The idea that seasonal changes could affect vaginal health makes sense — kind of. Anyone who's ever sat around for too long in a wet swimsuit knows the annoyance of a summer yeast infection, for instance. But if you've heard the term "winter vagina" floating around, or read headlines about how to "winterise your vagina", rest assured: That's not a thing.
The term "winter vagina" was used a few years ago by The Sun, in a headline asking: "Are 'winter vaginas' really a thing?" Yes, according to one midwife they interviewed, who said vaginas can dry out just like your (face) lips do in cold weather.
In the same article, though, The Sun quoted Jen Gunter, MD, author of The Vagina Bible, who's known for debunking women's health myths. She'd previously side-eyed the idea of a "summer vagina" (yes, tight, wet clothes can lead to thrush; no, the weather itself doesn't lead to vaginal pH changes). And you can bet she had something to say about winter vaginas, too. “The Ice Queen cometh and she’s a cruel mistress,” Gunter joked in a post at the time. “The air is apparently so fucking dry in houses in the United Kingdom that it is going to suck the moisture right out of your vagina.” As you can imagine, the rest of the post explained all the reasons that this is not a real issue.
Even if you’re living among the polar bears in the most brutal of winter tundras, weather doesn't impact how wet you get. Unlike your hands and lips, your vagina is lined with a mucous membrane, explains Karen Duncan, MD, OB/GYN, an assistant professor at New York University Langone Health, tells Refinery29. Cold weather doesn't affect mucus production. Sure, the skin on your vulva or mons pubis could, theoretically, get a little dry if you tend to have dry skin in general — but a fragrance-free, natural moisturiser that's formulated for sensitive skin should fix the problem (just keep it away from your labia). For the most part, the vagina is weatherproof.
One thing you may have heard about winter and vaginas has to do with diet, not weather: that the sugar in the holiday cookies we're eating can lead to yeast infections. But in fact, most of the studies only showed this to be true in patients with diabetes. For people without diabetes, “munching on the occasional gingerbread should be fine," says Heather Bartos, a Texas OB/GYN and the founder of MindShift Medicine.
If anything, your risk of certain vaginal-related issues is lower in the winter than in the summer. People may be more likely to get urinary tract infections in the summer, for instance, based on a study looking into when UTI medical sales spike that was published in the journal PLoS One. The researchers couldn't say for sure why, though they speculating that the reasons may be behavioural — people may have more sex in the summer, and sex can lead to UTIs.
But in general, to quote Dr. Gunter, "Vaginas function quite well in all seasons." If you get a yeast infection or a UTI, if you seem abnormally dry or itchy, or really, if you notice any changes at all, see an OB/GYN to get diagnosed and get the right treatment. Otherwise, you can hang out and continue to let your vagina take care of itself all year long.