Pimples around the female genital area are a common condition caused by a variety of factors. These bumps may be uncomfortable and irritating, but they are not serious in most cases.
Vaginal pimples are similar in appearance to pimples that occur in other areas of the body. They can have different characteristics. For example, they may be painful or painless, burning, flesh-colored or red, pus-filled, in clusters or alone, itchy, or various sizes.
This article covers the common causes of vaginal pimples, their treatment, and methods to prevent future occurrence.
It is not always clear what causes vaginal pimples. However, some of the more common causes include:
Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema caused by skin contact with an allergen or an irritant. Many cases of vaginal pimples are contact dermatitis in the genital area.
Common irritants and allergens contributing to vaginal pimples include:
- feminine hygiene products, such as lotions, powders, and deodorants
- fragranced soaps and shower washes
- laundry detergents
- medicated lotions or gels
- personal lubricants, spermicides, or condoms
- sanitary pads or tampons, especially scented
Another very common cause of vaginal pimples is folliculitis, which is an infection and inflammation of the hair follicles.
A follicle is a small skin cavity from which hair grows, each hair on the body growing out of its own follicle.
Folliculitis can result from:
- ingrown hairs
- wearing tight clothing, or clothing that rubs off the skin
- follicles that become blocked or irritated by sweat or personal products
- using an unclean hot tub or swimming pool
- an infected cut or wound, perhaps from shaving, which lets bacteria spread to nearby hair follicles
Also called hidradenitis suppurativa, acne inversa is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that affects the sweat glands in the groin and under the breasts.
Acne inversa is characterized by recurrent spots and sores that contain pus. These do not heal easily and can leave scars.
According to the Hidradenitis Suppurativa Foundation, this disease affects up to 4 percent of the population.
Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection characterized by lesions that can occur anywhere on the body, including the vaginal area.
The growths, called Mollusca, are usually small, raised, and white or flesh-colored. They can be pearly in appearance and have a dimple at their center.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that this condition usually clears up within 6-12 months, but can take up to 4 years.
Vaginal pimples can often clear up on their own. If not, treatment options include:
Determining the cause
The first step to deciding the correct treatment is to uncover the cause of the pimples.
Keep a note of the occurrence of vaginal pimples and any products, activities, or other factors which may affect the genital area, including shaving and hot tub usage.
It can also be helpful to avoid all products that are in contact with the genital area, including laundry detergents, for a period of time. Once symptoms subside, slowly reintroduce these products, one at a time, and note any adverse reactions experienced.
Once the cause of the irritation or infection has been identified, stop using the product or engaging in the activity.
For example, if this is shaving, reduce irritation by using a new blade and shaving in the direction of the hair growth. Never dry shave. Reusable razors are available to purchase online.
It is important to keep hot tubs clean, and only use properly treated pools and to shower afterward. Also, avoid using oils on the skin as these can trap bacteria in the follicles.
Maintain good hygiene
The warmth and moisture in the genital area make it an ideal location for bacteria and other microorganisms to thrive.
Wash the area daily with warm water and mild, unperfumed soap. Avoid using harsh cleaning products inside the vagina, as these can affect the pH balance, which can lead to infection.
Choose cotton underwear and avoid fabrics that trap heat and moisture. Opt for loose, comfortable clothing that allows the skin to breathe, and always change clothing after working out.
Regularly change tampons or sanitary towels during menstruation. Menstrual cups are a convenient and hygienic alternative to tampons, and are avilable to purchase online.
Avoid squeezing vaginal pimples
Squeezing or popping vaginal pimples can cause further pain and irritation. The risk of spreading bacteria and causing infection increases, and the pimples may grow in number and severity. Wait for a pimple to rupture naturally or seek medical treatment.
To address itching and pain, try treating the area with a warm compress.
Simply soak a small towel in warm water and squeeze out before placing on the skin. This treatment can be repeated several times daily.
Always dry the area thoroughly before dressing to inhibit bacterial growth.
Speak with a doctor about medication for vaginal pimples.
If contact dermatitis is the root cause, topical medications or antihistamines may be recommended. Infections can be treated with topical or oral antibiotics.
Early diagnosis and treatment are advised for acne inversa to keep symptoms under control. While Molluscum contagiosum often clears up without treatment, medication may be prescribed for persistent cases.
There are several other conditions and factors which can lead to bumps similar to vaginal pimples. These include:
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Genital warts: Small, flesh-colored lumps, these may have a cauliflower-like appearance. They are more common among women and are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Treatment is not necessary if they are not uncomfortable. However, medications or surgery can deal with outbreaks, although further outbreaks may occur as there is no way to eliminate the virus from the body. A woman can consider HPV vaccine before being sexually active to help prevent genital warts.
- Genital herpes: Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), genital herpes can lead to spots which are painful or itchy. As the virus can lie dormant in the body, genital herpes can be contagious even if there are no visible spots or sores. Similarly to genital warts, the virus cannot be removed from the body once present. However, medication can reduce symptoms, flare-ups, and lower the risk of passing the virus to sexual partners. Using condoms can reduce the chance of getting genital herpes from a partner.
Bartholin's glands are located on each side of the vagina. Sometimes these can become blocked, leading to the formation of cysts.
These cysts are usually painless and do not require treatment. However, if infected, they become inflamed and pus-filled and should be treated with medical interventions, such as antibiotics. If cysts are reoccurring, talk to a doctor about home remedies.
Skin tags are small growths or flaps of excess tissue on the skin. While not dangerous, some people may wish to have them removed for cosmetic reasons or because they cause irritation.
These are bumps, usually blue in color, that can occur as women age. They appear around the vulva and the vagina. They are swollen veins, much as hemorrhoids are around the anus, and they may be tender or bleed. Cool compresses can reduce the discomfort.
A woman should talk to her doctor about treatment, if this is needed, or surgical or laser removal, if embarrassment is a factor. The bumps may go away on their own, as well.
A person should seek medical advice and treatment, if the cause of the vaginal pimples is unknown, if they persist, or they get worse. Pimples that are very painful, large, or pus-filled can be drained by a doctor.
Most cases of vaginal pimples will clear up on their own or with self-administered treatment. Making lifestyle changes and alterations to personal hygiene routines may prevent future outbreaks.
If unsure, consult a doctor who can advise on prognosis and available treatments.
Preventing vaginal pimples can be done by adopting some common practices, including:
- avoiding or reducing contact with irritants
- treating any medical conditions that lead to pimples
- wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing
- practicing good personal hygiene
- not touching or squeezing existing pimples