Vaginal Dryness and Menopause: What You Need to Know

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

This article is part of Health Divide: Menopause and Black Women, a destination in our Health Divide series.

Vaginal dryness is common during menopause. The symptom can negatively affect a person’s sex drive and lead to pain or discomfort during penetrative intercourse. Vaginal dryness in menopause may feel different for different people, with Black and Latinx people experiencing worse symptoms than people from other racial groups.

This article discusses the causes and treatment options for vaginal dryness during menopause.

A peron holds a clipboard in front of a woman in a medical waiting room

FG Trade / Getty Images

What Causes Vaginal Dryness During Menopause?

Low levels of the hormone estrogen cause vaginal dryness during menopause. One of the primary jobs of estrogen is regulating the menstrual cycle, but it also plays a role in the following:

  • Stimulating the growth of egg follicles in the ovaries
  • Maintaining the vaginal wall and the mucus membrane that lines the uterus
  • Promoting lubrication
  • Formation of breast tissue

When levels of estrogen drop during menopause, vaginal tissue thins and dries. The vaginal walls can also become inflamed during that time. Other symptoms along with vaginal dryness can occur, such as:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Pain
  • Discomfort

Over 50% of people who menstruate experience mild or severe vaginal dryness during menopause.

What Else Causes Vaginal Dryness?

While low levels of estrogen during menopause are most commonly associated with vaginal dryness, the symptom can occur for other reasons, including:

  • Low levels of estrogen caused by breastfeeding, after childbirth, or during cancer treatment
  • Some cold and allergy medications
  • Some antidepressant medications
  • Certain health disorders, such as Sjögren syndrome
  • Vaginal douching
  • Smoking
  • Surgery to remove ovaries
  • Anti-estrogen medications
  • Diabetes
  • Premature ovarian insufficiency
  • Dehydration
  • Decreased blood flow to the vagina
  • A lack of foreplay before sexual intercourse 

How Is Vaginal Dryness Treated?

There are several options used to treat vaginal dryness. They can use prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications or at-home remedies.


Certain prescription medications can help to relieve the symptom of vaginal dryness during menopause. Options include:

  • Vaginal estrogen creams, tablets, capsules, or rings
  • Ospemifene, an oral medication
  • Prasterone, which are vaginal tablets

Vaginal estrogen medications are considered the first-line therapy because they are the most effective.

Home Remedies

The best at-home remedy for vaginal dryness is over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer. Vaginal moisturizers work best when they contain hyaluronic acid. The moisturizer is applied directly into the vagina to help relieve dryness and any other accompanying symptoms.

Eating more soy-based foods may also help improve vaginal dryness because they contain plant compounds known as isoflavones. Isoflavones act similarly to estrogen, essentially tricking the body into thinking that there is more estrogen than there is. This can help increase the natural lubrication of the vagina.

Sex and Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal dryness makes having sex challenging because of the painful symptoms that can occur. For that reason, addressing vaginal dryness both inside and outside of the bedroom is essential.

While it’s important to use treatments to restore lubrication as directed by a healthcare provider, it is just as crucial to do so before having sex. That way, you can avoid harmful symptoms due to excessive dryness during penetrative sex.

Treatment Options

To ensure that you’re well-lubricated before sex, you can try OTC lubricants or natural lubricants. Both are good choices, but personal preference and the type of condoms you use come into play when choosing the lubricant that’s right for you.

Water-based lubricants are best used with latex condoms. In contrast, oil-based lubricants are best used with polyurethane condoms because latex can become damaged when it comes into contact with oil-based lubricants, but polyurethane does not.

When it comes to natural oils, there are three that may work best:

  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Peanut oil

Wearing the right condom during penetrative sex and lubricants aids in reducing the risk of pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections.

Other treatments for vaginal dryness include:

  • Laser treatments like the Mona Lisa laser
  • Radio frequency treatments with devices like Thermi Va
  • Red light therapy with devices like JoyLux

What Are the Best OTC Moisturizers for Vaginal Dryness?

Some of the best vaginal moisturizers on the market today include:

  • Revaree®
  • Replens™ Long-Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer
  • Good Clean Love BioNourish® Ultra Moisturizing Vaginal Gel with Hyaluronic Acid

How to Talk to a Healthcare Provider About Vaginal Dryness

When speaking with a healthcare provider about vaginal dryness, it’s important not to downplay it. Vaginal dryness can severely diminish a person’s overall quality of life due to the often-painful symptoms that can develop due to a lack of vaginal lubrication.

You want to meet with your healthcare provider at the first sign of vaginal dryness during menopause and ensure they understand how it affects you and your sex life.

If you haven’t yet seen a healthcare provider for menopause, doing so may also help you find out more options for other symptoms that occur during the transitional period.

BIPOC Stats on Vaginal Dryness

Black and Latinx women are more likely to start menopause earlier and experience a longer-lasting and more intense experience with symptoms. People of lower socioeconomic status groups are also more likely to experience early menopause and have worse symptoms.


Vaginal dryness may be a common symptom during menopause, but that doesn't make it easier to cope with. That is especially true because other symptoms, including discomfort and pain, often develop alongside vaginal dryness.

When considering treatment options, you can talk to a healthcare provider. They will offer you the choice between prescription medications, OTC suggestions, and natural remedies.

When you begin treating the dryness, you can restore lubrication to the area that helps relieve symptoms and improves your quality of life.

10 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. Hamilton KJ, Hewitt SC, Arao Y, Korach KS. Estrogen Hormone Biology. Curr Top Dev Biol. 2017;125:109-146. doi:10.1016/bs.ctdb.2016.12.005

  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Experiencing Vaginal Dryness? Here's What You Need to Know.

  3. Goncharenko V, Bubnov R, Polivka J Jr, Zubor P, Biringer K, Bielik T, Kuhn W, Golubnitschaja O. Vaginal dryness: individualised patient profiles, risks and mitigating measures. EPMA J. 2019 Mar 2;10(1):73-79. doi:10.1007/s13167-019-00164-3

  4. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office On Women's Health. Menopause Symptoms and Relief.

  5. Bachman, Gloria, Pinkerton, JoAnn V. Patient education: Vaginal dryness (beyond the basics).

  6. MedlinePlus. Vaginal Dryness alternative treatments.

  7. Duke Health. Mona Lisa Touch laser is new treatment for vaginal dryness.

  8. Lanzafame RJ, de la Torre S, Leibaschoff GH. The rationale for photobiomodulation therapy of vaginal tissue for treatment of genitourinary syndrome of menopause: an analysis of its mechanism of action, and current clinical outcomesPhotobiomodulation, Photomedicine, and Laser Surgery. 2019;37(7):395-407. doi:10.1089/photob.2019.4618

  9. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Improving Your Vulvovaginal Health.

  10. Santoro N, Sutton-Tyrrell K. The SWAN song: Study of Women's Health Across the Nation's recurring themes. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2011 Sep;38(3):417-23. doi:10.1016/j.ogc.2011.05.001

By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.