That's a lot - read up on the best ways to treat the common condition.
Hands up if you've ever experienced a dry down-there? If you're searching the Internet for vaginal dryness treatment, chances are, you might just have - but don't worry, you're far from alone. One new Replens study has found that, while as many as 75% of women will experience vaginal dryness at some point in their lives, almost half - 45% - don't seek help.
That's right - as many as three in four women will experience vaginal dryness, itching or pain at some point in their lives and, just like thrush symptoms, UTI's or bacterial vaginosis, it's actually totally normal.
"Many may feel it’s too trivial or embarrassing to talk to their partners, friends or even doctors about," explains doctor Jennifer Singh, GP and specialist in women’s health at The Marion Gluck Clinic. "Others may think it’s just a part of growing older, but this isn't the case."
Before you do that, scroll our complete expert-led guide to vaginal dryness. We bought you tips on how to know if you have an STD, vaginal care and how to choose the best lube and best condoms: next up, everything you've ever wanted to know about vaginal dryness. Pens at the ready.
What is vaginal dryness?
Your vagina is normally kept moist by a natural lubricant maintained by the hormone oestrogen, explains Singh. "A drop in this oestrogen, or even testosterone during perimenopause or menopause, can reduce the amount of moisture in the vagina and vulval area," she explains.
Nutritionist and health coach Pauline Cox agrees, adding that this declining level of the sex hormone in menopausal women has been termed Genito-Urinary Syndrome of Menopause, or GUS. "This syndrome describes the multiple changes that occur in the sexual organs of the female body caused in the run-up (perimenopausal), during (menopausal) and post-menopausal stages of a woman’s life."
Women may also experience vaginal dryness due to other causes, including:
- Certain types of contraceptives
- Allergy medication, like anti-histamines
- Cold medication
- Feminine sprays or scented soaps
- Various cancer treatments
- Psychological reasons, such as chronic stress or non-arousal.
How common is vaginal dryness?
As above - very common.
"Around 17% of women aged 18 to 50 experience problems with vaginal dryness even before menopause has taken place and 80% of post-menopausal women experience it, too," shares Singh.
FYI, the not-going-to-the-doctor-cos-you're-embarrassed thing? It's been found that vaginal dryness in menopausal women it is unlikely to go away without treatment. "Sadly, only 7% of women receive treatment," Singh continues.
Bottom line: do see a doctor if you're struggling - there's plenty of options for vaginal dryness treatment out there for you.
How do you identify if you’re experiencing vaginal dryness?
You'll likely be able to feel it, but sometimes your nurse may also spot it during your cervical smear check up, Singh explains (read what happens in a smear, here).
The main symptoms of vaginal dryness to watch out for are:
- A dry or itchy vagina (FYI, these are the different vaginal infection types to be aware of)
- Burning during intercourse
- Pain during sex (not to be mistaken for vaginismus)
- Light spotting after sex
- Frequent urination or frequent urine infections.
"Some women even find it uncomfortable when sitting or when wearing tight underclothes," she continues. Sound familiar? The below may help.
Vaginal dryness treatments: 5 to consider
1. Avoid scented soaps
Obvious, but important: your vagina is self-cleaning, stresses Singh. "Avoid scented soaps, feminine hygiene products and douching, as they often upset the balance," she shares.
Try this: Use water and emollients only if you wish to clean, and wear cotton underwear, where possible.
2. Use lube
Singh also says that non-hormonal treatments such as moisturisers can draw moisture into the vagina, but do note that they have to be used regularly. "Lubricants can help during intercourse, too," she shares - our guide to the best lube might just help.
3. Maintain your hormonal balance
Sounds hard, actually isn't, according to Cox. "This helps to reduce the cyclical symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle, improve fertility, reduced oestrogen dominance and ultimately an easier transition into the perimenopausal and menopausal period," she explains.
That's because healthy levels of oestrogen can help maintain structural integrity of the vaginal tissues, including collagen and elastin, as well as healthy bone density and cardiovascular health.
This can be done a number of ways, including:
- Making sure you're looking after your liver health
- Prioritising healthy bowel movements
- Encouraging a healthy gut microbiome.
4. Eat a balanced diet
Did you know? Diet can have a great impact on the structural integrity and biochemical environment of the sexual organs, or so says Cox.
"Fats are key building blocks for making the sex hormones," she shares. A diet rich in healthy fats can help keep tissues such as the skin nourished and moisturised as well as offering the building blocks for hormone synthesis.
She recommends taking a supplement like Wiley's Finest Orange Burst for a daily dose of both omega-3s and omega-7. "This can help with dryness, as well as containing vitamins A and D and the natural antioxidant Astaxanthin, which is anti-inflammatory and can boost the immune system," she explains.
Wiley’s Finest Orange Burst 660mg EPA + DHA, £16.69
5. Hormonal treatments
If none of the above work, it's time to visit your GP.
"Hormonal treatments, such as local oestrogen, can be very effective and come in the form of pessaries, gels, cream or a ring," explains Singh. "They're safe and can be used by everyone."
Frequently asked questions
Why am I dry down there all of a sudden?
As above, there are a whole host of reasons, but the main culprits include a change in hormone levels, certain contraception and psychological reasons like stress.
Dehydration, breastfeeding, antidepressants, cold and allergy medication can all also be to blame.
Are there any natural cures for female dryness?
It's been said that soy, black cohosh and wild yam can all help relieve you from vaginal dryness, but do note here: concrete scientific evidence of such a link is lacking at current. Do consult with your doctor or naturopath before trying any at home.
Are there any vitamins to help with female dryness?
Current research papers indicate that supplements like vitamin D, vitamin E, sea buckthorn oil, hyaluronic acid, fish oil and DHEA could help to improve vaginal lubrication, but as above, do consult with a professional prior to taking.
What is the best lubricant for menopause dryness?
Generally speaking, water-based lubricants are the most versatile, but for a complete guide to which one will be best for you, check out our guide to the best lubes.
Does a yeast infection cause dryness?
It shouldn't, but if left untreated, it may. Yeast infections typically span burning, stinging and a heat-like sensation in your vagina and vulva. Do get checked out, if this applies to you, and read up on the thrush symptoms, UTI symptoms, like cystitis, and vaginal infection types, while you're here.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.