Everything You Need To Know About Vaginal Dryness — Yep, We're Going There

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
When it comes to discussing our vaginas, we can be bit shy — or, we can be hypochondriacs. (Is that itchy feeling a yeast infection? An STD? Or just run-of-the-mill vaginal itchiness?) One uncomfortable ailment down there that some women experience is vaginal dryness — and we're going to demystify it for you.

Like dryness in any other part of your body, vaginal dryness isn’t just uncomfortable; it can feel itchy or even burn. A lack of lubrication down there can make sex a pretty painful experience and can even cause some light bleeding. (Ouch!) A dry vagina can also lead to issues with urination, including more frequent UTIs.

Vaginal dryness can be the result of both psychological and physical causes. Just because you’re suffering from it, though, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it for good; there are ways to get your vagina back to its happy, slippery state. YouBeauty spoke to Columbia professor and gynecologist Hilda Hutcherson, MD, as well as acupuncturist and nutritionist Lyndsay von Miller, about the main causes of vaginal dryness — and the best ways to keep it to a minimum. 

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Causes Of Vaginal Dryness: 
1. Medications. Certain medications can just suck your body dry, and your vagina is what really gets zapped. Meds like birth control pills, antihistamines, and even some asthma medications can cause your body to produce far smaller amounts of vaginal lubrication. If you steer away from cold medicines that contain antihistamines, and opt for other methods of birth control and other brands of asthma medication (after discussing with your doctor, of course), you may find that your vagina will respond better. 

2. Medical problems. According to Dr. Hutcherson, both heart disease and diabetes do a number on your body and can lead to vaginal dryness. Women with cancer who receive radiation or chemo treatments to their pelvic areas are also susceptible. 

3. Hormonal changes. A decrease in estrogen in a woman’s body will wreak total havoc on her vagina. Menopause should be an empowering event, but it can make you feel like you've got the Sahara Desert between your legs. (As if hot flashes, incontinence, loss of libido, brittle bones, and all the rest weren't enough.) Also, a woman’s body will also see lower levels of estrogen right after childbirth, especially if she chooses to breastfeed. 

Related: Menopause — Great Sex Doesn't End Here

4. Soaps and hygiene products. Breaking news: You don’t need to douche. Your vagina is more than capable of cleaning itself on its own, and douching — especially over-douching — is a one-way ticket to sucking the life out of your ladybits. Soaps (specifically, fragrant ones loaded with chemicals and dyes) also aren’t doing your vagina any favors. Just wash gently on the external part of your labia. 

5. Stress and anxiety. If your mind isn’t in tip-top condition, you can’t expect your body to be, either. When you’re stressed out or dealing with a lot of anxiety, your sexual desire drops — putting the stops on your body’s natural ability to lubricate during sex. 

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
How To Prevent & Treat Vaginal Dryness:
1. Drink lots of water.  Hydration is paramount. While plain water may seem like the best idea, acupuncturist Lyndsay von Miller says the best way to keep your entire body (especially your vagina) well moisturized is by adding electrolytes to your water. "You want a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of sea salt, and a dollop of maple syrup in a 16oz glass of water; [it] will do your body well," she advises.  

2. Get some more oils — inside and out. While over-the-counter lube is a great way to keep your vagina wet during intercourse, there are still things you can do on a daily basis to keep your insides moisturized, too. “If you up your oil intakes, you’ll see some positive changes, because oils are great lubricators,” explains von Miller. "Just adding a tablespoon of coconut oil to your morning drink is the simplest way to get your day off on the right foot.” 

Related: What's Your Vagina Supposed To Smell Like? 

3. Amp up your foreplay. According to Dr. Hutcherson, the number-one reason for vaginal dryness during intercourse is because you’re not getting enough foreplay. In the beginning of a sexual relationship, your body may naturally lubricate itself almost immediately. But, over time, your response to desire changes, and more effort is required to get your body to that point of wetness.  

And, Dr. Hutcherson says, "women will need much more [foreplay] time. It is not because [women are] not interested in sex; it’s because [our] hormones begin to decline naturally... For some women, it may take many minutes (15 or more) of foreplay (kissing, massage, touch, oral stimulation, etc.) to get things going."

4. Nourish your yin. You can opt for estrogen supplements, if you’d like, or you can go the more holistic approach by eating differently (cooked pears are supposedly a great yin-booster) and stocking up on herbs from which your body will really benefit. "In Chinese medicine, estrogen deficiency is sometimes correlated with 'yin deficiency,' and acupuncture and herbal medicine can address this very effectively," says von Miller. A trip to your acupuncturist can help; he or she will know what herbs are best to nourish your yin. 

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