Those of us who’ve experienced acne know that pimples don’t restrict themselves to just sprouting up on our faces. They’re the ultimate party crashers; always showing up in unexpected and unwanted places. Your back. Your chest. And, oh yeah, your vagina.
Luckily there’s typically no reason to worry when your pimples migrate down south. In fact, dermatologist Angela Lamb, M.D. says that although “patients find it alarming as they think that you can only get pimples on your face, chest or back, you can actually get pimples anywhere where you have oil glands on your body.” Including your vagina.
Here’s why zits might be popping up where the sun don’t shine:
According to Lamb, hair removal is often the number-one culprit for vaginal pimples. “We are covered in bacteria on our skin,” she explains. “So anytime you create an irritation”—like ripping out your hair with hot wax—“that creates a portal for bacteria to enter.” Waxing can lead to folliculitis or inflammation of the hair follicles. When new hair is growing in, bacteria might enter the area as well. And ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, a pimple is born.
It turns out you don’t just need to worry about razor burn and ingrown hairs when you shave down there. Like waxing, shaving can also lead to folliculitis, which can lead to pimples. “When you shave, you’re making little, tiny micro-cuts, which can actually introduce bacteria from the outside,” Lamb says. So instead of getting a pimple because of your skin bacteria, you’re introducing external bacteria from the razor. You still have a pimple, but for a slightly different reason.
“Any time you sweat or have a buildup of moisture, that can create a petri dish for bacteria to grow,” says Lamb. Thus, perspiration can lead to breakouts anywhere from your chest to your back to your vaginal region. One way of preventing this is making sure you shower after a workout to keep sweat and bacteria from clogging those pores.
According to Lamb, wearing tight and restrictive clothing like workout gear and bathing suits can also lead to vaginal acne because it traps moisture by the skin. Loose and breathable clothes reduce the amount of stagnant sweat and oil saturating a particular area.
Thankfully there are lots of ways you can choose to treat vaginal acne. “You can get prescription topical or oral antibiotics,” says Lamb. “Other things are using benzoyl peroxide washes.”
But if you notice bumps in your vaginal reason, it also might be a good idea to go see your doctor since Lamb warns, “What sometimes people think are pimples are in fact other things like milia cysts, epidermal inclusion cysts, or genital warts.”