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Asking for a Friend: What's Causing My Itchy Vagina?

Before you can figure out why you’re itchy, you need to pinpoint what exactly itches. There’s a difference between vulvar itching (which is usually around or between your labia) and vaginal itching (which is in the vaginal opening itself).

If you have vulvar itching, Lauren Streicher, M.D., author of Sex Rx, recommends pulling out a hand mirror and checking yourself out. “If there’s no redness, flakiness, or visible irritation, the first thing to do is eliminate any products you’re using, since vulvar itching is often caused by irritant contact dermatitis,” or mild reactions to the chemicals in products like soaps, she says. If this is the culprit, the itching should be better within a few days of avoiding these products. (Check out The Newest Beauty Treatment for Your Vagina.)

Bright redness accompanied by vulvar itching, on the other hand, is often a sign of a yeast infection—even if you don’t have discharge, says Streicher. (Yeast can actually be present on the vulva itself, not just in the vagina, says Streicher. This is even more common in the summer, since yeast thrive in hot, damp environments.) Over-the-counter anti-fungal treatments should ease the symptoms.

But if the itching is confined to one specific spot and the patch of skin looks white, it may be a condition called lichen sclerosus, says Streicher. Doctors don’t know what causes lichen sclerosus, but since the affected skin can become thin and easily damaged, she suggests seeing your doctor, who can prescribe a cortisone cream to treat the condition.

Like vulvar itching, vaginal itching can also be a sign of a yeast infection, especially if you also notice white discharge. But the top culprit, says Streicher, is that, “people put stuff in their vagina that shouldn’t go in there.” All you need to keep clean below the belt is water, she stresses. “Don’t douche. Don’t use soaps. Just water.” (A read up on these 10 Things to Never Put Near Your Vagina.) 

Still, many women experience allergic reactions even to products that are meant to go in the vagina, like sexual lubricants or even sex toys, says Streicher. Anytime you start to feel itchy after using something new, check out the ingredient list (for lubes) or materials (for sex toys) and try to stay away from those substances in the future. (P.S. We rounded up The Best Lubes for Any Sex Scenario). 

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