Quantcast
Getty Images

Ever Wonder What Different Vaginal Smells Mean? I Got You.

In case you were curious but didn't know who to ask...

Women's Health

One of the cool things about writing for (and I would think, reading on) a women's lifestyle site is you feel comfortable tackling all of the topics that directly affect us. And when it comes to today’s issue, let’s not act like we all haven’t had moments when we’ve caught a whiff of our own vagina and thought to ourselves, “OK. What’s really going on?”


If you’re currently noticing an aroma that seems a little “off,” before you go into semi-panic mode — or worse, you try and mask it with perfumed washes that typically do more harm than good — check out some of the most common vagina smells — then compare and contrast. That way, you’ll have a good idea of what’s actually going on and what you need to do to get everything…handled.

1. If It Smells Like a Penny…

Getty Images

Do you have times when your vagina gives off a scent that is similar to a copper penny? If so, more times than not, it’s no big deal. This is usually an indication of iron being present which makes perfect sense when you’re on your period or if a night of some semi-wild (albeit consensual) sex led to a bit of breakthrough bleeding. In fact, as far as sex goes, if you’re engaging in unprotected copulation, sometimes your partner’s semen can throw off your vagina’s pH balance which also can result in a metallic-like smell. The main thing to keep in mind with this one is it shouldn’t happen, non-stop, all of the time. If it is, see your doctor, just to make sure it’s all good. Better to be on the safer side whenever blood scents are lingering around.

2. If It Smells Like Sourdough Bread…

Getty Images

So, what if your vagina smells a lot like sourdough bread? If you’ve never had that before, the best way to describe it is…kinda on the “ferment-y” side. Usually what this indicates is that the good bacteria that’s in your vagina is working overtime to keep that space acidic. At the end of the day, this is a good thing because good bacteria help to prevent bad bacteria from overtaking your vagina and ultimately causing an infection. I’ve personally noticed this smell when I’ve had a lot of kefir or gone a week straight taking a strong probiotic. Anyway, if this is what’s going on, you’re pretty much all good.

3. If It Smells Like Ammonia…

Getty Images

Wanna know an underrated sign that you could be dehydrated? If your vagina has a strong ammonia-like scent, that’s a potential giveaway. The reason why is because sometimes, urine can store up in our underwear or on our vulva and if it’s strong, it could be due to not getting enough water. Another thing that can trigger this smell is bacterial vaginosis (BV). So, if you’re noticing this one and your discharge is grey, yellow or green, super thin, and/or you’ve got vaginal irritation, while you can test for BV at home, you’ll probably need a prescription to treat it. In other words, see your doctor.

4. If It Smells Like Molasses…

Getty Images

This one is a little iffy. What I mean by that is, while some of the bacteria in your vagina can smell a little on the sweet side, if there is an overgrowth of yeast going on in there, that can result in your genitalia smelling somewhat like molasses too. So, if you notice that along with the scent, you’ve got a thicker discharge, vaginal itching, and/or a swollen vulva, that sounds a lot like a yeast infection is brewing. I wouldn’t ignore that if I were you. More times than not, those bad boys only get worse over time.

5. If It Smells Like a Swimming Pool…

Getty Images

So, what if your va-jay-jay smells a lot like the chlorine that’s in a swimming pool? Usually, this isn’t that big of a deal either; especially if you’re noticing it right after you have sex. Sometimes, the pH balance of our vaginas is disrupted by the chemicals that are in the lubricants and condoms that we use. Anyway, if the smell bothers you too much, try going with a natural or unscented lubricant and/or switch up your condom brands to see if that helps. Either way, the scent usually passes in a couple of hours. All good.

6. If It Smells Like Cheese…

Getty Images

If your vagina smells similar to your favorite cheese, there isn’t really a clear-cut reason for it. On one hand, it could be nothing. On another, it could be a sign of BV or the STD trichomoniasis (more on that in a sec). So, what should you do? In this case, don’t just pay attention to the scent but the discharge as well. As far as healthy discharge goes, it’s on the thinner side (a milky-like texture), the color is usually white or off-white, it doesn’t have a strong smell and it is non-irritating. This means that if your vagina smells like a cheese plate and your discharge doesn’t look the way I just said, please get checked out.

