by Kathleen MulpeterIt's the last place you want a breakout, we hear you. Experts weigh in on how to treat it—and prevent zits from popping up on your private parts in the future.Of all the places you can get a pimple, the area around your vagina is probably the most uncomfortable.
Vaginal pimples (technically a breakout on the outer folds of the labia) can occur when hair follicles there become irritated and inflamed, say by waxing, shaving, not changing your underwear, or hanging out in sweaty workout clothes a bit too long.
"The sweat glands and hair follicles [near your vagina] are prone to dirt buildup just as any other area of the body with hair and sweat is," says Sherry Ross, MD, a Los Angeles–based ob-gyn and author of She-ology ($18; amazon.com).
So how do you go about treating a breakout in this super-sensitive area?
Dr. Ross says it's fine to reach for the same acne spot treatment you use on your face. She recommends Differin Acne Treatment Gel ($11; target.com) or a formula that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. If a product has helped diminish breakouts on your face, it's probably fine to use near your vagina too, she says.But Dr. Ross cautions against overdoing it. "Make sure the medication is only applied to the pimple, since these types of medications can make the skin of the vagina very dry," she says.
Soaking in a warm bath for 20 to 30 minutes may also help ease the inflammation of the pimple. Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, suggests applying a hot compress to the area, which can help reduce the swelling and redness and make it easier to forget about.
Whatever you do, don't even think about popping it. "That can lead to an infection and more breakouts," says Dr. Jaliman.
To prevent unpleasant labia bumps from occurring again in the future, Dr. Ross says it's important to keep the skin near your vagina clean before shaving, waxing, or another hair removal method.
"If you loofah the skin after any kind of hair removal, this helps prevent acne and ingrown hairs during the regrowth process," she explains. "Antibacterial soaps and lotions are also helpful in protecting this delicate area against acne and rashes." Like regular zits, give it a week or two, and it the pimple should clear up.
However, if a bump is particularly painful, or it's been a couple of weeks and it isn't going away, book an appointment with your ob-gyn or dermatologist. Some sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes and genital warts, can cause similar-looking bumps. Red, rash-like bumps on the vulva could also be contact dermatitis, which is caused by a sensitivity to something your skin came in contact with, such as a new body wash.
For the most part, don't panic. Vaginal pimples are just one of those unpleasant things everybody has to ride out every now and then. But "if you have persistent pimples and bumps that last more than five days, it's time to have a healthcare provider check it out," adds Dr. Ross.