Back to articles

Intimate dryness

Released by Dr. Anne De Kevasdoué the 2017-05-15
Intimate dryness

This is often confused with insufficient vaginal lubrication, something which is triggered by sexual desire.

Intimate dryness however, is initially experienced as local discomfort throughout the day, and sometimes irritation. The mucous membranes of the vulva and/or vagina are pale, thinner and more fragile; they have lost their suppleness and elasticity. In some cases, fissures can even occur.
In medical jargon, particularly during smear tests, the term “atrophy” is used.

In the long term, it causes discomfort and then pain during sexual relations.
Whatever the cause, vulvovaginal dryness can ruin the quality of a person’s sex life.

What causes this intimate dryness?

In most cases the cause is hormona​l and linked to an oestrogen deficiency, particularly after the menopause when the ovaries stop secreting hormones. It worsens with age and a lack of sexual relations. Over half of post-menopausal women suffer from it, but few bring it up with their doctor.

In young women, vaginal “atrophy” can occur in certain circumstances such as childbirth and while breastfeeding, but also if a woman has not had a period for more than six months, as has been observed in anorexics. It can also result from taking certain drugs like progestogen, some mini pills, LH-RH analogues and anti oestrogens used for hormone-dependent breast cancer to reduce or stop oestrogen secretion.

This hormone deficiency reduces local blood flow, causes the vaginal mucous to disappear, and stops the secretions of the sebaceous glands of the endocervix and vulva.

The result is a loss of cutaneous collagen, reduced hydration and a gradual loss of mucous membrane elasticity.

Another common cause is vaginal infections of any kind, which irritate and dry out the mucous membranes. Recurrent fungal infections contribute to drying out the vagina, sometimes for long periods of time, to the point where some women think the fungal infection has not been cured and continue to use pessaries indefinitely.

Inappropriate cleansing with an aggressive soap or detergent, frequent douching and the excessive use of tampons, all unbalance the vaginal flora and can even destroy it.

A number of general conditions can also put women at risk of vaginal dryness, such as diabetes, depression and the effects of a gynaecological procedure.

Certain drugs like vitamin A acid used for acne and antidepressants.

How can women maintain good mucosal hydration?

The best way is to maintain regular sexual relations, adopt good intimate hygiene habits and avoid the use of harsh chemicals. Water alone will not solve the problem because it tends to dry out the skin and mucous membranes. Use cleansing products with a moisturizing base that helps preserve the hydrolipidic film.

After menopause, the most effective treatment is HRT which restores moisture, suppleness and elasticity to the mucous membranes. For those who prefer not to take HRT, the use of creams, pessaries or vaginal capsules, hormone based or otherwise, is recommended.

Don’t hesitate to discuss it with your gynaecologist or pharmacist.

Our latest articles

Sensitive skin : Good habits

Avoid products that contain allergenic fragrances or preservatives that could cause skin reactions. Avoid overly harsh cleansers, which destroy the natural hydrolipidic film that protects the skin. Use soap-free cleansers or soaps containing surgras agents that restore the hydrolipidic film. Do not exfoliate too often! Make sure you use a very gentle exfoliant formulated for […]
Dr. Florence Poli
Read the post

Acne and diet

Acne sufferers and their parents have always suspected chocolate, pork and all “good things” of being responsible for acne and its aggravation. And these beliefs continue despite opposing medical opinion. But doctors’ are now changing their opinion!  Has this been proven? Studies first demonstrated the absence of acne in so-called primitive populations which have a […]
Dr. Florence Poli
Read the post

Baby skin : Good habits

Naturally dry, baby skin tends to become more fragile when exposed to various aggressions, especially hard water, but also repeated bathing with overly harsh products which can alter and damage the skin. In order to protect the sensitive skin of babies, use a surgras, soap-free, pH-neutral cleanser for their daily bath.
Dr. Florence Poli
Read the post