroleum jelly or Aquaphor. You can put it in the fridge to cool it off and utilize it over itchy areas,” recommends Sameena Rahman, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN in Chicago and the founder of the Center for Gynecology and Cosmetics.
How to Prevent Vaginal Itching the Future
When it comes to itching between your legs, an ounce of prevention is certainly better than a pound of cures. Here are some of the best, healthiest strategies to keep vaginal itching from bothering you again going forward.
Wear cotton underwear.
Wearing cotton underwear prevents buildup and sweat, and promotes air circulation down there.
Avoid vaginal sprays and wipes.
Vaginal sprays, douches, and scented wipes often contain harsh chemicals and fragrances that can claim to clean and refresh the vagina, but actually disrupt the delicate pH balance of the vagina.
Practice safe sex with protection.
Practicing safe sex is vital for preventing STIs and avoiding itching and discomfort. Using condoms can help protect against them.
Signs It's Time to Call the Doctor
While you can often manage cases of vaginal itching at home, there are some situations in which you’ll want to get in touch with a health care provider as soon as you can for advice and treatment.
Persistent symptoms: Seek medical advice if the itching continues for more than a few days.
Unusual odor or discharge: If you notice an unusual, unpleasant odor, an increase in vaginal discharge, or changes in the color of the discharge, consult a health care professional. This could be a sign of something like a bacterial infection.
Pain or burning sensations: Experiencing severe pain or a burning sensation along with itching may indicate an underlying issue that needs medical attention.
Recurrent infections: Consult a health care provider to address potential underlying causes of recurrent yeast or bacterial infections.
Dr. Rahman reiterates you should see your doctor when dealing with "itching that is prolonged, does not respond to emollients or vulvar hygiene recommendations, or prolonged itching and scratching, particularly leading to skin changes of the vulva."
Vaginal itching is a common issue you can usually manage with proper care and attention. However, knowing when to seek professional help to ensure your overall health and well-being is essential. Remember, you’re not alone, and solutions are available to alleviate this discomfort and get you back to feeling your best.
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