Chafing can occur in various parts of the body, including the inner thighs, nipples, and armpits. It is always uncomfortable. However, it can be especially painful when it happens in the sensitive area of the vagina and vulva. In this article, we’ll describe the symptoms of this relatively common condition and help you treat and prevent it.
Vaginal Chafing Defined
Chafing is the irritation which occurs when skin rubs together or rubs against clothing and other material. The result is often a painful, burning, or stinging sensation which can make it difficult to touch the area normally.
Symptoms to Look Out For
The symptoms of chafing are pretty much the same for everyone. You will usually notice:
- Peeling skin
- Irritation or pain
- Red, itchy skin that’s painful to the touch
- Cracked skin
Vaginal chafing is often due to rough or prolonged sexual intercourse or intense rubbing of the vaginal area while masturbating. However, it can be due to wearing tight clothing or underwear and sweating excessively. Some of the other reasons you may experience chafing are outlined below.
If you have an excessive amount of fat in your genital area, you are more likely to experience chafing than someone who doesn’t.
If you use perfumed soaps or washes or products which contain alcohol around your vagina, they may cause your skin to dry out. This dryness can lead to chafing.
If you’re an avid rider, biker or cyclist, the constant motion, rubbing of your clothing or friction from your bike’s seat can cause painful chafing.
Shaving is a quick, simple way to remove unwanted hair but it can lead to razor burn which irritates your bikini area. Waxing can also cause your skin to become raised, red, and irritated.
Wearing Panty Liners Constantly
Women who experience irregular periods or those who struggle with urinary incontinence often feel the need to wear panty liners frequently so they can avoid embarrassing accidents. However, this can cause vaginal chafing as well as infections and irritation. This is because the plastic on the back of the liners prevents the proper flow of air, and it keeps the area warm. The constant rubbing can also irritate the vulva.
What to Do Instead
To reduce the need to wear panty liners, you can keep a clean pair of underwear and tampons or pads at hand for your periods. To manage incontinence, ask your doctor about medications or lifestyle changes which could help. When you do use liners, make sure you change them at least every four hours.
Chafing is generally a minor problem, but you should treat it as soon as you notice it. With treatment, your skin will heal within three to four days. However, if the condition is left untreated, it can lead to severe inflammation. Let’s look at some of the treatment options.
Eliminate the Cause
The first step is to stop doing whatever caused the chafing. If tight clothing or underwear was the culprit, switch to looser garments immediately. If exercise was responsible, take a short break until you heal. Make sure you keep the area clean and dry.
Use an Ointment
You can get an over-the-counter ointment from the drugstore or contact your doctor for a recommendation. This will help to soothe the pain and redness and encourage healing.
Take a Break from Sexual Intercourse
Vaginal chafing can be exacerbated by rough or prolonged sexual intercourse. Take a short break so your skin can heal properly.
There are a number of simple remedies which you can try at home to relieve the discomfort caused by mild chafing. These include:
- Coconut oil. Pure coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial. Applying it to the affected area twice a day will help your skin to heal and prevent infection.
- Oatmeal. Oatmeal contains compounds called avenanthramides that relieve irritation and itchiness and reduce inflammation. Make a paste with a tablespoon of oatmeal and some warm water and apply it to the irritated area. Leave it on for fifteen minutes and then rinse it off with warm water. You can also add oatmeal to your bath and soak in it for 20 minutes for a few days.
- Aloe vera gel. There are many aloe vera products available, but if you have access to fresh aloe vera, you will get quick relief. Remove the gel and apply it to the chafed area. Let it dry and wash it off. You can do this twice a day for a few days. It will cool the burning and relieve the itching.
When Should You Go to the Doctor?
It is quite possible to treat your symptoms on your own. However, if you experience symptoms for more than seven days or they clear up and return quickly, you should see a physician. If the area becomes infected, you may need an antibiotic ointment. If you experience complications like discoloration, bleeding, swelling, or crusting, you should make an appointment to see your doctor.
How Can You Prevent Problems in the Future?
Once your skin has healed, you need to ensure you prevent future chafing. Consider:
- Wearing cotton underwear and loose clothing. This will allow for the circulation of air around your vagina and reduce sweating in the area.
- Applying a small amount of cornstarch-based powder to the vaginal area to help it stay dry.
- Applying an anti-chafing product before an activity like running or cycling to keep your skin hydrated and prevent uncomfortable rubbing.
- Using a high-quality water-based lubricant while masturbating or having sex, so your skin doesn’t dry out.
- Avoiding long periods outside when it’s really hot, if possible. The heat will cause you to perspire, and your clothing will stick to your body. This can lead to uncomfortable chafing.
- Taking proper care of your skin when shaving your bikini area. Razor burn can cause chafing so you should ensure you thoroughly wet your skin with warm water to soften the hair and open the hair follicles. Make sure you shave in the direction your hair grows and always use a clean, sharp razor. Afterward, use a mild aftershave product to prevent irritation.
Vaginal chafing is annoying and uncomfortable, but it is usually easy to treat. As soon as you notice the signs of chafing, stop the activity that is causing it, dry the area, and apply an ointment or home remedy. The problem should clear up in a few days, but if you notice complications and signs of infection, be sure to see your doctor.