Of all the places you can get pimples, the area around your vagina is probably the most uncomfortable. Some individuals may refer to pimples on the labia (the outer lips) as "pimples on the vagina." It's important to note that the bumps are not actually on the vagina. The vagina is a tubular structure, supported by the pelvic floor muscles, that is an opening in vulva that leads to the cervix of the uterus.
However, since many call the vulva the vagina, people may use the phrase "pimples on the vagina" to describe the areas where the bumps appear.The term refers to breakouts of bumps that look like pimples on the outer genitals of the vaginal area, or the vulva. The vulva includes the labia (majora and minora), clitoris, and urethral and vaginal openings.
These pimples can form when hair follicles become irritated and inflamed (e.g., from waxing or shaving), or from other causes. The pimples are generally harmless but may look similar to bumps that are symptoms of other conditions. They are also treatable and can be prevented.
Although bumps on the vulva are common, there's not a lot of research about the condition. Still, some researchers have suggested that the pimples can look similar to facial or torso acne.
In other words, it's possible that the bumps might have the same appearance as:
- Blackheads: Clogged follicles at the surface of the skin that are open and discolored
- Nodules: Deep, large, and painful lesions in the skin
- Papules: Small, pink, and inflamed skin lesions
- Pustules or pimples: Papules that can have a red base but a white or yellow pus-filled lesion at the top
- Whiteheads: Clogged follicles beneath the skin surface that look white
Other Symptoms of Pimples on the Labia
Participants in a small study—who experienced what the researchers called vulval acne—also reported symptoms such as:
- Vulval pain or lesions
- Dyspareunia (pain during sex)
- Itchy or painful papules
- Itchy or painful pustules
What Can Cause Pimples on the Labia?
It's thought that the same things that cause pimples in other areas may also cause them in your genital area.
Your skin is lined with follicles and pores surrounding single strands of fine hair connected to sebaceous oil glands. Usually, the oil exits through the pore to the skin's surface. However, when it doesn't, the result can be clogged pores.
Since the skin on your genitals has follicles, just like other areas of your body, they can get clogged as well. "The sweat glands and hair follicles [near your vagina] are prone to dirt buildup just as any other area of the body with hair and sweat is," Sherry Ross, MD, a Los Angeles–based OB-GYN and author of "She-ology," told Health.
Contact dermatitis may also be a reason for pimples on the vulva. When contact dermatitis occurs, it can appear as a rash with red bumps that result in blisters.
There are two kinds of contact dermatitis: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.
In situations where your skin reacts to friction or substances that are irritating, irritant contact dermatitis can occur. The reactions can happen after a short time of contact or after repeated contact with the substances.
When your skin comes in contact with certain substances it's sensitive to, such as a new body wash, it can trigger allergic contact dermatitis. Some common triggers of allergic contact dermatitis include:
- Body wash
- Bed linens
- Poison ivy
Also, if you've ingested something you're allergic to, symptoms can show up in the vaginal area.
Like in cases of facial acne, hormonal fluctuations related to your period may make the bumps worse or more likely. Hormones can cause an increased response in sebaceous glands.
Other than hormones, there are some risk factors for acne in general that could possibly play a role in vaginal pimples. The factors may be things such as:
- Family history
- Certain medications (e.g., ones with corticosteroids)
What Can Worsen Pimples?
Other things that can worsen pimples on the face might potentially also worsen pimples on the labia. Those things include:
- Some medications
- Environmental pollutants
- Scrubbing your skin too hard
- Pressure on the area
How Are Pimples on the Labia Diagnosed?
It’s likely that a healthcare provider will diagnose pimples on the labia using the same process for diagnosing skin conditions in general. Parts of the process include the following:
- Examination: Providers will look at the pimples to determine what might be causing them. Some skin conditions can be diagnosed solely based on what they look like.
- History: Information such as medical history or travel history may be important to figure out what may be causing the bumps.
- Diagnostic tests: If a provider cannot determine the cause of any bumps or pimples with exams or history, they may use other tests (e.g., patch testing in cases of contact dermatitis).
Treatments for Pimples on the Labia
Treatment of pimples on your labia can be similar to treating pimples on the face. Options for treatment may be based on the severity of the breakout.
Beyond taking care of the skin in your vaginal area, possible recommended treatments might include:
- Topical antibiotics (e.g., clindamycin) for acute symptoms
- Oral antibiotics (e.g., erythromycin/lymecycline) for pimples that have not responded well to topical antibiotics
- Oral contraception (e.g., Cyproterone acetate) if the pimples are related to hormones
Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, suggested applying a hot compress to the area, which can help reduce the swelling and redness and make the pimples easier to forget about. Soaking in a warm bath for 20 to 30 minutes may also help ease inflammation.
Whatever you do, don't even think about popping any of the pimples. That can lead to an infection and more breakouts, warned Dr. Jaliman. Popping or squeezing any pimples can also lead to scars and dark spots.
To prevent unpleasant labia bumps from occurring again in the future, keep the skin near your vagina clean. That's especially true if you're going to shave, wax, or use another hair removal method there. In fact, you may notice an increase in bumps from shaving or waxing too frequently, which can cause folliculitis or ingrown hairs for some.
However, book an appointment with an OB-GYN or dermatologist if:
- A bump is particularly painful.
- It has been a couple of weeks, and the pimple isn't going away,
- You experience these bumps regularly.
It's helpful to speak with a healthcare provider if you experience bumps in your vaginal area. You may find these bumps distressing, which can impact both your mental and sexual health. It's better to seek out care sooner instead of waiting.
Also, if you have pimples and bumps that last more than five days, having a healthcare provider check them out is a good idea. It's possible that what you're seeing isn't a pimple but a symptom of something else.
Some conditions that may present as pimples on the labia include:
- Bacterial folliculitis: Smaller lesions caused by bacteria that can spread to the buttocks
- Hidradenitis suppurativa: Lumps or abscesses that look like boils and can affect the groin and the skin under a person's breasts
- Infected Bartholin cysts: Pus-filled lumps on one side of the vaginal opening
- Sebaceous adenitis: Inflammation around sebaceous glands (glands that make oil under the skin)
Certain STIs, such as herpes and genital warts, can also cause bumps that resemble pimples. A bump that doesn't go away could also be a skin tag. Although you can't expect a skin tag to go away by itself, you can rest assured that skin tags are not dangerous.
Living With Pimples on the Labia
Though bumps in the vaginal area are common, they are underreported because individuals hesitate to talk with a healthcare provider about the condition. Seeking medical attention sooner rather than later can help you get appropriate treatment for the bumps.
Also, in some cases, it's possible that the pimples can reappear in the future (e.g., if they are related to the timing of your periods). However, treatment and preventative measures related to the causes of the bumps can help keep them at bay.
A Quick Review
You can get pimples on your labia just like anywhere else. Usually, they're just annoying and will clear up on their own, but you can use an over-the-counter acne treatment to help them go away sooner. If they are particularly painful, haven't gone away after a couple of weeks, or you get them often, see a healthcare provider.
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