Vaginas Can Have Allergies. Here's What To Do About Them.
Women's Health

Vaginas Can Have Allergies. Here's What To Do About Them.

I don’t know about y’all, but this is definitely the time of year when a lot of people in my world sound like a hot ass mess. Since springtime is the season when trees, grass, and flowers like to show out (literally) as far as pollen goes, it’s pretty common for folks’ immune systems to go haywire in response to it.

Not only that but neighbors are walking their dogs more often (dander), bugs are making an appearance (eye roll), and dust mites and mold spores are kicking up due to all of the spring cleaning that is going on. All of this can lead to sneezing, watery eyes, an itchy and/or runny nose, coughing, headaches — and so many other bodily reactions that my crew would rather do without.

First, a quick tip: while there are polarizing studies on how effective local honey actually is (due to the pollen that’s in it, it can serve as somewhat of an all-natural antihistamine for the local allergens in your area), there are enough solid studies (like this one here) around to at least give it a try if you don’t want to fill your system up with a ton of allergy medication.

Okay, but what if it’s your vagina (I’m going to be speaking of it interchangeably with your vulva, by the way) who is currently going through it? If you’ve never even thought to consider that Ms. Thang down below can have reactions to certain allergens as well, take a few moments to check this article out. Trust me, “she” will thank you that you did.

The Word for a Vaginal Allergy Is Vulvitis. Now What Exactly IS That?

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Something that oftentimes happens whenever an allergic reaction transpires is our body goes through some level of inflammation. Well, when our vaginas experience their version of an allergy, inflammation happens down there too. The technical word for it is vulvitis.

Vulvitis is what happens when the skin of your vulva (the outer parts of your vagina) ends up experiencing some level of inflammation (typically when your vagina’s pH level is thrown off) that can lead to irritation, swelling, itching, a shift in the type or amount of discharge, redness and sometimes even white patches and “scales.”

Although sometimes these symptoms can be due to things like an STD (which is why you should get tested every six months if you are sexually active), vaginal atrophy (due to menopause), eczema, or a yeast infection, oftentimes it’s due to common stuff that can be cleared up by making a few minor adjustments.

Now I will say that if it’s your first time experiencing these symptoms and/or you’re not exactly sure what the heck is going on, make an appointment with your physician ASAP. A urine and/or blood test will help to get to the root of the matter.

However, if you get a clean bill of health in those departments, your doctor may go through a process of elimination which will probably include the following seven things and how your vagina has been responding/reacting to them.

1. Fragrance-Based Body Wash

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Body washes. Even though a lot of them smell absolutely divine, the reason why your vagina may not like them very much is that many contain chemicals that can definitely cause your vagina’s pH balance to go haywire.

Does this mean that you can’t or shouldn’t use anything that could help to make your vulva smell better? Not exactly. The key is to find products that are as natural as possible, along with one that will cater to your vulva’s sensitive skin.

Treatment: As far as commercial brands of cleansers go, Healthline’sThe 11 Best Vaginal Soaps and Cleansers Approved by Gynecologists” and Cosmo’s14 Best Feminine Washes, According to a Gynecologist” can help to point you to the right direction. If you’d prefer to make your own body wash, I’ve got you covered on that tip too. Check out our article, “Love On Yourself With These 7 All-Natural DIY Vaginal Washes,” and, as far as tips on which great-smelling essential oils are also pretty vulva-friendly, also read “10 Essential Oils That Are Great For Feminine Hygiene (And A Few Other Things).”

2. Period Products

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If there’s one thing that we can’t avoid, it’s our period (lawd, lawd). And while typically, vaginal irritation that comes from tampons is due to them remaining inside of you too long and pads are due to not changing them enough, some brands also contain chemicals that can be “vaginally triggering.”

Treatment: That’s why it’s always best to go with tampons and pads that are fragrance-free (especially if you have uber-sensitive skin). Or you can go with brands that are organic (a list of tampon suggestions is located here, and a list of organic pad options is here).

While we’re at this portion of the program, if you used to be a Honey Pot supporter but you never got down to the truth about where the company stands between being Black-founded vs. Black-owned (now), AfroTech (which is a great Black business news site) covered that around this time last year: “Did Beatrice Dixon Sell The Honey Pot Company? — Co-Founder Responds After Social Media Goes Into A Frenzy.” I’ve got friends who still use it and are huge fans. Anyway, just make sure you check the article out before making a final call — either direction.

3. Skinny Jeans

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Although all that I listed here are skinny jeans, anything that’s so tight that it causes a lot of friction and keeps your vulva from breathing can qualify, including thongs, synthetic underwear, spandex workout clothes (especially if you don’t take them off immediately after your exercise session) and wet swimsuits.

