Like weeds in your lady garden, you try so hard to keep it smooth as butter but sometimes these bumps pop up – and it’s completely normal. And if they’re swollen enough, these little bulges might even have you thinking that something shady—or possibly life-threatening—is up with your health. But what kind of bumps should you actually be worried about?
“Most of my patients worry about cancer or herpes when they see vaginal bumps. But most of the time, bumps are benign and temporary,” says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., gynecologist at CareMount Medical in New York and co-author of The Complete A to Z for Your V. “There is usually a non-urgent explanation for them and they can be easily treated.”
While it might be tempting to catapult to the conclusion that you have herpes, truth is that the signs of herpes aren’t exactly easy to miss. In fact, they’re a lot more serious than a few bumps around your girl parts. “Herpes is actually not bumps, but blisters and some open sores,” says Carolyn DeLucia, M.D., of VSPOT Medi SPA in New York City. “They are painful and ooze fluid, and they eventually scab over.” So don’t fret, you probably don’t have herpes, here are 4 things that might be going on:
Hair Removal Is Irritating Your Skin
Aside from making the delicate skin along your bikini line red and itchy, it can also lead to ingrown hairs and folliculitis—a fancy term for an infected hair follicle.
“Due to efforts to treat the vaginal area with depilatories, shaving, and waxing, the hairs that grow back may get trapped [under the skin] and infected, causing bumps and pain,” says DeLucia. Slacking off on the hair removal for a week or two should help prevent a hairy situation from getting worse, but grooming-inflicted bumps usually tend to go away on their own anyway, says Eve Espey, M.D., professor and chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.
New Moles Or Skin Tags
Skin tags don’t pose a threat to your health and usually don’t require medical treatment—unless, of course, they annoy you to the point where you simply want to remove them. Moles, however, for the most part they’re no biggie, but it’s important that you’re able to tell the difference between the normal and suspicious varieties—especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, normal moles are usually round and regularly shaped, and they can be either flat or raised. Atypical moles, however, tend to be asymmetrical and multicolored, and their size can increase over time. If your hoo-ha has sprouted a brown spot that looks sorta funky, get it checked out right away. “Melanoma can be diagnosed in the [groin] area as well, so any pigmented lesion—especially if it’s new—should be biopsied,” says DeLucia.
Vaginal warts are a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI), and they’re often caused by specific strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). They’re small in size, they can be rough or smooth on the surface, and they’re typically skin color or slightly darker. “Warts do not cause health problems,” says Espey, “though most women seek treatment because of the stigma and cosmetic concerns around having genital warts, [which are contagious through sexual contact].” Although the warts themselves aren’t dangerous, you should still check in with your physician to find out if they were caused by HPV, which could put you at risk for cervical cancer and other issues.
If bumps down there still have you stressing, then it can’t hurt to have a medical professional take a look at them: “Bumps aren’t to be ignored,” says DeLucia, “and you should see your health care provider if they don’t resolve within a couple of weeks.”
“Same as anywhere else on the body, we may develop acne in the vaginal area as well,” says DeLucia. They look just like any other acne blemish would: red, irritated, and sometimes filled with pus.
Uncomfortable as the zits may be, fight the urge to squeeze them. (And please don’t use them as an excuse to make a gross pimple-popping video.) DeLucia recommends keeping your hands to yourself and letting your skin clear up on its own: “Vaginal acne usually resolves itself, as it does on the face.”