Men catch a lot of flack for constantly reaching down to their crotches to scratch whenever they feel the slightest itch, but anyone with a vagina can tell you this isn’t a problem that solely affects dicks. Vaginas get itchy! Sometimes it’s a matter of jeans rubbing in precisely the wrong way, some sort of pubic hair situation, or a combination of several factors. Not only is itchiness uncomfortable, borderline painful, and awkward — it can also be a sign of an infection or allergy.
To help cut down on the number of people reaching down to scratch their pubic areas at any given moment, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a gynecologist in New York and author of The Complete A to Z For Your V, gave a rundown of all the issues that could be making your private parts itch like crazy.
Dweck said the biggest driving factor behind itchy crotches is external irritants, which is a category that encompasses a lot of things that can affect both your vagina and vulva. “External products [can] cause an allergic reaction — wipes, soaps, bubble bath,” Dweck said. “We often see bug bites in the vulvar area that cause significant itching. I have plucked ticks off of people’s vulvas from camping or just being in the woods and hiking. Also poison ivy, or one of those other poison plants that people get exposed to hiking or camping, or having intimacy in the woods or something like that.”
Obviously, please steer clear of poison ivy if you’re ever nude in the wild. But as for wipes, soaps, and bubbles, the forever advice is to avoid products that are heavily scented (looking at you, bath bombs) and only use unscented, mild products around the vulva area.
Another big culprit in this category is hair removal. Technically this applies to itching on the vulva, but let’s get into it anyway. Razor burn from shaving can be extremely itchy, and some people can have adverse reactions to wax or depilatory creams. Dweck’s advice is, if you notice irritation that seems directly related to your hair removal routine, switch it up. Razor burn an issue? Try waxing. Nair causing you grief? Switch to shaving. OR, bear with me here, you could just forego the whole routine altogether. Pubic hair is fine and nice.
And then finally there’s allergic reactions to certain materials, primarily latex. If you notice itching after you have sex with a condom, check out the materials used in the condom. If one of is latex, try switching to non-latex option (there are PLENTY). Some women also experience itching after gynecological exams if their doctors use latex gloves, though Dweck said most offices use non-latex gloves at this point because the allergy is so common.
Of the infections that can cause itching, yeast infections are the most common. “The telltale sign of yeast is an itchy vulva, itchy vagina,” Dweck said. “And accompanied with that thick, white discharge, and maybe some redness. But people often say they’re scratching like crazy.”
The discharge here is key, because it helps most people differentiate between yeast and another infection called bacterial vaginosis, or BV, that can cause itching. Though Dweck said usually BV results in just general burning sensation around the vagina. Another telltale sign between the two infections is that BV usually comes with a foul odor, and yeast shouldn’t really affect the scent of your vaginal area. Still, if you’re unsure what’s going on, a doctor can and will help you out. If you know your body well and know you have a tendency for developing yeast infections, Dweck said the over the counter treatment options available are a good option for clearing it up quickly.
Then, of course, the one STI that’s most commonly associated with itching: pubic lice (crabs), will have you itching like wild. “If you look down carefully, you’ll see little black spots,” Dweck said of crabs. “And if you really look down carefully, you’ll note that they’re moving, and that’s how we diagnose that.”
These are more rare, but like burning near the vagina, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can affect the vulva and result in itching. A gynecologist or dermatologist should be able to diagnose and help treat any skin conditions that are messing with your vulva and causing itching or burning, usually with some sort of steroidal cream or ointment. Otherwise, a mild, UNSCENTED moisturizer is safe to use, just never in your vagina.