Treatment: If you’re like, “I hear you, but I’m gonna keep the tight stuff anyway,” at least make sure to take them off as soon as you get home and make it a practice to sleep naked as much as possible so that your vulva can get a break. Also, cotton underwear is better than synthetic; at least compromise in that department, please.

4. Condoms

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If a guy tells you that he doesn’t wear latex condoms because he’s allergic to them, while it might initially sound like game (and might be), it’s actually not a ridiculous notion (although stats still say that it’s lower than 10 percent).

So, how do you know if condoms could be the reason why your vagina is acting up (i.e., itching, swelling up, feeling dry during or after sex, and sometimes even hives or a runny nose?)? If your vagina is just fine until a condom enters you or until you are done having sex, that’s a pretty solid indication.

Treatment: Does this mean that you have to go raw? Unless you’re in a committed, long-term, monogamous relationship, please don’t. Thankfully, there are other kinds of rubbers that will get the job done. Polyurethane is a type of plastic that serves as a great latex alternative. So does polyisoprene, which is made from a synthetic polymer (it is more expensive, though; just an FYI). Then there’s the throwback, lambskin; although, because their spores are larger than other condoms, they’re not as great as the other options when it comes to preventing STD transmission.

As far as some of the best non-latex options that are currently on the market, you can do some of your own research by going here, here, and here.

Oh, and while we’re on this topic, it’s not unheard of to be allergic to spermicide, either. And while you should run this suggestion by your doctor before trying it, there is a vegan kind of spermicide that some people are fond of. It’s called ContraGel. You can read more about it here, and Walmart sells it here.

5. Certain Types of Bedding

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Believe it or not, something else that can bother your vagina is your bedding. One, because you might be using a laundry detergent that’s too harsh for it. Or it could be that the bedding you’ve chosen doesn’t breathe enough (especially if you’re someone who happens to sleep naked). Fabrics like polyester and rayon may be cheaper as far as your sheets are concerned, but they also trap in heat more which can cause you to sweat, which could trigger a yeast infection.

Treatment: When it comes to the laundry issue, look for the kind that is either eco-friendly or specifically made for sensitive skin (both contain a lot less chemicals). Another route that you could take is you can make some of your own; some recipes are located here, here, and here. Also, your bedding will feel cooler if you go with something along the lines of organic cotton, silk, or bamboo.

6. Sweets

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Something that your vagina contains is bacteria — some good, some bad. Usually, your vagina’s pH keeps the bad bacteria in check; however, when you consume too much sweet stuff, that can suppress your immunity and cause bad bacteria to take over, which could result in vaginal inflammation and a full-on yeast infection.

Not only that, but if you don’t get your sugar consumption under control (check out “Ever Wonder If You've Got A Low-Key Sugar Addiction?”), you could end up with a chronic yeast infection because just like your taste buds really like sugar, so does yeast. That’s why it’s a good idea to consume sweets in moderation. Many researchers say that men should have no more than nine teaspoons of sugar a day and women should have no more than six.

Treatment: As for how to deal with the sugar that may have already “taken over” your body — I’m pretty sure you know what needs to happen. A temporary detox can do wonders at restoring the balance in your system. So can reducing your intake of fast food, processed foods, and white foods like white pasta, white bread, and of course, white sugar.

7. Sperm/Semen

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This one is interesting because, yes, there are some people who are allergic to sperm/semen (the fluid that carries sperm). However, what is more common is your vagina/vulva needing some time to get used to new sperm if you’ve recently switched to a new partner (a new partner can temporarily change the way that your vagina smells too).

That said if you do notice that after the first few times of engaging in unprotected sex with a new guy, your vagina is still itching and/or burning and/or swelling up (kind of like a yeast infection minus the thick discharge), it could be that you’re experiencing what is technically known as seminal plasma hypersensitivity; it’s when your body does not respond well to the proteins that are in someone’s sperm/semen.

Treatment: Even if you mildly suspect that you’ve got a sperm/semen allergy, you shouldn’t self-diagnose it; ask your physician. If they confirm it, they might recommend that you use condoms more often or even that you take an antihistamine (no joke) about an hour before coming into contact with sperm. Sometimes having an EpiPen nearby can help matters too.


There’s no way around the fact that your body having an allergic reaction to something can suck because the symptoms are typically super unpleasant. Just make sure that if what’s bothering you is your vagina (or your vulva), you don’t ignore it. A reaction is letting you know that something isn’t quite right. Hopefully, now you know what needs to be done in order to fix it.

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Featured image by IRINA KROLEVETC/Getty Images

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