Contact dermatitis is the most common cause of chronic vulvar/vaginal complaints. It can cause itching, burning or redness. There are two possible causes of contact dermatitis. The first is the skin can become irritated from over washing, using harsh products or having constant moisture in the area. The other possibility is an allergic reaction to something in your environment.

If your condition has been going on for a long period of time, the skin can become thickened. Even after the diagnosis has been made, it may take a long treatment period before the skins is normal. (Example: changing soap did not help so the patient assumes the problem is not the soap, actually the skin needed to heal and this can take many weeks). After menopause or before puberty, the skin is even more sensitive and therefore this problem is more common.

Chronic itching can be a sign of precancerous or cancerous cells and therefore always needs to be seen by a gynecologist before any treatment or ointments applied.

Common Vulva/Vagina Irritants:

  • Soaps/cleansers
  • Over the counter medications
  • Sweat, urine, feces
  • Spermicides Douches Panty Liners/pads Shaving (razors)

Common Vulva/Vagina Allergens:

  • Vagisil Condoms/Latex/Spermicides
  • Neosporin
  • Lanolin
  • KY Jelly
  • Nail Polish (scratching)
  • Perfume


  • Stop all irritants or allergens
  • Only use water and hands in shower to wash (no washcloths)
  • Vaseline or Eucerin cream to form a barrier and coat area – Store in fridge – keep it cold!
  • Cotton underwear only
  • Topical steroid ointments may be prescribed by your doctor
  • With periods, use tampons rather than pads if possible
  • Apply ice, frozen peas or a frozen blue gel pack (lunch box size) wrapped in hand towel to relieve burning. But, be careful not to overdo, since frostbite is a real possibility.
  • Use a lubricant with sexual activity. Women with vaginal symptoms tend to be dry. Astroglide, Slippery Stuff, or vegetable oil (not K-Y) are good choices for a lubricant.

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