If It Smells Like Fish…

Getty Images

Out of all of the scents that I’ve talked about, probably the most common one (that’s openly discussed) is a vagina that smells like fish. First up, no, “she” is not supposed to normally smell like that. Well, let me back up — fresh fish has a very mild aroma to it; it’s fish that’s been laying out and is decomposing that’s highly problematic. If “Door B” is what you’ve got going on, don’t Elmo shrug it off because usually it’s a telltale sign that you’ve got an overgrowth of anaerobic organisms going on (which is another sign of BV) or you could have trichomoniasis.

What are some other indications of the latter? Frothy discharge. The constant need to urinate. Discomfort (like a burning sensation) when urinating. Itchy and swollenness in your vulva. Although trichomoniasis is easily curable with the help of antibiotics, please don’t be out here trying to handle it on your own. You need your healthcare provider to give a proper diagnosis, followed by a prescription. In other words, Googling at-home treatments ain’t gonna cut it.

If It Smells Like Musk…

Getty Images

Although every vagina is unique (check out “Did You Know That There Are 10 Different Kinds Of Vaginas? Yep.”), if there’s one scent that is kind of “universal” when it comes to what a healthy vagina should smell like, words like “slightly musky” and “earthy” fit the bill. For the record, your vagina should never smell overpowering and oftentimes, based on where you are in your cycle, the scents can shift a bit. Still, if musky is what you are leaning towards most of the time, you’re pretty fine. Carry on.

If It Smells Like Weed…

Getty Images

Ever had your vagina smell like weed before? If so, you’re not making it all up in your head. Something that your genital region is full of is apocrine sweat glands that happen to release fluid that has a milky-like substance. When it mixes in with the bacteria that is inside of your vagina, that can result in a scent that is reminiscent of cannabis. The more you know, chile.

If It Smells Like Death…

Getty Images

Something that sometimes happens on the day that follows the last day of my period is there is irritation at the opening of my vagina. If I check to see if there’s a scent, it can smell a lot like death (no joke). A hack that has helped to avoid irritability is I wear my menstrual cup on that day too. Good thing because, I’ve discovered that the “WTF is that smell?!” smell is what can happen when bacteria, uterine tissue, and blood all mix together (or if you forgot to take a tampon out). Thankfully, it’s nothing to worry about — so long as it doesn’t go too long past your cycle. If it does, you already know what I’m about to say, right? Where’s your physician at? Exactly.

There you go. 10 common vagina scents, what they basically mean, and what you should do about them. Hopefully, this all has helped to put your mind at ease and also brought clarity to the fact that a healthy vagina isn’t supposed to smell like a bed of roses, scents change from time to time and, more times than not, you — and your vagina — are gonna be just fine.

Featured image by Getty Images

When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.

Featured image by Getty Images

The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

Jamie Foxx and his daughter Corinne Foxx are one of Hollywood’s best father-daughter duos. They’ve teamed up together on several projects including Foxx’s game show Beat Shazam where they both serve as executive producers and often frequent red carpets together. Corinne even followed in her father’s footsteps by taking his professional last name and venturing into acting starring in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged and Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family and Good Times as Thelma.

Keep reading...Show less

TW: This article may contain mentions of suicide and self-harm.

In early 2022, the world felt like it slowed down a bit as people digested the shocking news of beauty pageant queen Cheslie Kryst, who died by suicide. When you scroll through her Instagram, the photos she had posted only weeks before her death were images of her smiling, looking happy, and being carefree. You can see photos of her working, being in front of the camera, and doing what I imagine was her norm. These pictures and videos, however, began to spark a conversation among Black women who knew too well that feeling like you're carrying the world on your shoulders and forcing yourself to smile through it all to hide the pain.

Keep reading...Show less

Ironically enough—considering the way the word begins—the love-hate relationship that we have with menstruation is comparable to the way in which we navigate the world of men. It’s very much “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” vibes when it comes to women and their cycles. But the older I get, the more I learn to hate that time of the month a little less. A lot of my learning to embrace my period has come with learning the fun, interesting, and “witchy” stuff while discovering more natural, in-tune ways of minimizing the pain in my ass (those cramps know no bounds) amongst other places.

Keep reading...Show less

SZA is no stranger to discussing her mental health struggles and her experiences with anxiety. In 2021, the “Good Days” singer tweeted about having “debilitating anxiety” that causes her to shield away from the public. Unfortunately, she still has those same struggles today and opened up about it during Community Voices 100th episode for Mental Health Awareness Month. While SZA enjoys making music, she’s not a fan of the spotlight, which may be surprising to many.

Keep reading...Show less
Exclusive Interviews
Latest Posts