In the beloved bop “Summer Nights” from Grease, John Travolta sings: “She got friendly down in the sa-a-a-nd.” In my mind, this always made hooking up on the beach sound idyllic. If the classiest broad in Hollywood — Olivia Newton-John — would do it, it must be a hopelessly hot experience, I thought.
But it didn’t take more than one attempt at sex on the beach for me to learn that Sandy and Danny had it wrong. Sand gets in places. Specifically, if you have a vagina and any grains get inside of it, they can cause some serious discomfort.
“It may cause micro-abrasions, or tiny injuries or scratches, which can be really uncomfortable,” says Karen Duncan, MD, OB/GYN, an assistant professor at New York University Langone Health. “It can be problematic, and it can happen if you’re sitting in the sand or especially if you’re getting a little frisky.”
But listen, we know that sometimes, the allure of a shoreside hookup is just too tempting to deny. (Or maybe the waves were intense that day and your bathing suit bottoms didn't adequately protect you — whatever.) So we asked Dr. Duncan and other experts exactly what to do if you suspect you've got some grains have made their way down south.
What happens if I get sand in my vagina?
No matter how you end up with sand in your lower extremities — whether you’re building a sand castle or boinking — don’t panic, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a practicing OB/GYN and professor at Yale School of Medicine. “I wouldn’t be too worried about it, it’s uncomfortable and irritating more than anything else,” Dr. Minkin says.
In the worst-case scenario, though, sand can cause abrasions, or disrupt the pH balance of the vagina, potentially causing a bacterial infection, says Dr. Duncan. The bacteria may come more from contaminants in the sand than the sand itself, she adds. “Animals walk on the sand, there’s bird poop, kids are in it — things you wouldn’t preferentially want in the vagina,” Dr. Duncan says. “But it’s unlikely to cause a major problem.”
If you notice irritation that doesn't clear up in a few days, you can try an over-the-counter drug such as Rephresh Pro-B Probiotic, Minkin says. But if you're really in pain, you suspect you have a UTI, or you continue to have issues for more than a week or two, it's worth a call to your OB/GYN.
How do I get sand out of my vagina?
“The vagina is like a self cleaning oven,” Dr. Duncan says. “It’s very forgiving, is constantly lubricated, and the sand will eventually make its way out on its own." There’s no need to douche or use any ‘cleaning products’ on the vagina, she adds. Douching often does more harm than good, and can "change the pH and put you at risk for [bacterial vaginosis] or yeast infections," Dr. Duncan adds.
Dr. Duncan recommends peeing after sex on the beach (or sex anytime, really). This can prevent urinary tract infections by flushing away any bacteria that's gotten near the opening of the urethra. Also take a shower ASAP and rinse your vulva with water to remove sand from the folds there. Sure, the ocean is, like, right there — but if the sand has caused any microabrasions, the salt water may sting. Rinse your butt, too, Dr. Duncan says, to remove any sand that may have crept between your cheeks.
How can I prevent getting sand in my vagina?
“Don’t be nude when you’re in direct contact with the sand,” Dr. Duncan says. Yes, nude beaches are fun and exhilarating, but you're safer if you wear bikini bottoms at least. Also smart: “I highly recommend a beach tent,” says Shula Melamed, a relationship and wellbeing coach. It will protect you from both sunburn and from sand getting everywhere. Or bring a large towel or beach chair with you to the shore so you can avoid direct contact with the ground. Finally, bring extra underwear to change into in case your bathing suit gets full of sand. This can help you avoid yeast infections too.
All this is great advice if you're planning on having sex, too. (Just make sure you're somewhere private!)