Young woman with hands over groin wondering what vaginal itching is

What Is Vaginal Itching?

Medically reviewed on Nov 17, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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The vaginal microbiome is complex and dynamic, constantly fluctuating through each stage of the menstrual cycle. If you were to journey into the microbiome, you’d see a vast population of Lactobacillus, bacteria that produce antimicrobial agents to prevent vaginal itch-inducing bacteria, viruses, and fungi.[1]

In fact, studies have found that bacterial vaginosis, which can cause vaginal itching, pain, and burning, is largely correlated with a decline in Lactobacillus.[1]

But, let’s move away from bacterial vaginosis for a moment and return to the basics—you’re asking yourself, “Why is my vagina itchy?” There are several reasons why you may feel discomfort or irritation down there, from an influx of chemical irritants (thanks to your new strawberry-scented body wash perhaps) or a sexually transmitted infection (STI). In this guide, we’ll help you get to the bottom of your vaginal itch.

What Are Common Causes Of Vaginal Itching?

Vaginal itching or discomfort can arise on all parts of the vagina and vulva, which includes the labia, clitoris, and vaginal opening. A thick, creamy white vaginal discharge can also accompany these symptoms.[2]

If you’re experiencing vaginal itchiness, your first instinct may be to immediately assume the worst. But vaginal itching isn’t always a major concern. Even so, to stay on top of your health, you should always assess your vaginal irritation symptoms and treatment options with a healthcare provider.[2]

All that said, there are several reasons why you may be experiencing an itchy vagina.[2]

1. Skin Allergy Or Reaction

While your vaginal microbiome is dynamic, it’s also delicate—and so is the skin on your vulva. It’s greatly susceptible to damage. It is also quite fragile compared to the rest of your body. Accordingly, it’s also very sensitive to irritants and allergens that are typically found in [3]:

  • Scented tampons and pads
  • Soaps, bubble baths, shampoos, and conditioners
  • Deodorant and perfumes
  • Douches
  • Talcum powder
  • Synthetic underwear
  • Laundry detergent, dryer balls, and dryer sheets
  • Toilet paper
  • Spermicides
  • Dyes
  • Certain medications

2. Jock Itch

Also called “tinea cruris,” jock itch is a fungal skin infection that results in an itchy rash, typically near the groin and inner thighs.[4]

You can prevent jock itch by avoiding sharing undergarments or towels, typically those that have accrued moisture. [4]

3. Vaginal Yeast Infection

Vaginal fungal overgrowth affects 75% of women in their lifetimes.5 While it isn’t considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI), regular sexual activity does put you at a higher risk of developing a fungal infection.

Yeast infection symptoms often include [5]:

  • Itching and discomfort in the vagina and vulva
  • Burning sensations when urinating or during intercourse
  • Vulva redness or swelling
  • Vaginal pain and soreness
  • Vaginal rash and an itchy vagina
  • Cottage-cheese-like discharge and/or watery vaginal discharge

4. Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, are caused by sexually transmitted bacteria, viruses, and parasites. In other cases, a child may contract an STI if their mother is infected. All that said, there are several STIs that can cause vaginal itching, such as [6]:

In these cases, it’s critical that you visit a healthcare provider to receive a plan to treat or manage your infection and vaginal itchiness.

5. Low Estrogen Levels

In women and people assigned female at birth age, the vagina naturally goes through changes, which can include hormone disruptions.

Estrogen, specifically, helps to regulate the growth and development of the female reproductive system. However, during menopause (or, sometimes breastfeeding), estrogen levels greatly decline, which can lead to thinning of the vaginal skin and low estrogen levels.[2]

As a result, the vagina can become more prone to vaginal dryness, discomfort, itching, and unusual discharge.[2]

How To Find Relief And Prevent Vaginal Itching

Treatment options for vaginal itching will vary depending on the cause. For allergy-induced itching and jock itch, it’s best to avoid the substances or fabrics that cause irritation. Yeast infections, on the other hand, can be treated through antifungal medications. [5]

Treatment plans for STIs vary. STIs like genital herpes and HPV are incurable; however, they’re manageable with medications. For people with gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, on the other hand, healthcare providers will prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. [6]

Private STD consultations

For people experiencing low estrogen levels, experts advise the use of vaginal lubricants or small doses of estrogen. [2]

To prevent an upset to your vaginal microbiome altogether, consider:

  • Maintaining good hygiene
  • Using natural and/or unscented hygiene products
  • Avoiding synthetic fabrics and tight clothing
  • Practicing safe sex
  • Limiting douching
  • Staying hydrated

Manage Your Vaginal Health With Everlywell

Vaginal itching can occur for any number of reasons. While you may experience discomfort from using a damp towel, scented products, or synthetic underwear, itching may also result from a yeast infection, STI, or hormone imbalance.

To support your vaginal health, Everlywell provides a variety of at-home tests to identify what you may be experiencing. These include sexual wellness tests, such as female at-home STD tests, as well as menopausal tests to identify your hormone levels. Everlywell can also connect you with a clinician to receive guidance and STD treatment online.

All of our tests are easy to use and completely confidential, and you’ll receive physician-reviewed results soon after you submit your sample. To get started, browse our collection of at-home tests today.

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  1. Chen X, et al. The Female Vaginal Microbiome in Health and Bacterial Vaginosis. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. Published April 7, 2021. URL. Accessed October 17, 2023.
  2. Possible Reasons Why Your Vagina Itches. Cleveland Clinic. Published February 27, 2023. URL. Accessed October 17, 2023.
  3. Vulvar Dermatitis. Cleveland Clinic. Published October 25, 2022. URL. Accessed October 17, 2023.
  4. Jock Itch. Mayo Clinic. Published May 18, 2023. URL. Accessed October 17, 2023.
  5. Yeast Infection (Vaginal). Mayo Clinic. Published January 11, 2023. URL. Accessed October 17, 2023.
  6. Common STD symptoms. Mayo Clinic. Published May 5, 2022. URL. Accessed October 17, 2023.
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