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Pimple on Labia

by | May 27, 2024 | Blog, Sexual Health, Women's health

woman thinking in bed pimple on labia

Key Takeaways

  1. Common and Usually Harmless: Pimples on the labia are a common issue and generally not dangerous.
  2. Causes: They can result from hormonal fluctuations, poor hygiene, and hair removal methods like shaving or waxing.
  3. Symptoms: Severe cases can lead to painful and oozing lesions known as vulval boils.
  4. Preventive Measures: Proper hygiene, gentle skincare, and careful hair removal techniques can help prevent labial pimples.
  5. When to Seek Medical Attention: If pimples persist, worsen, or cause significant pain, it is important to consult a healthcare provider.

We all have had pimples on face, chest or back, but have you ever come across a pimple on the labia? Medically known as ‘vulval acne‘ or ‘genital dermatoses‘, pimples on labia is a common condition many have misunderstood.

Some refer to this as ‘pimples on vagina‘, although the lesions commonly appear on the labia minora or labia majora, which are the outer parts of female genitals. These bumps are small reddish inflamed nodules which look very similar to regular pimples.

Patients with genital skin conditions often hesitate to talk about their symptoms with healthcare providers, resulting in delayed diagnosis and treatment. The longer these conditions go untreated, the higher the risk of developing mental health issues and sexual problems.[1] Therefore, understanding this condition is crucial for maintaining overall vaginal health.

What Causes Pimples on the Labia?

It can be an actual pimple arising from an inflamed pilosebaceous unit, commonly known as a clogged pore. Many factors predispose to this clogging, including hormonal fluctuations, poor hygiene and mechanical hair removal methods.[1] When severe, bacterial growth might lead to oozing lesions called ‘vulval boils’ causing pain and discomfort.[2]

pimple on the labia, showing an inflamed, red bump

Pimple on the labia, an inflamed, red bump commonly caused by clogged pores or bacterial infection

Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can cause pimples on the labia, especially after a period. These changes lead to an increase of sebum production, clogging pores, and cause water retention, which irritates and inflames the skin. Shifts in vaginal pH make the area more prone to bacterial growth.[3] Additionally, androgens can trigger apocrine acne, linked to puberty, pregnancy, and pre-menstrual phases.[2]

Poor hygiene is another contributing factor for pimples on the labia. Not washing regularly lets dirt and bacteria build up. Harsh soaps remove natural oils from the skin, causing dryness and irritation. Tight clothing traps moisture, creating an ideal environment for bacterial growth, and ultimately lead to vulval acne.

Hair removal methods like shaving or waxing can irritate the labia and cause pimples. Shaving creates micro-cuts, allowing bacteria to enter and cause infection. Waxing removes the skin’s protective layer, increasing irritation and infection risk. Ingrown hairs can also form, leading to painful bumps and inflammation.[4]

 

Identifying Pimples on the Labia

There is a number of conditions mimicing pimples on labia, including bacterial folliculitis, early hidradenitis suppurativa, an infected Bartholin’s cyst, and sebaceous adenitis, making the correct identification very important.[1]

Pimples on the labia are small, raised red or white bumps, which may be filled with pus and tender to touch. They often have a visible center, indicating infection in the hair follicle or oil gland. Although scarring is a big problem with facial acne, vulval acne is not associated with any scars.[1] Studies also report itching and painful sex (dysparaunia) as other symptoms.[1] These characteristics help distinguish them from other skin conditions, aiding in proper diagnosis and treatment.

Distinguishing pimples from herpes and genital warts is important as many confuse them to be vulval acne. Herpes sores are painful clusters of small blisters filled with clear fluid, while genital warts appear as flesh-colored growths caused by human papilloma virus (HPV). Unlike pimples, they lack pus and have distinct textures and appearances, aiding proper identification and treatment.[5]

These lesions are often painful and tender, especially during movements. At severe stages, the pain might stop you completely from walking and sleeping.[2] There can be other signs and symptoms of inflammation as well, including redness, swelling, bleeding and yellowish pus discharge.

 

When to Worry About a Pimple on Labia?

Monitoring the progression of labial pimples is important so that you would know when to go to a doctor. Persistent or worsening pimples for more than one to two weeks may indicate underlying issues. Symptoms like significant pain, color changes, increased size, pus, or systemic symptoms like fever signal potential infection, requiring medical attention to prevent complications. Recognizing these signs ensures timely management and treatment, promoting faster recovery.

 

Treatment Options for Pimples on the Labia

There are a few home remedies you can try, but you will have to go for professional medical management if the pimples do not go away within a few days. Applying a warm compress reduces pain and inflammation while cold compresses can help with itching. Tea tree oil’s antibacterial properties reduce infection, and aloe vera gel soothes and reduces redness.

However, persisting or recurrent pimples on labia require medical attention. You may consult your dermatologist, who will perform a clinical examination of the affected area and prescribe topical or oral medication or recommend other treatment modalities such as incision and drainage or injection of corticosteroids, depending on the severity.

 

Topical treatment

Topical antibiotic creams or lotions can help reduce inflammation by eradicating the bacterial growth. Clindamycin, tetracyclins and erythromycin are some antibiotics commonly used to treat acne with proven effects. Anti-inflammatory creams, containing ingredients like corticosteroids or salicylic acid, can reduce redness and swelling of labial pimples. These creams alleviate pain and promote healing by calming the skin. Using them alongside antibiotics targets the underlying causes, promoting faster healing. Always remeber to follow healthcare provider guidance for safe and effective treatment.

