Healthy Body

An OB/GYN Shares How To Stop Vaginal Chafing in Its Tracks

Photo: Stocksy/ BONNINSTUDIO
Since your skin is your largest organ, it makes sense that a lot can go awry. Pimples, warts, ingrown hairs, rashes, and chafing— lions, tigers, bears, oh my! Even though these things can be painful, alienating, frustrating, and just downright vibe kills, you're not alone. Especially when it comes to the potentially harder-to-discuss dermatological concerns of the vulva. The good news is that you've got a lot of tools at your disposal to prevent or treat pesky irritations like vaginal chafing. Alyssa Dweck, MD, gynecologist, and chief medical officer for Bonafide, specializes in all things vaginal health and chafing cases definitely appear in her office.

"During the last few years, because of the popularity of spin classes and stationary bikes, I've actually seen a lot more chafing of the vagina and vulva area," she says.

What causes vaginal chafing

Chafing is caused by friction and moisture, either skin-to-skin or skin-to-another surface, says Dr. Dweck. This is why spin class is a major culprit of vaginal chafing, but Dr. Dweck reassures that it doesn't mean you should stop going.

The following are ways to prevent vaginal chafing

Hydrate and moisturize properly

Part of the problem with chafing is that there are varying moisture levels, which means that there's wetness or sweat that can dry into stickiness. Stickiness, either from sweat, discharge, or menstruation, can cause increased friction. The way to prevent all of these frustrating features of the laws of physics is moisturizing and lubrication.

This means adding balms between your thighs, so they don't chafe, and a vaginal-appropriate topical moisturizer or even lubrication before a high friction activity like walking or spinning, says Dr. Dweck. Additionally, staying hydrated throughout the day can prevent uneven perspiration, which can lead to that pesky stickiness.

Don’t push through it

When you start chafing, it will not usually solve itself on its own and will likely become painful. You know your body best, so there's a difference between a pesky underwear lining and full-on chafing. When full-on chafing is occurring, it's best to stop the friction, rinse the area with clean water, or cleanse with a clean damp washcloth. If the skin is brokern, talk to a care provider about topical creams that might help with wound care.

Use lubrication during sex

Anatomically speaking, the vagina is within the labia minora (inner lips), which are within the labia majora (outer lips). The most common areas that experience chafing, in Dr. Dweck's experience, are the inner thighs, between the thigh and labia majora, or between the labia majora and minora. The literal vagina is protected by these features of the vulva's anatomy, but it still can experience chafing. Penetrative sex with a hand, penis, or dildo can all rub against the sensitive skin in such a way that chafes and leaves it sore the next day. This is normal and not a cause for concern, but Dr. Dweck recommends you use more lube throughout your sexual activity to prevent this.

Chafing can be so frustrating and kind of hard to talk about. It totally happens to everyone, though, and there are a lot of tools for prevention at your disposal.

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