Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
For too long women have suffered silently while coping with vaginal dryness (medical names: atrophic vaginitis, vaginal atrophy, and vulvovaginal atrophy), a group of symptoms that can develop during perimenopause and continue to persist after menopause. During this time, women experience a drop in estrogen levels—meaning less moisture and a thinner, drier vaginal lining.
Even though many women experience the itchiness, burning, and painful sex associated with atrophic vaginitis, only 20-25 percent seek medical help, according to research cited by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) (1).
We’re not about suffering. And we’re not about keeping silent. So we’ll speak up about treatments that may help—so that no one dealing with the painful reality of vaginal dryness has to feel alone. You have options, so let’s get talking about them.
Vaginal dryness treatment options
Some treatments are aimed at addressing the discomfort of dryness and others deal with the estrogen loss itself to minimize related symptoms. There are over-the-counter options, like lubricants and moisturizers, as well as medications, such as vaginal estrogen creams or oral systemic hormone replacement therapy (HRT). For natural remedies, making a few simple changes to your household products, having more intimate moments (with a partner or alone), and adding one ingredient to your diet may help. We’ll review these alternative remedies in detail ahead.
8 natural remedies for vaginal dryness
While your friends and family may have their own home remedies they swear by, these may or may not work for you. In some cases, recommendations that aren’t science-backed could make things worse. So, we went to reliable sources to get these tweaks you can make to your daily routine. And to kick things off, the first four come from the a go-to resource, the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) (2).
- Stop using soap to wash up. Water works just fine by itself for cleaning inside the vulva and may leave you feeling more comfortable, recommends NAMS (and you can credit them for the next three as well).
- Skip toilet paper with fragrance to help reduce vaginal irritation.
- Take care when washing your intimates: Ditch detergents with dyes and perfumes, and skip fabric softener and anti-cling products.
- Steer clear of applying lotions and perfumes on the inner vulva to avoid any unnecessary discomfort.
- Have more sex. According to a study of 52 postmenopausal women published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) (3), those who were sexually active (i.e. having sex three times or more monthly) were less likely to have vaginal dryness than those who were less sexually active (having sex less than ten times annually).
- …or opt for self pleasure. Vaginal stimulation without a partner helps boost vaginal tissue health after menopause, according to Mayo Clinic (4).
- …and if you do, why not consider a vibrator? Using a vibrator helps increase blood flow, which in turn boosts estrogen delivery, and, as a result, lubrication, recommends the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Stamford Health (5).
- Soy-based foods and supplements may help. A study cited by the American Association of Family Physicians (2) found that soy may help with vaginal dryness and hot flashes when compared to a placebo. “Soybeans contain plant-based substances called isoflavones… (which) have an effect on the body that is similar to estrogen, but weaker,” explains the U.S. National Library of Medicine (6). “Therefore, it seems that a diet rich in soy foods may improve symptoms of vaginal dryness. There continues to be research in this area. The ideal sources or dose is still unknown. Soy foods include tofu, soy milk, and whole soybeans (also called edamame).”
Other natural treatments with mixed results for vaginal dryness
If you’ve been Googling around, you may have come across some other supposed remedies. Yams are something some women say helps them find relief for vaginal dryness, but, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (6), more research is needed as it is not yet clear if these do actually help relieve symptoms. Same goes for red clover and herbal medicines, which, according to research cited by the AAFP (1), showed mixed results in helping issues related to menopause.
Are there any “natural remedies” that should be avoided?
Why yes. “If you’re looking to use something natural and evidence-based, women should be careful about remedies that involve putting something that is not doctor-recommended inside the vagina,” says Dr. Melynda Barnes, MD, the Clinical Director at Rory. “Anything that’s put inside the vagina has the potential to alter PH, which is when you’re at risk for bacterial vaginosis or yeast infection”
Other treatments for vaginal dryness
While alternative treatments may help with some symptoms of vaginal dryness, they may not offer enough relief. If that’s the case, a doctor can help come up with a treatment plan that works, such as topical vaginal estrogen creams , which is a common therapy for vaginal dryness.
1. Bachman GA, Nevadunsky NS. Diagnosis and Treatment of Atrophic Vaginitis. Am Fam Physician. 2000 May 15;61(10):3090-3096.
2. The North American Menopause Society. Vaginal and Vulvar Comfort: Lubricants, Moisturizers, and Low-dose Vaginal Estrogen. The North American Menopause Society. Accessed March 12, 2019
3. Leiblum S, Bachmann G, Kemmann E, Colburn D, Swartzman L. Vaginal Atrophy in the Postmenopausal Woman: The Importance of Sexual Activity and Hormones. JAMA. 1983;249(16):2195–2198. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330400041022
4. Laughlin-Tommaso SK. Vaginal dryness after menopause: How to treat it?. Mayo Clinic. Published October 12, 2018. Accessed March 12, 2019
5. Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Stamford Health. 3 Tips for Better Sex After Menopause. Stamford Health. Published May 25, 2017. Accessed March 12, 2019
6. Jacobson JD. Vaginal Dryness. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Updated September 28, 2017. Accessed March 12, 2019