Eczema is an itchy skin condition that typically develops on the hands, face, backs of the knees and creases of the elbows. However, it can also appear in less obvious places– like the vulva. Read on for more information on vulvar eczema and how to treat it.
Please keep in mind that although what we discuss in this post can relieve eczema, we are in no way medical professionals. If you’re experiencing severe eczema symptoms like an infection, it is best to seek medical advice immediately.
What is Vulvar Eczema?
Eczema on the vulva causes the soft folds of the skin around the opening of the vagina to become red and itchy. Different types of eczema can affect the genital area including atopic eczema, seborrhoeic dermatitis, allergic contact eczema and irritant contact eczema. In addition to affecting the vulva, the opening of the anus and the skin between the cheeks of the buttocks can also be affected. As with all types of eczema, this is a long-term condition. While there is no cure, there are ways to control and treat symptoms.
What Can Cause Irritation?
The precise cause of vulvar eczema is unknown but it’s generally linked to contact allergy. It can also be caused by yeast infections or sexually transmitted infections. That being said, there are several things that can cause irritation in the genital area. These include tight clothing, heat, sweating, and constant friction between skin surfaces. Other common irritants include:
- Scented soap, bubble baths, detergent, shampoo, conditioner, shower gels
- Baby or hygiene wipes
- Lubricants, spermicides
- Talcum powder, deodorants, perfume
- Panty liners and their adhesives
- Toilet paper
In addition, eczema on the vulva can be triggered by vaginal secretions, sweat, and urine. During menstruation eczema can worsen, making it important to use a tampon or sanitary towel that is comfortable and fragrance free. Because everyone is different, it’s important to understand your body. You might need to try several products before you find one that works for you.
It is advisable to speak to your GP or doctor to get a proper diagnosis.
Caring for Vulvar Eczema
To help you deal with the itchy, painful, and uncomfortable symptoms of vulvar eczema, there are some measures you can take. As you can imagine, gentle care is a must.
Practice Good Hygiene: This is obviously very important. However, it’s crucial not to overdo it as this can cause further irritation. We recommend washing no more than once a day. Use lukewarm water and a mild, natural soap. Avoid the possible irritants mentioned above as these can further dry out and aggravate your skin. Pat dry with a towel - no rubbing! Remember, aggressive cleansing can irritate your skin. Be gentle with your body.
Avoid Sex: It is best to avoid sex until you are feeling better. This is because sperm fluid can make irritant eczema worse. In addition, it is harder to practice safe sex, especially if you are allergic to latex, as most condoms, diaphragms and caps are made from this material. Spermicides and lubricates can also irritate the genital area. Finally, bear in mind that emollients can reduce the effectiveness of condoms and diaphragms if they have been recently applied.
Stop Scratching: It’s important to avoid scratching as this can worsen your eczema and possibly lead to infection. To help relieve the itch, we recommend using a cold pack or taking a cool bath. We also recommend wearing protective gloves. These bamboo gloves for adults and kids are made from biodegradable bamboo. They’re perfect for wearing overnight to avoid scratching during your sleep.
Apply a Natural Emollient: To avoid infection, always wash your hands before and after applying a moisturizer. Our top pick is this Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream. It’s perfect for applying anywhere on the body - even the delicate areas - because it’s made with 100% natural ingredients. This oil-based balm is gentle and nourishing, without any burning or stinging.
Wear the Right Underwear: Finally, it’s important to wear clothing that won’t further irritate your skin. We recommend these Remedywear™ Women's Bikini Panties. Made with TENCEL and embedded with anti-inflammatory zinc, they were designed to protect and soothe your skin. Featuring anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, the panties also provide moisture wicking properties to help the skin breathe without sweaty irritation.
You can also try our Women's Latex Free Panties, specifically designed for women with vaginal eczema or vaginal dermatitis. These were made with natural 100% organic cotton, making them perfect for those suffering from a latex sensitivity. Offering the perfect amount of stretch and hypoallergenic elastic at the openings, they’re comfortable to wear all day or night.
Last but not least, you can try our Low Rise Brief for great-fitting underwear. Your sensitive skin will enjoy the soothing touch of the 100% organic cotton. Completely chemical-free with no synthetic materials, this underwear was made to protect your skin and ensure feminine comfort.
Bio: Laura is a contributor and content developer for The Eczema Company. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes.