Itchiness around the vaginal area may be more common than you think. It may be triggered by over cleaning with vaginal wash or even just water, which causes dryness and disrupts the self-cleaning function of the vagina.

Douching—the act of washing the inside of the vagina — is not advised as it affects both the good and the harmful bacteria in the vagina, said Dr Lim Min Yu, President of the Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Singapore (OGSS). “The vagina is usually acidic, which helps to prevent infections and irritation. If the vagina is douched, this can lead to an increase in harmful bacteria, which increases the risk of infection.”

However, there may be cases where the itch is caused by an allergic reaction to your sanitary pad or underwear. If you suspect it to be so, you can use a different brand of sanitary pads or switch from synthetic to cotton underwear. Avoid wearing G-strings as it may worsen the itch. If the itch persists, it may not be due to an allergy, and you should consult a doctor, added Dr. Lim.

Are You at a Higher Risk?

Elderly lady worrying about something

Women with conditions such as diabetes, dermatitis, psoriasis, lichen planus (an inflammatory condition of the skin), fungal infections, genital herpes or warts tend to experience itchiness around their private parts more commonly. They should consult their doctors to manage the itch.

Post-menopausal women may also experience itchiness around their vaginal area due to decreasing levels of estrogen (a hormone), and, as a result, will experience more dryness and itch around the vaginal area, as estrogen is important for keeping the skin around the vaginal area hydrated.

For good vaginal area health, here are some of Dr Lim’s recommendations:

  • The vagina is self-cleaning. But if you prefer to wash it, use only water. And if you must use a commercial wash product, avoid perfumed ones as they may irritate the skin.
  • Avoid wearing wet swimwear, synthetic underwear, tight pantyhose or exercise clothing that traps perspiration for prolonged periods of time.

Related: Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

Too Shy To Ask

Elderly lady talking to the docter about her problems

Dr Liew Hui Min, Consultant Dermatologist, SOG HM Liew Skin & Laser Clinic, answers some common questions:

Q1. Can I scratch to relieve the itch?

No. You should avoid scratching, using wet wipes or spraying warm water to soothe the itch as it causes the skin to dry up, which will make it itchier. Use a moisturising, non-perfumed soap instead to wash the area and to relieve the itch. Do not wash the vaginal area more than three times a day. If the itch persists, please consult a gynaecologist or dermatologist.

Q2. Can I have sex, even with the itch?

You may have sex provided the itch is not the result of a sexually transmitted disease. Where you’re unsure if the itch — which may be accompanied by other symptoms — is due to an infection, please consult a doctor. You do not want to pass an infection to your partner.

However, even if the itch is not a result of an STD, do be careful with the use of lubricants and condoms as they contain chemicals that may cause an allergic contact dermatitis. If there is indeed an infection, you should consult a doctor.

Q3. Will showering in cold or warm water worsen the itch?

Showering in cold or lukewarm water does not cause any dryness, nor add to the itch. However, do not use water that is so hot that it causes redness and dryness. Dry skin may cause the skin to itch.

Q4. Will the consumption of contraceptives cause itchiness?

Hormonal pills may be a cause for vulva itch, and if you suspect that the itch is caused by hormonal pills, you may want to seek further assessment by your gynaecologist.

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