When Lil Wayne famously rapped “life is a beach, I’m just playing in the sand,” he should have been more specific about the dress code. Basking under the sun’s rays seaside can sure be a lot of fun, but it can also be a nightmare for your crotch. Specifically, when you stay in your wet swimming suit all day.
Caroline Mitchell, MD, Ob/Gyn, who runs the vulvovaginal disorders program at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that staying in a wet bathing suit for too long can throw things off downstairs in a few different ways.
For one, it can irritate the skin around your vagina. This is partially because most swimming suits fit snuggly, and usually aren’t made with breathable fabric. “It’s not always a rash,” Mitchell says. “Sometimes people just get redness, itching, or other irritation.”
Luckily, there are things you can do to soothe your furious, splotchy skin. “For a lot of people with sensitive skin, the irritation can linger for a while,” Mitchell says. “But taking off the wet bathing suit and wearing cotton underwear for a few days can help it heal.” You can also try to slather on some hydrocortisone cream in the area to soothe the scratchy sensation you might have.
But there’s also a more serious way that staying in moist swimwear for too long can put a damper on your life. It can contribute to a yeast infection. Although not just one thing causes a yeast infection, according to Dr. Diane Young, an OB/GYN at Cleveland Clinic, the moist bikini bottom can definitely be a contributing factor. Only a certain amount of yeast can live in and around your vagina. So, if it overgrows, it can cause an infection. If this happens, you'll know. One sign is clumpy, white discharge and even more itching.
“Yeast likes warm damp conditions, so that’s a great environment for yeast to grow,” Mitchell says of wet bathing suits. “A yeast, or Candida, infection, can be in the vagina, on the vulva, or on your skin. You can get fungal infections in a lot of places.”
But fear not. Yeast infections can usually be treated with a doctor-prescribed cream or a pill, or with an over-the-counter medication.
With that said, it's best to avoid the whole uncomfortable sensation all together. You can still have your fun in the sun and avoid these common summer afflictions with a good dose of planning. If you know you're going swimming, bring a change of underwear and some shorts along. This way, you can change in and out of your swimwear after your dips in the pool, lake, or ocean.
It may seem like a pain to change clothes at the time. But it’s the best way to ensure that life continues to be a beach, and not a b*itch.