The vagina itself cannot sweat as it does not have any sweat glands. However, the external genitalia around the vagina and the groin area can.
The sweat that occurs around the genitals is not the same as sweat from other parts of the body. Apocrine glands are responsible for sweat production in the groin and under the armpits, whereas eccrine glands produce sweat elsewhere on the body.
Females have a high concentration of apocrine sweat glands around the outside of the vagina on the labia majora.
The sweat from apocrine glands contains protein. Bacteria break down this protein, which can produce a distinct odor.
Excess sweat around the groin area may also cause itching and can sometimes lead to infections, such as bacterial vaginosis and vaginal yeast infections.
In this article, we discuss possible causes of a sweaty genital area and ways to prevent it.
Wearing breathable athletic clothing can prevent sweating when exercising.
Sweating is usually a sign of a good workout. Any form of vigorous physical activity will increase the body's internal temperature and activate sweat glands to secrete sweat. Exercises that specifically focus on the legs, such as running, can cause more sweat in the lower half of the body.
It is impossible for a person to avoid sweating at all while exercising. However, wearing cotton or other breathable materials can help minimize sweat production.
People can also try wearing underwear that the manufacturers have designed specifically for exercising in. Athletic underwear should help remove moisture and keep the groin dry during workouts.
After exercising, it is important to shower as soon as possible and then put clean clothes on.
The apocrine sweat glands in the groin area secrete fluid into hair follicles. Pubic hair can trap bacteria and moisture.
A mass of pubic hair can trap heat in the skin and cause apocrine glands to secrete excess sweat. Bacteria may also build up in pubic hair, which can lead to infections if a person does not clean the area properly.
To avoid excess pubic sweating, consider trimming or completely removing pubic hair.
Underwear made from nonbreathable fabric can cause pubic sweating.
Wearing breathable cotton underwear can help reduce pubic sweating. Manufacturers often use nonbreathable fabrics and synthetic fibers to make female underwear. Not only do these types of underwear hold in heat, but they do not absorb moisture, which means that sweat remains on the skin.
A person can reduce sweat around the vagina by wearing cotton underwear. Cotton is a light, breathable fabric that absorbs moisture. It is also a natural material that is durable and nonallergenic.
Excess body weight
Fat is the body's natural insulator. Females tend to carry most fat around their stomachs, hips, and thighs. Excess fat in these areas can lock in heat and may cause excess sweat production.
People who carry excess body weight around their hips may sweat more in their pubic region. These individuals can reduce the amount of sweat production in this area by practicing good hygiene and wearing cotton underwear and other breathable items of clothing.
Pads and panty liners
Most types of pad and panty liner come in nonbreathable material. These products may create excess heat in the pubic region, causing more sweat production.
The best solution is to avoid wearing pads and panty liners. However, this may not be practical for everyone. Instead, people who wish to use pads and liners can try using unscented ones and changing them every few hours to reduce sweating and odor.
Alternatives to sanitary pads, such as menstrual cups, can help prevent irritation of the vulva.
Proper vaginal hygiene is essential for preventing vaginal infections. The vagina is self-cleaning, so people should focus on keeping the vulva clean and dry.
Vulva care tips include:
- washing the vulva with warm water
- drying the vulva thoroughly with a clean towel
- avoiding scented soaps, which can irritate the skin of the vulva and labia
- using alternatives to sanitary pads, where possible
- washing new items of underwear before wearing them for the first time
Some other hygiene tips include:
- keeping the vulva dry by wearing clothes in breathable fabrics, such as cotton
- changing tampons every 4–8 hours
- avoiding tight clothing, such as pantyhose and leggings
- wiping from front to back
- avoiding douches
Another critical part of good vaginal hygiene is not disturbing the bacterial ecosystem, or microbiome.
The vaginal microbiome plays a vital role in defending the body from invading germs. However, this system is very delicate, and any disruption can affect the natural balance of the bacteria, which may lead to unpleasant odors, itching, and even infection.
The same type of sweat gland is present in both the armpits and the groin. However, a person should not treat these two areas in the same way.
Antiperspirants can eliminate odor and reduce sweat production in the underarms, but a person should not use these products to prevent sweating around the vagina.
While antiperspirant products can kill unwanted odor-producing bacteria, they can also disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria in and around the vagina. This disruption may increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.
When to see a doctor
Excessive genital sweating can lead to yeast or bacterial infections. An individual should see a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- itching of the vagina or vulva that lasts for several days
- thick white discharge, which can be a sign of a yeast infection
- gray, foul-smelling discharge, which can indicate bacterial vaginosis
- painful and frequent urination
- a burning sensation in the vagina
- pain during intercourse
Excessive sweating that is limited to one or two areas of the body may be a sign of hyperhidrosis. People with hyperhidrosis sweat even when the body's internal temperature is normal. Without treatment, hyperhidrosis can cause skin problems, warts, and fungal and bacterial infections.
Genital sweating is completely normal. However, excessive sweating may cause discomfort and irritation. A person can reduce vaginal sweating by wearing breathable underwear and avoiding tight-fitting clothing.
Practicing good vaginal hygiene can help prevent bacterial and yeast infections. Avoiding douches, antiperspirants, and scented pads and panty liners can help maintain a healthy vagina.
A person should speak to a doctor or gynecologist if they experience symptoms of bacterial or yeast infections.