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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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