and the area around its opening (your vulva) can be caused by several things, from using a body wash that irritates you to infections such as thrush, or skin conditions including eczema. If you’re not sure what’s causing your itching, speak to your doctor about how to treat your symptoms.
“If you’re wondering whether home remedies could be the answer to dealing with your itch – and whether they could save you a trip to the pharmacy or doctor – we’ve looked at what works and what doesn’t work,” says Healthily doctor, Dr Adiele Hoffman. So read on to find out how to stop vaginal itching.
What causes vaginal itching?
There are a number of reasons why your inner vagina skin and vulva might get itchy. You might notice the itching inside or on your inner and outer lips (labia) and clitoris. Sometimes you can get an itchy feeling that goes away on its own. If it carries on it could be one of these common causes:
- – this is very common when your oestrogen levels drop. This can happen after having a baby, if you’re breastfeeding, if you’re taking contraceptive pills or antidepressants, if you’re having cancer treatment or going through the . Vaginal dryness can irritate the inside of your vagina and the skin of your vulva, too
- irritation or allergy from chemicals – bubble bath, soap, laundry detergent, sanitary pads, feminine hygiene sprays, douches, condoms and even toilet paper can all cause irritation that leads to vaginal or vulval itching
- skin conditions such as and – these can affect any part of your skin, including the delicate skin on your vulva, causing redness, itching and soreness
- thrush – a common yeast infection, thrush can cause itching and irritation around the skin folds of your vulva and sometimes inside, too
- shaving rash – shaving your pubic hair can irritate the skin around your vulva, leading to itching and burning
If you’re not sure what’s behind your vaginal itching, use our
, and then speak to your pharmacist or doctor about your symptoms.
Find useful information on other areas of vaginal health with our .
Best home remedies for vaginal itching
Moisturisers for itching and dryness
There are 2 different kinds of moisturiser you can use to soothe your intimate itching.
1. For an itchy vulva, regularly applying unscented moisturising ointment, cream or lotion, called an emollient, can help soothe itchy, sore or dry skin. It protects your skin by acting as a barrier and it prevents flare-ups. According to the British Association of Dermatologists, ointments generally work better on the skin of your vulva than creams and lotions.
What to do: When you go to the toilet, apply some moisturiser onto the toilet paper before you wipe. As well as reducing irritation from toilet paper, it may also soothe your skin and give a better clean.
2. Got an itch inside your vagina? The good news is that you can also buy specially formulated vaginal moisturisers or lubricants from a pharmacy. They are recommended if vaginal dryness is what’s causing your itch and they’re designed not to upset the balance of your healthy vagina bacteria. Just remember to avoid moisturisers that are not intended to be put inside your vagina.
What to do: You apply these moisturisers directly into your vagina – usually as a gel or using an applicator – around three times a week.
Other things you can try include:
- applying moisturiser before showering or having a bath if your shower gel or shampoo irritates you
- keeping your moisturiser in the fridge for extra soothing effects on hot, inflamed skin
- checking your fingernails aren’t chipped or rough – this can scratch and irritate your vulva more – before rubbing in your moisturiser
Cold compress or ice pack for shaving rash
It may help to put a cold compress around your vulval area for relief from shaving irritation. Placing a cold compress or ice pack on your vulva for 5 to 10 minutes can help relieve burning and itching by numbing the feeling.
What to do: Wrap an ice pack or bag of frozen peas in a tea towel and then apply to your vulva. Or run a soft, clean cloth under cold water and apply to your vulva. Applying moisturiser after shaving can also soothe your skin.
Other vaginal itching home remedies that may be worth trying
Finely ground oatmeal for outer itching
Although there’s not much science looking at how colloidal oatmeal – a finely ground oat powder that dissolves easily in water – eases vulval itching, there is evidence that it can help with itchy skin in general. Plus, some women have anecdotally reported that it helps ease vulval itching.
Colloidal oatmeal is found in products like shampoos, lotions and moisturisers, and studies show that it creates a protective film over your skin, sealing in water and keeping out potential irritants.
One small study on women with leg itching found that colloidal oatmeal lotion had anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may improve skin dryness, roughness and itchiness.
What to do: Add colloidal oatmeal to running lukewarm water in your bath and soak for 10 to 15 minutes. After your bath, gently pat your vulva dry. You can also find moisturisers containing colloidal oatmeal in most pharmacies. Just make sure you don’t put it inside your vagina.
Baking soda for eczema, psoriasis or reactions to irritants
This kitchen staple may help relieve itching and inflammation, although the evidence isn’t conclusive.
What to do: You can apply it as a paste to relieve an itchy, irritated vulva caused by eczema or psoriasis, as well as reactions to soaps, moisturisers and other irritants. To make a paste, shake baking soda into a cup and add one drop of water at a time until you get a paste-like consistency. Apply the paste directly to the skin of your vulva.
Adding baking soda to your bath has been reported to help soothe and heal inflamed skin, as well as remove any irritants, like soap or urine, from the vulval area and help it to heal. In one small study, almost all participants with psoriasis who soaked in baking soda baths experienced reduced itchiness and irritation – so much so that they continued with the baths after the study.
