Ever have those workouts where literally your entire body is drenched in sweat (boxing workouts and HIIT circuits may do it)? Yes, that includes your vagina and vulva too. First of all, this is totally normal and is just physiology. No one wants a giant wet stain on their leggings in the gym, but the reality is, most people are so focused on whatever show they’re watching on the treadmill or what they’re going to eat after the workout that they’re not paying any attention.
There are certain workouts that tend to cause more sweat in the groin and vaginal area, especially legs-together workouts that cause a lot of friction, like running. While no one wants to feel damp and sweaty post-workout, it’s important that you take care of your vulva so that you don’t break out in that area (trust us, it can happen and it’s not comfortable). It can be helpful to understand why your vulvar skin might sweat and what you can do to make sure you’re clean, comfortable, and healthy down there. Read more for some post-gym tips.
Why does the vagina sweat?
According to the Mayo Clinic, your skin has two main types of sweat glands: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands appear over most of your body and open directly onto the surface of the skin. Apocrine glands, on the other hand, develop in areas abundant in hair follicles, such as your armpits and groin, and they empty into the hair follicle just before it opens onto the skin surface.
And while the eccrine glands produce the most moisture, it’s the apocrine glands (prominent in the groin area) that produce the odor you detect after a strenuous exercise session.
Dealing with and preventing odor is one thing, but making sure your groin area stays dry is essential to avoid yeast infections or any other infections. When the sweat does not get a chance to breathe, as is the case when you wear poor-quality workout clothes or remaining in them for too long after exercising, the skin stays wet and traps in the moisture. And this is a perfect breeding ground for yeast to grow.
In addition to yeast infections, you should also be aware of developing a urinary tract infection. Wiping yourself from front to back prevents bacteria from spreading from the anal region to the vagina or urethra, which increases your risk for contracting an uncomfortable UTI, something we all want to avoid, thank you very much.
How to minimize sweat and odor
The best thing you can do is to keep your groin area as dry as possible, and one of the best ways to do that is to change out of your sweaty clothes as soon as possible after exercising, especially if you’re on your period during this workout (this can add extra moisture and increase your risk of yeast infections and UTIs). Bring a spare pair of clothes with you that you can stash in your gym locker or even a dress to air things out even more afterward.
Invest in some quality workout underwear
It might seem crazy to spend $15 to $18 on one pair of underwear, but splurging on specially designed sweat-wicking workout underwear makes a big difference in the fight against vaginal sweat. And while you’re at it, spending a few extra dollars on some quality sweat-wicking workout pants adds another layer of protection from extra sweat and smells.
Shower right away
While it’s tempting to run a few errands after your workout, if you are experiencing persistent vaginal odor, it’s best to hop in the shower immediately following a workout and bathe with warm water and a mild, fragrance-free soap. You don’t need any fancy-smelling products, because the vagina cleans itself, and some products with fragrance can throw off the natural pH balance of the vagina.
You may want to try hair removal
You can potentially reduce vaginal odor by trimming or removing pubic hair. Sweat and urine can get trapped in pubic hair, especially while you work out creating undesirable odors. That said, pubic hair does also help keep infection out of the vagina, so you don’t need to go totally bare for your health.
Avoid panty liners
While it might be tempting to put down a layer of protection to soak up the sweat, using a panty liner as a barrier between your body and underwear will only increase the odds of vaginal irritation and odor. Keep these period products to a minimum, like using them only when you have your period or a light spotting day.
Whatever you do, do not douche
Douching is never necessary — there are plenty of other ways to clean up down there, including some basic soap and water (or just water). The vagina is a self-cleaning oven, remember?
The bottom line is that groin sweat is natural and normal for everyone, but if it’s something that’s bothering you, stock up on some extra sweat-wicking underwear and pants. And remember to keep your body as clean as possible after a workout to avoid infection.
Before you go, you may want to think twice before attempting these yoga poses during your period:
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