It’s officially winter!

The tree is down (hopefully), candles are put away and now just wait for spring…

But before the days get longer and we start to thaw—let me ask you.

We’ve prepared our cars, our homes and our kids for winter’s effects, but did you prep your SELF (aka your va-jay-jay) for such extreme weather?

These are the most common questions I get from patients about winterizing your coochie-coo and I want to share them, because if ONE of us has a question, we ALL have the question, am I right??

Do you need to take extra steps in the winter to keep the skin around your vagina, labia, and general groin from getting dry?

Short answer: no. One of the biggest issues is that whatever temp your body is, your nether regions about 5-10 degrees warmer—so when a woman loads on up on sweats and tights—your crotch can get sweaty and itchy—which can lead to vulvar dryness.

What do you think of the myth that your vagina actually gets more dry in the winter?

I think that’s an overreaching bit—the idea that air conditioning and heating can affect your total overall moisture is a stretch. Vaginas usually get dry because of atrophy (generally a postmenopausal condition). The vagina itself does not “dry up” just because we turn the heat on!

Women live in deserts, we live in tropical environments, we live in A/C and heaters and our vaginas tolerate it. Do you think Ma Ingalls had dry vagina living on the prairie?

Our vulvas can be a different story. The vulva is the hair-bearing area of our lady bits and they can get irritated quite quickly (think shaving and trimming) The biggest culprits are “lack of aeration” and “clothes”

For women who live near pools in the summer and don’t change their bathing suits, they are prone to contact dermatitis (itchy skin) down below. Also, if we were a lot of clothes or don’t change our yoga pants quickly (girl you know you love those yoga pants!), the sweat around that area can cause irritation and itchiness. But I don’t ever see women with “chapped vulvas.” Rather, the skin can get excoriated (micro-cuts from fingernails at night) and raw and even ulcerated. A great salve for this is good old-fashioned Aquaphor or Vaseline (only on the outside).

Are there medical conditions my dry coochie could be from?

Now there are some gynecological conditions that can cause irritation and itchiness of the VULVA (the labia/the lips): Lichen sclerosus, lichen planus, and lichen simplex chronicus are the most common benign skin issues of the vulva. Lichen sclerosus usually shows up in a postmenopausal woman and is characterized by intense vulvar itching. These women have an increased risk of vulvar cancer, and are monitored closely.

Lichen planus is an inflammatory autoimmune disorder that can affect the vulva and the vagina; it peaks in incidence between ages 30 and 60, and is fortunately, more rare.

Lichen simplex chronicus is the most common of the three and is caused by persistent itching and scratching of the vulvar skin, which results in a thickened, leathery appearance. Think: eczema here. It is thought to be an atopic disorder in many cases and may arise in normal skin as a result of psychological stress or environmental factors, it can also be secondary to yeast or allergies to soaps, perfumes as well.

Keeping the above question in mind, since some tend toward dehydration in the cold dry air in the winter, can this make the vagina dryer at all?

If a woman worries about vaginal dryness…we need to find out why: are her hormones normal? Remember the vagina is a self-cleaning oven and generally takes care of itself…so if the INSIDE feels dry we should examine. A great treatment for “feeling dry” is using a vitamin E capsule as an insert, although there are certainly OTC products out there that are made just for dryness. Dryness is usually only a major issue for intercourse, so using a thicker, creamier lube in the winter months may help. If a woman’s vulva feels dry in the winter, try not to overcorrect with more bathing. Instead air it out at night, and a light coating of Aquaphor or some non-scented oil (think olive etc.) Please don’t put some essential fragrance.

I know some research has pointed to the idea that diets high in sugar can lead to yeast infections — since we’re eating more sweets around the holidays, are people getting more yeast infections?

Not usually—only people with high serum blood sugars (like diabetics) tend to have a reaction like that. The rest of us munching on the occasional gingerbread should be fine.

Other vulvar maintenance tips:

  • No scents! (just like in the Incredibles—No Capes!)
  • If you are itchy and irritated, do a lukewarm bath with a cup of Epsom salts
  • pH balanced washes for down below as well.
  • If irritation persists, ya gotta see a doc, sister!

No one likes to talk about vulvar and vaginal irritation, but it makes life too unpleasant to live with it! Try these little tips to see if things are smooth and dare I say it? Moist 😉

Until next time,

Dr. B