If I were to rank everything I don’t miss about puberty — and, trust me, there’s a lot — hormonal breakouts would trump them all. I can remember this one time during cheerleading practice, I took a selfie with a friend, and she gasped at the photo, turned to me, and said I have forehead pimples "in every picture we take together,” as if my blemishes offended her. I could not wait to grow up and say buh-bye to acne once and for all, so you can imagine my surprise when I started noticing signs of vaginal acne years later. That's right, ladies: Your vag can have breakouts, too, so yay for your female reproductive parts dealing with the same sh*t your forehead, cheeks, and nose did in middle school! Not.
Now, you might be reading this and thinking, “No, Julia, you probably just have a classic case of razor burn down there, not vagina pimples, because what even is that?" But don’t get it twisted, friends: Vaginal breakouts are 110 percent a thing. According to Ewelina Luczak, head esthetician and waxer for Chicago-based sister companies Trim and Reishi Beauty, the little red bumps that come from razor burn are the result of skin irritation, while acne, on the other hand, happens when your skin is irritated, as well as inflamed. So while razor bumps (which, BTW, are actually ingrown hairs stuck under the skin) will typically pop up post-shave or -wax, Luczak tells Elite Daily, acne is “a systematic problem that can be caused by a number of triggers.”
According to Luczak, any woman can experience vaginal acne for all kinds of reasons, including changes in your hormones, your sweat, and your daily nutrition.
OK, so I might be exaggerating just a smidge: Vaginal acne isn’t exactly the "puberty 2.0" of adulthood. However, Kyrin Dunston, M.D., a board-certified OB/GYN in Georgia, told Prevention that, even though vaginal acne is nowhere near as common of a problem as forehead breakouts, bacne, or chest pimples, “it’s not rare, either.”
See, the acne you’re grappling with during puberty is caused by fluctuating hormones. While that’s part of what can cause vaginal acne, it’s just one of many reasons why pimples might be popping up in your private area. Luczak tells Elite Daily vaginal breakouts can definitely be caused by hormonal imbalances, but your food and drink preferences might have something to do with it, too — which kind of makes sense, right? Think about how the foods you eat affect your facial blemishes: Refined sugars and dairy, for example, are two food groups that tend to be bad for your skin, and are likely to cause breakouts on your chin, your chest, and, of course, smack-dab in the middle of your cheeks. According to Luczak, because “pimples can be caused by the body pushing toxins out through the skin,” your focus, then, should be on 1) keeping tabs on your intake of overly fatty foods and/or alcohol, and 2) drinking a lot of hydrating fluids to help flush out all those toxins.
Vaginal acne can also happen when your body feels overheated from things like warm baths and sweaty workouts.
If your vag can’t take the heat, listen to your body and simmer down a bit. I know myself, and when I’m working up a sweat, I’m thinking about wiping away the droplets on my forehead, not airing out my underwear. When your body’s pushed to its limits though, every part of you is feeling the burn. If things get too sweaty down south, Luczak tells Elite Daily, the combination of sweat and damp clothing “can trap dirt and oil in the pores, leading to breakouts."
You might also want to consider making the switch from hot, steamy bath-time rituals to cooler cleanses, at least for a little while. Trust me, I’m all for self-pampering and indulging in a warm, bubbly soak at the end of a long day, but Luczak says vaginal acne might be a sign you’re in hot water, literally: “Taking showers that are too hot, or even baths, can lead to breakouts in the vaginal area due to the rise of internal body temperature,” she tells Elite Daily. When this happens, she says, the rise in body temperature can also “cause toxins to be pushed out,” resulting in breakouts.
At the same time, Luczak warns, vaginal acne can creep up on you as a result of improper exfoliation down there. So basically, what you want to do is take lukewarm showers as often as possible, and make sure you’re cleaning the area well enough, so that dead skin and bacteria won’t clog your pores and cause pimples.
Vaginal acne is a real thing, but rest assured, Luczak says it's rarely an ongoing issue, and there are plenty of ways to get rid of these uncomfortable blemishes.
So your vagina broke out — what now? Getting pimples in your private area isn't exactly a picnic, but the good news is, there's no need to panic. Acne sprouts in a very specific area down there because, as Dr. Gunvor Ekman-Ordeberg, medical advisor to DeoDoc Intimate Skincare, tells Elite Daily, "there is no hair growth internally." As a result, blemishes will only form outside the vagina on the vulva (aka the external female genitalia), at the bottom of the hair follicles.
There are a few ways to go about preventing vaginal acne before it has the chance to pop up: First, Dr. Ekman-Ordeberg suggests being very selective when it comes to choosing female hygiene products like oils, shaving products, lotions, and the like. "Similar to a great facial skincare routine," she tells Elite Daily, "the intimate skin is also in need of great skincare products to prevent dryness, irritation, acne, etc."
Once you have your bathroom shelf situated, you might also want to check in with your diet. Unfortunately, chocolate and sugary treats that make us feel good usually do nothing for us topically, and according to Dr. Ekman-Ordeberg, they could be the reason why you're seeing little bumps down there. To be safe, she advises cutting back on the sweet stuff, at least temporarily, to see if it makes a difference.
Another huge pro tip to keep in mind: Never try to pop a vagina pimple. #SorryNotSorry for that lovely visual I just gave you, but seriously, popping pimples in general can be disastrous for your skin and, according to Healthline, bursting a vaginal blemish can potentially spread bacteria, lead to infection, and it can be downright painful. Instead, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Janet Prystowsky, MD, PC tells Elite Daily that soaking in a warm bath should help a mild pimple subside. If the acne doesn't go away, and/or becomes painful, be sure to have a doctor take a look at the inflamed area for proper treatment.