You’ve probably spotted a zit somewhere other than your face before (hello, bacne) but have you ever found pimples on your vagina? It happens to the best of us — and with sweaty yoga pants, wet bathing suits, harsh bikini waxes, and friction-inducing clothes, it’s no wonder we experience the occasional break out of acne down there.
“Bumps in the vaginal area can sometimes be normal if they’ve been there for a relatively long time and haven’t been painful, grown in size, or spread over the area,” says Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an OB/GYN and women’s health expert based in Chicago. “Bumps to consider abnormal are ones that are relatively new after a sexual encounter or a new partner, are painful, or have pus or some type of discharge from them.” If yours don’t fit into any of those categories, they may just be regular pimples. Still, those can be just as pesky — which is why we’ve asked the experts to weigh in and share their wisdom to put your mind at ease. Read on to learn about the causes, treatments, and ways to prevent vaginal acne.
Know that vaginal acne can be normal and occur on its own
First things first: don’t freak out over a zit down there. Pimples on your vagina can be totally, totally normal. “[The vaginal area] has sweat glands and hair follicles that are prone to buildup, just like any other of the body,” explains gynecologist and author of She-ology Sherry Ross, M.D.. A pimple here or there is completely to be expected.
Understand the causes of vaginal acne
This phenomenon is actually called vulva acne (though vaginal acne has a certain ring to it), and there are a number of different reasons why it might occur.
Sweat is one of the leading causes of genital pimples.
If you love to workout, you may be more prone to it. “I would say I see vulvar acne most commonly in avid exercisers where there can be more friction to the vulva, such as in spinning classes,” says Catherine Goodstein, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at Carnegie Hill OB/GYN in New York City. “Extreme sweating combined with excess sebum production and tight exercise clothing can produce pimples.”
The products you use might be a contributing factor.
“Body washes that use harsh ingredients and have the wrong pH can aggravate the skin” says Dr. Shepherd. “It’s important to look at what you’re using in the shower, as some products aren’t pH-balanced and can use irritating ingredients.” A healthy vaginal pH is between 3.8 and 4.5, so your best bet is to look for a product within the same range. Stacy Marie Chimento, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Florida advises, “Alkaline bar soaps can destroy healthy bacteria. Fragrance free soaps are the best as well as water based wipes. Try Honey Pot Sensitive Wash and Good Clean Love Rebalance pH Balanced Wipes.” Steer clear of alkaline products with a pH greater than 7 as they can “disrupt the natural vaginal flora which contains good acidic bacteria (lactobacilli). Disruption of this pH balance can lead to overgrowth of yeast or other unwanted bacteria,” Dr. Chimento explains.