Although these bumps aren’t technically pimples, because of their appearance, that’s how a lot of people refer to them.
People may refer to them as vaginal pimples, but the truth is that genital bumps will generally form on the vulva. This external part of your genitals includes the labia majora (outer lips), labia minora (inner lips), the external part of the clitoris, and the vaginal and urethral openings.
This area is super delicate, and for some people, it’s easily irritated. Here are the main reasons “pimples” can pop up on this part of your body.
Folliculitis is the most common cause of pimples on the labia majora. It occurs when bacteria enter the pubic hair follicles on the labia. When hairs grow out of these follicles, they often curl backward into the skin.
Shaving your pubic hair increases the risk of developing folliculitis. Wearing tight-fitting underwear and sweating can also increase your vulnerability to pimples on the labia caused by folliculitis.
Folliculitis goes away on its own. After a bout of folliculitis, you may want to avoid shaving your pubic hair for a while. To reduce the likelihood of developing folliculitis from shaving, shave your pubic hair in the same direction of growth.
You can also avoid wearing tight underwear and shower after sweating a lot. Loose-fitting clothes made of breathable fibers like cotton and linen can help keep the area clean, cool, and dry.
2. Contact dermatitis
Contact dermatitis results from contact with chemicals found in products such as scented pads, tampons, bubble baths, laundry detergents, vaginal creams, and condoms, as well as perspiration, urine, semen, and vaginal discharge. These chemicals can irritate the labia, which may result in bumps developing in the area. The pimple-like bumps formed by contact dermatitis can be itchy or painful.
If you have contact dermatitis, it might be helpful to figure out what’s causing it and stop using that product. A good way to do this is by eliminating all the products that come into contact with your vulva and then gradually reintroducing them. Once you determine the culprit, you can stop using it.
Once you get rid of the irritant, the rash will often go away on its own. If your contact dermatitis requires further treatment, a health care provider may recommend over-the-counter medications. Antihistamine pills can be used to control itching, and non-irritating, unscented, moisturizing creams can also offer some relief.
3. Molluscum contagiosum
This condition is caused by the Molluscum contagiosum virus. It spreads through casual or sexual contact with the skin of people who have it or objects that carry it. Molluscum contagiosum infection will generally clear on its own in six to 12 months. It can also be treated with topical or oral medication, or the bumps can be removed by a health care provider using lasers or cryotherapy.
4. Hidradenitis suppurativa
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a long-term condition where bumps form in the hair roots near sweat glands. This results from a blockage of hair follicles and secondary infection or inflammation of sweat glands. To help control symptoms, certain medications or/and surgery may be prescribed. In some cases, a health care provider may prescribe antiseptic washes and topical antibiotic creams.
Sometimes, bumps that appear to be pimples are actually cysts, warts, or other growths. Let’s look at a few kinds:
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the herpes simplex virus. It can cause pain, sores, itching, and tiny red bumps or small white blisters in the genital area. Medications are needed to ease symptoms and reduce the risk of infecting others. Make sure to see a health care provider if you suspect you may have genital herpes or any STI.
Genital warts are superficial skin lesions caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Genital warts show up as flat lesions, small bumps, or tiny protrusions that look like stems. They usually appear on the vulva but sometimes occur near the anus, on the cervix, or in the vagina. Warts often go away on their own, without any treatment. There's no cure for the virus, so they can reappear sometimes in the same place or another.
A Bartholin’s cyst
A Bartholin’s cyst is a small fluid-filled sac that can appear inside the vagina opening. It may feel like a soft, painless lump and does not usually cause any problems. Nevertheless, if the cyst grows very large or gets infected, it can become quite uncomfortable and lead to painful skin surrounding the vagina. It’s helpful to check with your health care provider if you notice a lump around your vagina.
Often, pimples on your labia will clear up without treatment. But if they don’t, a health care provider can prescribe treatment. Avoid touching labia pimples, as squeezing or popping them can spread bacteria and exacerbate the problem.
You might also want to stop shaving your pubic hair for a while. Using chemical products and creams on your vulva is generally not recommended because the area is delicate. Antihistamines can effectively treat contact dermatitis.
Medications to eliminate warts are applied directly to the lesion, and many procedures are usually needed before they work. If medications don’t help, a health care provider may suggest removing warts by cryotherapy, electrosurgery, or laser ablation.
Treatment of a Bartholin’s cyst depends on the size of the cyst and severity of the infection. In some cases, home treatment prescribed by a health care provider is enough. For other cases, surgical drainage of the cyst might be necessary. If an infection occurs, a health care provider might also prescribe antibiotics to treat an infected Bartholin’s cyst.
Generally, genital pimples result from lifestyle choices and products, so preventing these tiny inconveniences from popping up can be as easy as changing a few habits.
Keep your vaginal area clean and dry and avoid tight-fitting underwear to create a healthy environment for your genitals. Choosing underwear made from fabric that breathes and showering after exercise can help with this. Avoiding skin irritants like scented soaps, lotions, creams, and products made with harsh chemicals can help prevent contact dermatitis. A mild, unscented soap is all you need to keep your vulva clean.
If you’re not sure what’s causing pimples on your labia, a health care provider can help you figure it out. Regardless of the cause, treatment is available and can help you achieve the best results.