It can be scary when something is different about your intimate area, but it shouldn’t necessarily be a cause for alarm. Performing routine checks of your vulva is something we strongly encourage so you can better understand your body, and notice when something just doesn’t seem quite right. Some things are cause for concern (and a trip to the doctor) but you shouldn’t go into panic mode right away, as some changes are easy to care for.
There are a lot of things that these little bumps could be - let’s walk through some of the possibilities and how to deal with them. And as always, please consult your health care practitioner if something truly does seem off!
(CONTENT WARNING: we’ve linked to multiple sites with more information on certain conditions, and because of the nature of this topic, following these links might mean you’ll be seeing pictures. Definitely read the linked articles for more information, but be aware of your surroundings when you do.)
Examples of regular changes you may see on your vulva
A lot of these little blemishes are the same as anywhere else on your body: it’s because of irritation or build up of some kind. Many of these issues will actually resolve themselves!
Ingrown hair: Ah, the dreaded ingrown hair. We’ve all experienced it, when a hair gets trapped under the skin instead of growing out. They can be painful, but typically resolve themselves. Adding a gentle exfoliating wash (one with AHA and BHA’s) to your routine can help remove some of the dead skill cells and prep the skin, which might help cut down on these.
Skintags: Skin tags can happen anywhere on your body, although they typically happen on places like eyelids, earlobes, and yes, the groin. They are harmless and can develop over time, although they risk getting caught on things and pulling. If they are bothering you, and you do wish to get them removed, your Doctor will be able to assist.
With these types of issues, no doctor intervention is necessary. Although obviously if you’re worried or if they start causing you problems, it never hurts to make a call to someone!
The importance of an effective skincare routine
Skin is skin, so your skincare routine can hugely impact the quality of your skin anywhere, including on your vulva! Depending on what kind of issue you’re seeing with your skin, changing up your washing routine can help things out.
Rashes: Some rashes do require medical intervention, while others may eventually go away themselves! If you’re just feeling a little itchy or you recognize something that feels like an allergic reaction, changing your soap (a wash specifically formulated for the intimate area such as our Nourish wash can certainly help) or your laundry detergent (which is often harsh and heavily fragranced) might go a long way to clearing that up.
Pimples: Just like on your face, the skin on and around your vulva might break out from time to time when pores get clogged. This often happens after shaving, and exfoliating and gentle cleanses can really help to clear this up.
As always, your washing routine (remember, not the vagina- just the vulva) should include gentle, non-scented soaps that won’t throw off your balance. If your skin isn’t reacting well, seeing a dermatologist can help.
When to see your Doctor
So, sometimes you see things pop up down there that definitely need a second opinion. If you’re not sure what you’re seeing, you should always err on the side of caution and see a doctor: when it comes to your health, better safe than sorry!
Cysts: Cysts can occur within the vagina or outside the vagina, and they can be quite scary! Feeling like a soft lump under the skin, most of these cysts don’t cause any symptoms other than discomfort (and worry). Depending on the type of cyst you have, doctors may need to perform biopsies, drain the cyst, prescribe antibiotics, or just monitor the progression of the cyst.
Genital warts: The most common type of STI, genital warts look like small raised flesh-colored bumps. They are a type of HPV that can not be cured, but can be treated with medication. Seeing a doctor is crucial to diagnose and treat these warts so that you can manage your symptoms and prevent passing it on to your partner.
Genital herpes: Herpes is another STI that results in physical bumps and marks on your intimate area. A herpes sore will appear as a blister on or around your genitals during an outbreak, although you may carry the virus without an outbreak occurring. If you are sexually active, it’s important to be testing regularly and have these conversations with your partners so that you can protect your health. Herpes is incurable, but with treatment, you can bring your viral load down and not pass it on to a partner.
Cancer: Unfortunately, there are many types of cancer we have to contend with. Some of those cancers have warning signs like bumps and lumps so that you can catch them and intervene. If you have an unfamiliar lump in your intimate area, and you’ve ruled out other options, or you have a reason to believe it could be cancer, talk with your doctor so that they can order tests. Cancer treatment has never been better, so early detection is easier than ever.
Having something unfamiliar in this most sensitive area of your body can be quite scary and uncomfortable. But being aware of the changes in your body is important to protecting yourself and your health.
This list is non-exhaustive but it’s a good place to start. Some of these things can be no big deal, but as always, if you’re unsure, always talk to a doctor. They’re here to help!