An Overview of Vaginal Pimples

Vaginal pimples can have a number of different causes

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Vaginal pimples may be just what they sound like: pimples that appear on or around the vulva. (The vulva consists of the external parts of the female genitalia. The vagina is the internal canal. However, people often refer to the entire female genitalia as the vagina.)

True vaginal pimples are formed when dirt, sweat, and or bacteria build up inside a pore, causing inflammation. They're just like pimples on any other part of your body. However, not all bumps and lumps in the genital area are vaginal pimples. There are a number of other conditions, infectious and otherwise, that may be mistaken for vaginal pimples.

Preventing vaginal pimples
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin 

Symptoms

True vaginal pimples are just like pimples anywhere else on the body. They're usually small, red bumps, often with a white dot at the tip. Sometimes they can be dark at the tip or red all the way through. Some vaginal pimples may be full of pus, or swollen and painful.

There are also many other causes of bumps on the vulva that may be mistaken for vaginal pimples. For example, Molluscum contagiosum (MC) causes small bumps with divots in the middle to be formed. These can be easily mistaken for pimples, but they are an infectious disease. HPV can cause genital warts, and herpes can cause lesions. All might be mistaken, on casual examination, for vaginal pimples. This is particularly true as it can be difficult to see any bumps on or around your vulva.

Causes

Pimples occur when pores get clogged. This can be caused by hormonal changes. It can also be caused by external factors. Poor hygiene (even hanging around in sweaty clothes after working out) can increase your risk of vaginal pimples. So can irritation from lubricant or other body fluids.

Another common cause of vaginal pimples is shaving. Shaving near the genitals can lead to ingrown hairs and folliculitis. Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles. The symptoms often look similar to other pimples and are treated similarly. Folliculitis can also be caused by tight clothing or sweat irritation.

Various sexually transmitted diseases, particularly MC, can cause bumps around the genitals that may initially appear to be pimples.

It is best to talk to your doctor to see if any new bumps you have are pimples or another type of infection.

Prevention

Some things that may help prevent a recurrence of vaginal pimples are:

  • wearing clean, cotton underwear
  • avoiding clothing that is too tight or rubs against your genital region
  • practicing good hygiene, including showering after exercise and changing out of sweaty exercise clothes (rather than sitting in them for hours)
  • change your menstrual products frequently when you have your period
  • trimming your pubic hair instead of shaving (if the pimples are related to razor use)

In addition, if your pimples showed up after you changed your type of soap or laundry detergent, try going back to the old product. It may be that your skin finds the new product irritating and is responding by breaking out.

Diagnosis

To diagnose vaginal pimples, your doctor will probably want to examine the pimples. She may be able to diagnose them based on their appearance. You should also let your doctor know:

  • when you noticed the pimple(s)
  • if the pimples have produced any discharge
  • if the outbreak has changed over time
  • whether the pimples are painful or itchy

If the bumps near your vagina do not appear to be pimples, your doctor may also ask you about recent sexual encounters.

Treatment

If your doctor has confirmed your vaginal pimples are pimples, you have a few options for treatment. Mostly, you'll want to focus on good hygiene and keeping your skin clean. In addition, if pimples are painful or itchy, you may be able to use a washcloth soaked in warm water to relieve your symptoms. Just make certain to dry the skin after.

If you're not certain that your pimples aren't contagious, make certain to use a clean towel each time.

That way you're less likely to reinfect yourself or spread infection via fomites.

Your doctor may also recommend a topical treatment to help with your pimples. This might be an antibiotic, an antihistamine, or even an anti-acne medicine. However, it is not a good idea to use over the counter acne medication to treat vaginal pimples without a doctor's approval.

If you do use products such as benzoyl peroxide, you should stick with low concentrations and only use these creams on external skin. Acne creams should not be used on your vulva, labia, or other sensitive areas that may be prone to irritation except under the direct recommendation and supervision of a doctor.

Coping

The most important thing to know about vaginal pimples is that you shouldn't pop them. Even if they are simply acne, there is a lot of sweat and other secretions around your genital area. That means that if you pop vaginal pimples, there's a risk that they'll become infected. When they become infected, they can become painful (or more painful) and you might even need medical treatment.

The other reason not to pop vaginal pimples is that they might not be acne. If you open up a bump or sore caused by an infection, you're more likely to spread it to other areas of your genitals and the rest of your body. You may also be more likely to spread it to a partner.

In addition, just as with vaginal pimples, other vaginal sores are susceptible to secondary infections when scratched. This is something to be avoided if you can.

A Word From Verywell

When in doubt about any bumps or irritations that appear on your genitals (or anywhere else on your body), talk to a doctor. If they are not vaginal pimples, you may need to be checked for infection. Be cautious if you are sexually active and make sure you are using safe practices. If the bumps are painful, are releasing pus, or have any other sort of discharge, it is best to speak to a doctor right away. That way, if the bumps aren't pimples, they can be treated appropriately.

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Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Acne: Overview. InformedHealth.org [Internet].2013 Jan 16. 

  2. Sagransky M, Yentzer BA, Feldman SR. Benzoyl peroxide: a review of its current use in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2009;10(15):2555-62.

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