5 Summer Vagina & Vulva Care Tips To Help Avoid Chafing, Infections, & More

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Oh, summertime. A time of warm weather, cute outfits, swimming, hanging out with family and friends… And a time of an irritated vulva or pained vagina. Yup, you got that right — the warmer months are prime time for infections, chafing, swelling, pain flare-ups, and general irritation in your pubic region. But fear not — these summer vagina and vulva care tips can help you keep everything healthy all summer (and year) long.

"Summertime means sweaty times, which can mean not-so-great times for our vulvas," Arielle Egozi, sex columnist, sex positive influencer, and co-founder of Bread, tells Bustle. "Yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis love a hot and humid environment, and the summer heat doesn’t help (neither does staying in your wet swimsuit!). Be sure to change your underwear often, and try to wear organic materials like cotton. If you’re into shaving and waxing your pubes, you’ll also be a lot more prone to ingrown hairs. Be sure to exfoliate, and remember that there isn’t any shame in showing some hair or some bumps."

But just because it's getting hot and sweaty out doesn't mean you have to suffer. There are steps you can take to prevent all of the following six ways summer can mess with your vagina and vulva. So be proactive about your vaginal and vulvar health and get ready to enjoy your summer to the fullest.

1. UTIs Spike In The Summer

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Though urinary tract infections aren't an issue with the vagina specifically — since, well, it's a urinary tract infection, not a vaginal infection — UTIs are more common in people with vaginas because it's easier to spread bacteria to the urethra, especially for people who have penetrative sex. The rate of urinary tract infections (UTIs) goes up in summer, particularly in people with vaginas. One 2017 study from researchers at the University of Iowa found even found that the overall rates of UTIs are increasing and that the seasonal peak is especially prevalent in women between the ages of 18 and 40. The researchers hypothesized that the summer spike could be do to dehydration, which can contribute to UTI risk, or to increased summer sexual activity.

Regardless of the cause, if you’re prone to UTIs, it’s probably worth it to take some preventative steps this summer. Uqora offers products that help flush out any new, nasty bacteria, help build up good bacteria, and others that tackle old bacteria left over from previous infections that are ready to strike again. Antibiotics can also stop a current infection in its tracks, so see your doctor as soon as you think you have a UTI.

2. Chafing And Swelling

If you’re the type who likes flowy summer dresses and skirts, then you’re probably already well aware of thigh chafing. But or people who have longer labia, all that friction and sweat can lead to labia chafing and swelling, too. Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent labia chafing and swelling. You can buy little spandex shorts — Knix's Thigh Saver ($36) is specifically made for this purpose — that keep everything from rubbing up on each other. You can also apply topical products like Vagisil if the swelling has already started, only wear underwear made from natural fibers, and sleep without underwear on to give your vulva a break.

Another option? Check out Private Packs, which makes heating and cooling pads for vulvas, which can help take down the swelling and itch.

3. Travel Can Cause Pelvic Pain Flare Ups

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Many people travel during the summer and for those who experience pelvic pain, travel can mean flare-ups.

"With travel usually comes full bowels (full constipation) and that tends to make pelvic pain worse," Amy Stein of Beyond Basics PT tells Bustle. "You need to be conscious of drinking enough water and moving as much as you can. With a lot of sitting, that can increase symptoms. Travel cushions are something we recommend and can be helpful. Knowing what helps when you do have a flare can be helpful."

One tool that can help with sex if you're experiencing a pelvic pain flare-up is Ohnut, which is a set of stackable rings that makes it easier to control penetration. After all, who wants to miss out on vacation sex?

4. Pube Removal Can Lead To Infections

Removing pubes — especially around the bikini line — can lead to ingrown hairs, which can lead to angry red bumps or even infections. Ouch! That increased razor or shaving action can have you scratching away all summer which, let’s be honest, isn’t fun.

If you’re particularly prone to those bumps, the first thing you should do is examine your hair removal method. Are you using an old, dull razor? Ditch that and invest in a new one — as well as some quality, non-irritating shaving cream. You might also want to consider adding a product like Fur Oil and Stubble Cream to your routine. They’re specially formulated to help keep those ingrown hairs down in the pubic area.

5. STI Risk Might Increase

Have you ever noticed that your sex drive increases during the summer? That’s partly due to sunlight’s effects on the body — including increases in energy and confidence. Regardless, a 2016 study found that both partner numbers and PID diagnoses increased in the late summer and autumn.

If you’re having more sex with more partners then, first of all, high five. Second, remember that an increased number of partners means an increased risk of sexually transmitted infection (STI) exposure. And while all STIs are treatable and most are curable, they can also be really uncomfortable. So reduce your risk by using barrier methods like condoms and dental dams, which can reduce the risk of STIs.

Summer time can be one of the best times of the year, but there's nothing like an infection or ingrown hair to cast a shadow over a sunny day. Take care of your vulva and vagina and they'll take care of you.