Add 4 tablespoons of baking soda to a lukewarm bath and sit in the water for at least 10 minutes.
Yoghurt for thrush – if your doctor agrees
Eating plain yoghurt or applying it directly to your vulva or inside your vagina, is a home remedy you might have heard of for thrush. Here’s the theory: helpful bacteria found in yoghurt can help re-balance and restore the natural bacteria in your vagina and treat the symptoms.
But is there any scientific evidence behind this? There have been some reports that yoghurt and honey mixes may help thrush as much as antifungal creams. One small study found that eating yoghurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus was beneficial against yeast infections and suppressed the growth of yeast.
But there’s no firm evidence to show that yoghurt is effective or safe and it often contains bacteria that are more common in your gut than your vagina.
What to do: Many women apply natural yoghurt to soothe an itchy vulva and you can also eat yoghurt to see if things improve. Given the lack of compelling evidence, thrush is generally best treated with antifungal medicine.
Probiotics for thrush
There’s some evidence that probiotic supplements may help prevent and treat thrush infections because they promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your vagina. Probiotics, which are ‘friendly’ live bacteria and yeasts, are available as oral supplements and vaginal suppositories.
There hasn’t been enough research into probiotics and vaginal health to know for sure if they are effective, whether they can help relieve thrush symptoms or reduce your risk of getting it. Some studies have shown that probiotics could be helpful when used with conventional treatments or even prevent thrush coming back if you have recurrent thrush. It’s thought they might reduce inflammation and so help with the symptoms, rather than actually getting rid of the yeast.
What to do: If you think you have
, talk to your pharmacist or doctor. There isn’t enough evidence that probiotics work so it’s best to treat it with antifungal medicine.
Vaginal itching home remedies to avoid
As with all home remedies, the science doesn’t say for sure whether they work. They may even cause more irritation and itching. These are the vaginal itching remedies that are best avoided:
- apple cider vinegar – touted as a potential remedy for itching caused by thrush, there’s little scientific research to suggest this works and it may end up causing more irritation and burning
- aloe vera – yes, aloe vera has lots of uses and is known for its soothing and moisturising properties, but aloe vera creams can cause skin irritation. There have also been occasional reports of itching, burning and eczema when using aloe gel
- tea tree oil – you may have heard that inserting a tampon soaked with tea tree oil can help with thrush due to its antifungal properties, but this isn’t recommended due to the lack of evidence and possible side effects, including irritation or an allergic reaction
- garlic – known for its antifungal properties, there’s no robust research that suggests garlic is an effective treatment for thrush. It may also cause irritation or allergic reaction, similar to tea tree oil
Self-care to prevent vaginal itching
Keeping your vulva and vagina healthy can help prevent vaginal itching. You may not realise it, but a healthy vagina has the right balance of ‘good’ bacteria and a pH range of between 3.8 and 5.0 during your childbearing years. If this natural balance changes, you’re more likely to get infections, like thrush or
, which are common causes of itching and other symptoms.
You can take care of your vagina’s natural balance and help prevent itching by following these self-care tips:
- gently wash your vulva once a day – it’s best to avoid washing more often because over-cleaning can cause dryness and aggravate symptoms, particularly if you have dry skin or a condition such as eczema
- consider what you use to clean your vulva – avoid soaps, bubble baths and shower gels on your vulval area as they can all contain ingredients which could irritate the delicate skin there. Instead, try a soap substitute such as hydromol
- never wash inside your vagina – this can disrupt your vagina’s bacterial balance. Read more about
- choose breathable cotton underwear and change daily – stay away from synthetic or nylon underwear materials, which can make you sweat and cause irritation
- wear loose-fitting clothes – dresses and skirts tend to be better than trousers because air can get to your vulva
- always wipe from front to back after using the toilet
- avoid using hygiene sprays, perfumes or powders on your vulva or in your vagina
When to see a doctor
While there are things you can try yourself to soothe or prevent vulval or vaginal itching, it’s important to see a doctor if it lasts more than a few days or if it’s severe, doesn’t clear up or keeps coming back.
Seeing a doctor will help you get a diagnosis, get the right treatment, or rule out a condition.
You should see a doctor immediately if you have itching accompanied by:
- a sore vagina
- pain when you pee or when having sex
- bleeding between your periods or after having sex
- vaginal discharge that has changed in colour, smell or texture, or you’re getting more discharge than usual
- pain in the area between your tummy and thighs (pelvis)
- a rash, warts, blisters or sores around your genitals or anus
There are several sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can cause itchiness of your vulva and vagina along with the symptoms mentioned above. If you think you may have an STI, or if you’ve recently had a new sexual partner and you’ve developed an itchy vagina, it’s important you speak to a doctor. You will usually need a sexual health screening.
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Your health questions answered
Could condoms be causing your itching?
“If you have vaginal itching it's important to look for possible triggers. If you notice if happens after sex, it might be useful to know that some people are allergic to latex condoms. If you think they might be the cause you can try an alternative like polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms. These are less likely to cause an allergic reaction,” says
, Healthily Clinical Content Reviewer.