What Causes Vaginal Dryness?
The vagina is quite an impressive feat of biological engineering! Not only is it the source of human life for many, it can also be a source of both intense pleasure and efficient function. Not to mention it is self-cleaning and self-regulating!
However, as with all parts of the body, aging can have some impact on the vagina’s function and other areas of its proud owner’s life. Unfortunately, with the wisdom and experiences that come with age, the vagina can actually produce less natural moisture, leading to a number of unpleasant side effects. But don’t fear -- there are options to ensure that no matter how much natural moisture the vagina is producing, one can still have a fulfilling sexual life at all ages!
How Does The Vagina Moisturize Itself?
As we mentioned, your body generally produces a natural layer of vaginal moisture along the sensitive skin of its interior walls. This happens for a number of reasons beyond just sexual activity. Firstly, the chemical compounds of this moisture are alkaline in nature (it’s also why you might hear mention of pH balance), which allows for sperm to swim safely during the reproductive process. The second reason for this moisture is to reduce uncomfortable or painful friction or chafing during sexual activity, kind of like vaginal personal lubrication.
But this isn’t like your casual night-time moisturizing routine, it’s actually a complex system of hormones, muscles and cells that all work together to make this possible. We’ll spend some more time on this later, but basically the hormones in your body prompt the interior walls of the vagina to produce moisture. Pretty cool, right?
How Can Vaginal Dryness Happen?
Now, let’s talk about what causes vaginal dryness, and there are a few different potential causes. The most common cause can have more to do with hormone levels and the thickness of the walls of the vagina than it does with aging itself. One of the side effects of aging is that the body may naturally produce less estrogen, which sets off a chain reaction.
A consequence of these lower estrogen levels is that the walls of the vagina may become thinner, leaving fewer individual cells to produce moisture (this process is called “vaginal atrophy”). Think of it as your vagina scaling down its workforce, meaning there’s less production.
Bonus: Lower estrogen levels based on aging can also trigger the end of menstruation and the beginning of a stage called “perimenopause” (which basically just means “around or about” the onset of menopause). This is why you might often hear vaginal dryness referred to as “menopause related dryness.”
However, there are a whole host of potential causes for vaginal dryness, varying from life stages to lifestyle to medications and more. Here’s a quick list of those if you are curious!
- Breastfeeding and childbirth
- Cigarette smoking
- Depression or excessive stress
- Immune system disorders
- Rigorous exercise
- Removal of the ovaries and/or some cancer treatments
As you can see, there are a range of different factors that impact vaginal moisture but many of them relate to overall health and wellness. The reality is that vaginal dryness affects many women and is very common, certainly nothing to be ashamed of. While there isn’t much that can be done to prevent aging or natural reproductive cycles, there are some small steps that can be taken to prevent the onset of vaginal dryness, most are as simple as reading the ingredients list of your sexual health products.
For example, some experts recommend avoiding irritating products such as scented douches, sprays or creams. Others have warned against the use of latex condoms that contain nonoyxnol-9, or N-9, which is believed by some experts to cause vaginal dryness.
However, even if you do experience vaginal dryness and some of its negative side effects, there are options to limit its impact on your life and alleviate discomfort.
How You Can Treat Vaginal Dryness
Luckily, there are a number of great options for those experiencing vaginal dryness. Firstly, your physician may be able to prescribe estrogen in the form of a pill, cream or ring to boost natural hormone levels and reverse some of the effects. By restoring estrogen levels in your body, the walls of the vagina may thicken again and increase the production of natural moisture.
However, if you’re looking for a solution a little closer to home, you’re also in luck. One of the most unpleasant side effects of vaginal dryness is discomfort during sexual experiences, which is no fun! The good news is that there are options to help you reclaim your mojo and get back to enjoying your sex life.
Vaginal dryness, meet your kryptonite: personal lubricant. Lube can do double duty, reducing dryness and discomfort, while also potentially adjusting the vagina’s pH balance (which can decrease the likelihood of getting a UTI).
When it comes to lube, you can and should be choosy though. While fun fragrances and exciting colors may seem tempting, you’ll want to avoid them, as they can unfortunately cause irritation and further discomfort.
Experts also recommend steering clear of oil based lubricants, especially when latex condoms are being used. Oils found in products like petroleum jelly or some lotions and creams can actually damage latex condoms (and some other contraceptive and safer sex products). Bad news!
Not to worry, there are a variety of lubricants to suit every style, whether you prefer silicone based lubricant, water based lubricant or hybrid lubricant. Yes, that’s right! Now your favorite properties of silicone based lube and water based lube have been studied, tested and combined with your pleasure in mind by doctors, health experts and scientists.
Take for example ONE® Silk™. This premium hybrid lube is formulated to create a long-lasting, moisturizing and body-friendly experience, with optimal amounts of both water and silicone based lube.
Because of this, it can safely be paired with latex and polyisoprene condoms, as well as silicone toys. It’s in the name: it’s silky smooth!
But we went one step further: ONE® Silk™ is pH balanced to match natural lubrication. A pH balanced lube will not cause a vagina's pH balance to shift. Healthy pH levels keep a vagina balanced, which leaves them at less risk for susceptibility to yeast infections.
And you can feel confident that this lube is made from the finest ingredients; ONE® Silk™ contains no gluten, DEA, PEG, hormones, parabens, glycerin, oil, artificial dyes or fragrances.
And you can keep a bottle at home and one for on the go! Have we convinced you yet? You can now buy it at all Guardian stores nationwide or simply get them delivered to your doorstep via Guardian Online.
Important Note: With the multitude of options, hopefully you are able to find timely relief from vaginal dryness. However, if you do continue to experience vaginal dryness without relief, it is important to seek the advice of a medical professional.
A good rule of thumb is to schedule an appointment if your discomfort lasts a few days, if you experience sores or tears in the skin of the vagina. If you begin to experience severe vaginal bleeding, that can be a sign of an urgent issue and you should seek care immediately.