“You’re so hot" is a phrase you might hear from a partner in the heat of the moment. “Ah! Ah! My vagina feels spicy and hot!” meanwhile, is not. And yet, I recently found myself lying on my back, with my girlfriend's fingers still inside me, yelling that exact phrase. And to be clear, the vibe wasn't sexy hot so much as uncomfortable hot.
The issue was the jalapeños she’d cut up earlier that day, having residue remaining on her hands. And after sending an emergency text to a group of friends for advice about how to calm down the heat, I learned that many other culprits can lead to a similar spicy vagina or vulva effect: “GIRL! The same thing happened to me after my boyfriend and I ate tacos for dinner. And then he went down on my taco and made it spicy. Never again,” responded one. “LMFAO, that happened to me when I made salsa before masturbating once,” another replied.
- Felice Gersh, MD, board-certified OB/GYN and founder of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine
So what do you do if spice passes through the wrong set of lips? Read on to for your ultimate guide for handling a case of spicy vagina.
First, the good news: Spicy vagina doesn't last forever
A chemical compound called capsaicin is the culprit behind the spicy sensation, according to gynechologist Felice Gersh, MD, author of PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones and Happiness. In addition to being an ingredient in pepper spray, capsaicin is what earns spicy foods their multiple fire-symbol designation on food menus. It’s also why your mouth, lips, and tongue tingle after eating it.
“The burning sensation will eventually fade, and it won’t cause lasting damage.” — Felice Gersh, MD
And considering the vulva and vagina are made of the similar mucous membranes as the mouth, she says, it really shouldn’t be too surprising that the "nether lips" may respond to certain spices the same way as your "upper lips" do. But, just as the burning sensation doesn’t afflict your mouth forever, it likewise won't make your genitals burn until the end of time, either. “The burning sensation will eventually fade, and it won’t cause lasting damage,” says Dr. Gersh.
The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, and it uses discharge to expel dead cells, unwanted bacteria, and chemicals (including capsaicin!), she says. That means, even if you do absolutely nothing to quell the heat, it will go away…eventually.
How to make the heat go away faster
“You literally want to cool the heat down with something cool in temperature,” says Dr. Gersh. She recommends grabbing a cold pack from the freezer, wrapping it in a barrier like a T-shirt or washcloth, and laying it along the hot-feeling external areas. “A bag of peas or baggie of ice cubes will do the trick, too,” she says.
You may have also heard that drinking milk can help your mouth feel better after you eat something hot, and according to Dr. Gersh, that's true. “Dairy contains a protein called casein, which can help neutralize the capsaicin,” she says. “The fat in dairy also does work to neutralize the spicy sensation.” If the discomfort continues and is unbearable, you may want to hit up your fridge for some dairy. But since many dairy products include sugar, inserting them into the vagina could mess with the natural vaginal ecosystem and its pH balance. If you’re desperate for relief, though, “it’s okay to saturate a compress with ice cold milk and press it against yourself topically,” Dr. Gersh says.
And while rinsing with water may sound like a good way to remedy any spicy situation, Dr. Gersh says doing so can actually make your situation worse. Since capsaicin is hydrophobic, “introducing water to the afflicted area can cause the capsaicin to spread,” instead of rinsing it away, Dr. Gersh says. Using soap with the water will also make the situation worse. “The vaginal ecosystem is fragile, and introducing soap to that ecosystem can mess with its bacterial makeup and pH,” she says. And this could lead to a vaginal infection like a yeast infection or a bacterial infection, both of which are known to cause their own kind of vaginal burning.
When to head to the doctor
“The burning sensation really should clear up within a few hours,” Dr. Gersh says. So, if you’re a few hours in and the sensation hasn’t stopped, she recommends going to the doctor. Ditto if the burning feeling is accompanied by other symptoms, like labial swelling or an uncommon odor.
And if you're feeling the burn but don't recall encountering spicy food, also make sure to visit the doctor because the sensation can often indicate infection, like a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis. In general, when in doubt, see a doctor.
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