 

Oral medications

Oral medications include oral contraceptive pills, steroid tablets and oral antibiotics. Incorporating birth control pills in the treatment plan can be beneficial in management of labial pimples caused by hormonal fluctuations. They regulate hormone levels, particularly androgens, reducing sebum production and improving skin health. Clinical evidence to prove it to be a successful method of treatment, capable of maintaining hormonal balance and preventing recurrence of pimples.[1]

Oral isotretinoin tablets are effective even in antibiotic resistant cases and act by reducing the production of oil (Sebum) from the sebaceous glands closely related to hair follicles.[1] Concurrent therapy with oral steroid prednisolone and oral antibiotics such as erythromycin is proven effective for more severe forms of vulval acne.[2]

Case series published in 2021 outlines a clinically proven three step management plan.[1] They recommend initial treatment for mild symptoms with topical clindamycin, along with advice on care of vulval skin. Failing that, treatment should be upgraded to oral antibiotics including Erythromycin or Lymecycline, which is to be continued for 3 – 6 months. Next step is oral contraceptive pills containing the compound Cyproterone acetate, given that there are no contraindications. The third step is isotretinoin, initially starting with low doses, that can be gradually increased up to a total cumulative dose of 120mg/kg body weight.[1] Accurate and timely treatment helps to cure vulval acne with minimal complications.

 

Preventing Pimples on the Labia

This bothersome condition is very easily preventable; you simply have to adopt and maintain good hygiene practices. Maintain cleanliness by washing the genital area daily with mild soap and water. Avoid harsh soaps that remove natural oils from skin, and always pat dry with a clean towel to prevent moisture buildup. Wear breathable fabrics like cotton to reduce sweat buildup and clogged pores.

Furthermore, the use of safe hair removal methods is necessary to reduce irritation. When shaving, use a sharp, clean razor and shave in the direction of hair growth to avoid ingrown hairs. If waxing, ensure the wax is not too hot and apply it in the hair growth direction to minimize trauma. Avoid harsh depilatory creams and use a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer afterward to soothe the skin. These practices can help prevent pimples and maintain a healthy genital area.

 

Lifestyle adjustments

Two other well-known factors giving rise to acne are diet and stress.[6] Therefore, lifestyle adjustments addressing these issues can also help prevent labial pimples.

Diet:

  • Consume Zinc-Rich Foods: Regulates oil production, reducing clogged pores.
  • Eat Foods High in Vitamin A: Maintains healthy skin and prevents dead cell buildup.
  • Limit Processed and Sugary Foods: Reduces inflammation linked to pimples.
  • Stay Hydrated: Flushes toxins and keeps skin hydrated.

Stress Management:

  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing help lower stress levels.
  • Get Enough Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours to reduce stress and inflammation.
  • Exercise Regularly: Improves circulation and reduces inflammation.

These are simple but promising ways to maintain a healthy and comfortable genital area.

 

Conclusion

Pimples on labia are not uncommon, despite having little written content about the condition. While it may cause you significant discomfort, it is not a dangerous condition and usually goes away on its own. Recognizing triggers like hormonal fluctuations, poor hygiene, and improper hair removal is important, so that you can avoid these and take preventive measures. However, if pimples persist, worsen, or cause significant pain, do not hesitate to seek medical attention. Proper care and management can treat and prevent labial pimples, promoting confidence and comfort.

Frequently Asked Questions: Pimples on the Labia

 

  1. Can a pimple on the labia turn into herpes?

No, a pimple on the labia cannot turn into herpes. Pimples and herpes sores are caused by different causes: pimples result from clogged pores and bacteria, while herpes sores are painful clusters of blisters with clear fluid, caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). However, if you notice sores or blisters that are painful and persist, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

  1. How long does a pimple on the labia typically last?

Time it takes for a pimple on labia to disappear can vary from individual to individual. However, most go away in a few days, while others may take one or two weeks. If they last longer than that, please consult your health care provider for correct identification and treatment.

  1. Are there any specific products to avoid to prevent pimples on the labia?

It is beneficial to avoid harsh soaps or cleansers that can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation. Additionally, it’s best to avoid depilatory creams or products that might irritate the skin and cause inflammation and breakouts. Choosing gentle, non-comedogenic products and practicing good hygiene can help prevent labial pimples.

 

References
  1. Foo S, Lewis F, Velangi S, Walsh S, Calonje JE. Vulval acne: a case series describing clinical features and management. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2021;46(2):319-323. doi:10.1111/ced.14424
  2. Fearfield LA, Staughton RC. Severe vulval apocrine acne successfully treated with prednisolone and isotretinoin. Clin Exp Dermatol. 1999;24(3):189-192. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2230.1999.00451.x
  3. Zari S, Alrahmani D. The association between stress and acne among female medical students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:503-506. Published 2017 Dec 5. doi:10.2147/CCID.S148499
  4. DeMaria AL, Flores M, Hirth JM, Berenson AB. Complications related to pubic hair removal. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Jun;210(6):528.e1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2014.01.036. Epub 2014 Jan 31. PMID: 24486227; PMCID: PMC4040320.
  5. Callander JA, Davies BM, Hill G. Acquired lymphangioma circumscriptum of the vulva secondary to severe herpes simplex infection. Sex Transm Infect. 2020;96(3):233-234. doi:10.1136/sextrans-2019-054224
  6. Del Rosso J, Farris PK, Harper J, Baldwin H, Hazan A, Raymond I. New Insights Into Systemic Drivers of Inflammation and Their Contributions to the Pathophysiology of Acne. J Drugs Dermatol. 2024;23(2):90-96. doi:10.36849/JDD.8137

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