Why Is My Vagina Area Dark?

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You may find dark spots on your vagina or vulva for multiple reasons. Some causes, like aging, friction, and hormones, are less concerning than others. But sometimes dark spots can be problematic.

The color of your vulva usually coincides with the tone of your skin and can range from pink to brown. Being familiar with your body and what is normal can help you identify changes in pigment.

This article explains what causes dark spots on the vagina and vulva.

Woman sitting with gynecologist

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What Causes Dark Spots?

To understand when dark spots on your vagina are abnormal, get to know what pigment is typical for you by becoming familiar with how your genitals look. That way, you'll be better able to identify changes.

Rest assured that dark spots are often benign (not harmful), but it's always best to get them checked out by a healthcare provider.

Age

As you age, your body changes, including your vagina and vulva. As estrogen declines during menopause, the vagina begins to atrophy (thin). In addition, blood flow to the area reduces, and the vagina becomes drier. All of these changes can make your vagina and vulva appear darker.

Friction

Vaginal or vulvar friction can make the genitals more susceptible to dermatological (skin) conditions, including pruritus (vaginal itching), as well as skin color and texture changes. Common causes of friction include vaginal intercourse, tight clothing, and riding a bike.

Vaginal Infections

Common infections can also cause dark spots on the vagina. For example, vulvovaginitis, swelling or infection of the vulva and vagina, can result in skin discoloration.

Yeast infections, most often due to an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans, are a common cause of vulvovaginitis. Yeast infections often are accompanied by changes in skin pigmentation. In addition to skin changes, symptoms include itching, pain, and discharge.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is when cysts grow on the ovaries, often resulting in infertility and other symptoms. People with PCOS often have acne and other skin problems, including dark patches called acanthosis nigricans (AN).

In one study of participants who were seen in a hospital in India, researchers found that 56% of people with PCOS had AN. This skin condition affects the top layers of skin, which become thick and dark. AN is an indicator of hyperinsulinemia (high levels of insulin) and diabetes, which are risk factors associated with PCOS.

Hormones

The hormones estrogen and progesterone play a role in skin pigmentation. Specifically, estrogen increases skin pigmentation, while progesterone decreases it.

When hormones are in balance, the skin maintains a usual pigmentation. However, an imbalance in these hormones can result in dark spots on the skin, including the vulva and vagina.

Skin pigmentation changes often occur during pregnancy, when these hormones experience significant fluctuation.

Vulvar Cancer

Rarely a dark spot on the vulva can be a sign of cancer. Symptoms of vulvar cancer include:

  • Lumps
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Change in skin texture
  • A mole on the vulva

While these can also be symptoms of less serious conditions, you may still want to get a mole or other growth on the vulva or vagina examined by a healthcare provider.

What Is the Difference Between a Vagina and Vulva?

The vagina is inside your body. The canal starts at the cervix and ends at the outside of the body.

"Vulva" is a blanket term for your exterior genitals. It includes the mons pubis (fatty tissue in front of the pubic bone), labia majora and minora (large and small vulvar lips), clitoris, and urethra. These structures may appear pinkish or brownish, depending on your skin tone.

How to Get Rid of Dark Spots on Your Vagina

Treating a dark spot depends on the cause. The following treatments may work for different conditions:

  • Infections may require medications.
  • Hormonal issues may resolve on their own (in the case of pregnancy).
  • Age-related hormonal fluctuations may benefit from hormone therapy.
  • Using lubrication during vaginal sex.
  • Adjusting clothing choices may help with friction-related discoloration.
  • PCOS treatments include lifestyle modifications, medication, and surgery.
  • Cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment.

Since it can be challenging to know how to treat dark spots on the vagina without a proper diagnosis, seek a medical evaluation first.

Prevention

You can't always prevent dark spots on the vagina due to aging, hormonal fluctuations, and existing health conditions. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of vulvar inflammation and irritation, friction, and yeast infections, which include:

  • Wear loose, breathable garments.
  • Use lubrication during vaginal intercourse.
  • Avoid scented menstrual products, which can disrupt your vaginal pH.
  • Avoid douching.
  • Wipe front to back.
  • Be familiar with your vulva and vagina by examining them periodically.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Since so many conditions' symptoms overlap, it can be difficult to tell when something is benign or harmful. Therefore, whenever you experience changes in your vagina or vulva, including dark spots, it's best to have it evaluated by a healthcare provider.

If your dark spot is accompanied by signs of infection, such as a fever, fatigue, muscle aches, or swollen lymph nodes, seek medical attention immediately.

Summary

Dark spots on the vagina or vulva may result from aging, hormonal fluctuations, or friction. In addition, more serious things like PCOS, infections, and cancer may cause them. Treatment depends on the cause, so an accurate diagnosis is essential. Since symptoms often overlap, you should seek a medical evaluation if you notice changes in your genital skin pigmentation.

A Word From Verywell

If you're not performing vaginal self-exams, it's an excellent time to start. These exams familiarize you with the normal appearance of your genitals. That means if changes do occur, you'll notice them sooner.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it normal to have dark spots on your vagina?

    Skin on your vagina or vulva is typically pinkish or brown, depending on your skin tone. Having a distinctly darker area is not usual. The only way to know what is normal for you is to become familiar with the appearance of your genitals by performing regular vulvar and vaginal self-exams.

  • Can you lighten up dark spots on the vagina?

    Skin-lightening creams can treat hyperpigmentation (areas of skin that are darker than others). They work by decreasing your body's melanin production. However, these products come with risks and should never be applied to the genitals without a healthcare provider's guidance.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Szymański JK, Słabuszewska-Jóźwiak A, Jakiel G. Vaginal aging-What we know and what we do not knowInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(9):4935. doi:10.3390/ijerph18094935

  2. Chen Y, Bruning E, Rubino J, Eder SE. Role of female intimate hygiene in vulvovaginal health: Global hygiene practices and product usageWomens Health (Lond). 2017;13(3):58-67. doi:10.1177/1745505717731011

  3. National Library of Medicine. Vulvovaginitis.

  4. G S, A B, Kamath A, et al. Acanthosis nigricansin PCOS patients and its relation with type 2 diabetes mellitus and body mass at a tertiary care hospital in southern IndiaJ Clin Diagn Res. 2013;7(2):317-319. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2013/4930.2756

  5. Natale CA, Duperret EK, Zhang J, et al. Sex steroids regulate skin pigmentation through nonclassical membrane-bound receptorsElife. 2016;5:e15104. doi:10.7554/eLife.15104

By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.