- Vaginal pimples develop due to the same causes as acne elsewhere on the body or as a result of other factors.
- They often resolve on their own without intervention.
- Treatments include lifestyle changes, home remedies and medication.
- Other conditions, infections and diseases can cause pimple-like growths in the genital area.
Vaginal pimples are a usually harmless, but often painful condition that occurs around the female genitals. In some cases, they develop for the same reasons as pimples elsewhere on the body: dirt, oil and bacteria become trapped in hair follicles, resulting in inflammation. However, pimple-like bumps in the genital area may be due to other causes and conditions.
What Causes Vaginal Pimples?
In many cases, vaginal pimples are caused by the same factors as pimples elsewhere on the body, including hormonal imbalances, diet, stress, genetics and poor hygiene. It is more common in women who exercise frequently due to the combination of sweating and tight clothing.
Additionally, pimples on this part of the body are caused by several skin conditions and diseases.
This condition occurs after contact with an irritant or allergen. It appears as a rash with small pimple-like bumps that are itchy and painful.
Common irritants for the genitals include
- Douches and other feminine hygiene products
- Fragranced soaps, body washes, bubble baths
- Laundry detergent
- Condoms, personal lubricants and spermicide
- Scented sanitary pads and tampons
- Vaginal discharge
Folliculitis occurs when bacteria become trapped in hair follicles, causing the hairs to curl back into the skin. Ingrown hairs on the labia are typically caused by shaving or waxing pubic hair, perspiring and wearing tight-fitting underwear.
Also known as hidradenitis suppurativa, this skin disease can cause bumps, pimples and sores near the sweat glands of the genital area. Although its causes are not well understood, certain environmental and genetic factors such as smoking, obesity and genetics play a role. It is not infectious or caused by hygiene practices.
At-Home Treatments for Vaginal Pimples
Unlike when addressing acne on other parts of the body, vaginal pimples are not treated with creams, lotions or other products containing anti-acne active ingredients. These products can cause further irritation in the delicate genital area.
Most of the time, vaginal pimples clear up on their own. You can prevent them from recurring with lifestyle changes and simple home remedies.
Pimple-like inflammation caused by folliculitis is effectively treated by ceasing to shave your pubic hair. Once the symptoms have subsided, you can attempt resuming shaving by using a fresh razor blade and shaving in the direction of hair growth.
If the pimples return, you may choose to seek other hair removal options such as laser hair removal, which is not associated with folliculitis.
Eliminate potential allergens
If your labia pimples are caused by contact dermatitis, stop using all products such as soaps and laundry detergent that come into contact with the vulva. Once symptoms have subsided, gradually reintroduce the products into your routine over time to determine which, if any, are causing breakouts.
Wear cotton underwear
Wear underwear that’s not too tight in a breathable fabric such as cotton. Change your underwear every day and after exercise.
Shower regularly and after exercise
Every day and after exercising, wash the vulva with warm water and mild, fragrance-free soap to prevent bacterial growth and rinse away pore-clogging dead skin cells. Do not use douches or other feminine hygiene products that can disrupt the vagina’s natural pH balance.
Use appropriate cleansers
Body washes and soaps with the wrong pH can disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina, which is between 3.5 and 4.5. Do not use antibacterial soaps, which tend to have a high pH (between 9 and 10). Ingredients to avoid include:
Apply heat therapy
A warm compress can relieve itching, inflammation and pain. Soak a washcloth in hot water, wring it out and place it on the skin for 10 minutes or until the cloth cools. Afterward, dry the area thoroughly before getting dressed. You can use a warm compress several times a day until the symptoms subside.
At-Home Treatments to Avoid
Never pop or squeeze pimples in the genital area; doing so can spread bacteria and worsen the problem. If a pimple develops into a boil, do not attempt to puncture it. Instead, see a doctor who can determine an appropriate treatment.
Medical Treatments for Vaginal Pimples
If your symptoms do not improve with lifestyle changes or if another condition or disease is causing the pimples, see a doctor or gynecologist. These treatments address either the symptoms you’re experiencing or the underlying causes.
Pimples caused by contact dermatitis can be treated with antihistamines to reduce inflammation and itching caused by the allergic reaction. Antihistamines can provide relief in as little as 30 minutes after being taken, though it may take several days for all symptoms to subside.
Antihistamines are administered orally or topically. Side effects include drowsiness, nausea and weight gain.
Prescription topical or oral antibiotics can treat acne inversa and any bacterial infection causing pimples. Symptoms start to improve two to three days after beginning treatment. Antibiotics, especially those taken orally, can cause nausea, indigestion, photosensitivity and yeast infections.
This class of drugs treats acute acne inversa by reducing inflammation in the body. They reduce existing symptoms and prevent further lesions from developing. Corticosteroids can be taken orally or injected directly into lesions. Side effects from long-term use include osteoporosis, hypertension, weight gain and increased vulnerability to infection.
Women with acne inversa may find that their symptoms decrease while they are taking hormonal birth control.
Other conditions and diseases present similarly to vaginal pimples. These include:
Bartholin’s cysts, which develop in the glands surrounding the vagina and, in rare cases, become inflamed, requiring treatment in the form of antibiotics, drainage or CO2 laser therapy.
Skin tags are growths or flaps of excess skin tissue. Although harmless, they can be removed by a dermatologist if they cause irritation or for cosmetic purposes.
Vaginal varicosities are swollen veins appearing as blue bumps that become painful and bleed. They sometimes disappear on their own or can be addressed with cool compresses or surgical removal if necessary.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are similar in appearance to vaginal pimples.
Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They present as small, skin-colored bumps, often in clusters. They are treated with medications or surgery, but often treatment is unnecessary. Breakouts may recur in the future as the virus cannot be eliminated from the body.
Genital herpes, caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), can cause itchy, sore spots in the vaginal area. It differs from regular pimples in appearance. Medication can reduce symptoms, flare-ups and the risk of passing the virus to sexual partners. As with genital wars, the virus cannot be fully eliminated.
This viral infection is passed through casual or sexual contact. It causes small, white, pink, purple or skin-colored growths on the genital area or elsewhere on the body. The condition usually clears up on its own in 6–12 months. It can also be addressed with topical or oral medication, laser therapy or cryotherapy.
When to See a Doctor
If your vaginal pimples resemble an STI, keep recurring despite lifestyle changes or start to affect your quality of life, see a doctor.
A doctor can evaluate your symptoms and test you for STIs. In the case of acne inversa, an early diagnosis is key to managing the symptoms of the disease. If the cause is determined to be contact dermatitis or bacterial infection, you may be prescribed medication to reduce inflammation.
Vaginal pimples often have the same causes as pimples elsewhere on the body, including hormonal fluctuations, diet, stress levels and genetics. Additionally, they can be due to folliculitis, contact dermatitis, the disease hidradenitis suppurativa and improper hygiene.
Pimples in this part of the body can often be treated with simple lifestyle changes such as showering regularly and wearing breathable underwear. If necessary, antihistamines, antibiotics or steroids may be prescribed, depending on what is causing them.
Other conditions present similarly to pimples. These include Bartholin’s cysts, skin tags, vaginal varicosities and STIs such as genital herpes and genital warts. If you suspect you have an STI, see a doctor to determine your next steps.
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