It’s not like you’re purposely peeking at your vagina — or maybe you are. Maybe after you got a wax you were admiring your lady parts in all their hairless glory, and noticed that your skin tone down there wasn’t the same shade as the rest of your body, that your vaginal area looks darker than you would have expected. This is totally normal.
Why is my vaginal area dark?
Although you may have not noticed it before, truth be told, it would be kind of surprising if your vagina were the same shade as your face or other body parts. “The cellular make-up of the vulva and vagina is very different than any other parts of the female body,” Dr. David M. Kimble, M.D., a board-certified urogynecologist at The Kimble Center tells Romper. “The amount of melanin and chromophores are greater in the vulva, especially the outer rim of the labia minora.” It’s due to the presence of said melanin that creates a darker shade for your vaginal area. And since your vagina isn’t exposed to the environment as much as, say, your face, the cellular turnover rate is reduced, according to Kimble, thus allowing the pigmentation to persist.
Can pregnancy affect the color of the vaginal area?
If you thought that your vaginal area was already shady, (ha), just wait until you’re expecting. Sometimes, (but not always), your vagina can become even more saturated in color when you’re pregnant. “Pregnancy has a direct impact on the pigmentation of the vulvar skin,” explains Kimble. “As an analogy, melasma is most common in pregnancy due to hormonal fluctuations, specifically super high levels of estrogen. Melasma is thought to affect the skin of the face only, however a similar reaction can occur in the vulva.”
“Pregnancy can darken the skin in that area as well as other areas of your body due to the hormones of pregnancy,” Dr. Cynthia Flynn, M.D., an OB-GYN with JustAnswer tells Romper. In addition, “the vaginal area also has more blood flow during pregnancy and may be darker,” she says.
What happens during the postpartum period
Just as pregnancy can cause an influx of hormones and increased blood flow, being postpartum does the actual opposite. Because hormone levels fall and you’re bleeding for about six weeks postpartum, chances are if you look at your vagina after having a baby, you might be surprised to see that your vaginal area has changed color again. “Postpartum is typically the lowest hormonal state in a woman’s life second only to menopause, and is true especially in breastfeeding moms,” explains Kimble. “Due to the low level of estrogen, the hyperpigmentation may actually improve in time.” But if you look down and still see a darker color, there’s a reason for that, too. “Bear in mind that the trauma incurred with a vaginal delivery could result in injury to the labia causing pigmentation changes during the healing process,” he says.
Can you make your vaginal area less dark?
There are some places (from spas to medical offices) where you can get a treatment called “vaginal bleaching,” but the question really comes down to: is it safe? “I would definitely NOT recommend vaginal bleaching!” Dr. Cheruba Prabakar, MD, an OB/GYN tells Romper. “Your skin can definitely suffer burns from chemicals, and it can also throw off the ph and cause various vaginal infections.”
The International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease recommends that there be a greater understanding (and acceptance) of genital normalcy as it relates to variations in skin tone and other aspects of its overall aesthetic appearance, per a PubMed study. “Vaginal bleaching may cause chronic irritation and inflammation,” says Flynn, and those are side effects you definitely don’t want to experience.
Should you worry if your vaginal area is dark?
If your vaginal area is darker than the rest of your body (and always has been), there probably isn’t too much cause for concern. But there are times in which you might need to speak to your OB-GYN to ensure that everything is okay down there. “The primary cause for concern is an asymmetric darkening, or a darkening of just one area,” says Kimble. “This would raise the concern for a melanoma which can occur in the vulva even though this area is not normally exposed to the sun.” If the pigmentation continues to darken, has irregular borders, becomes raised, or thickens, you should speak to your doctor.
Additionally, “If you develop a non-healing sore, or a dark area that is growing or bleeding, that is a cause for concern,” says Flynn. “Your gynecologist should be checking the area at your annual visit for these issues.” But if you notice any of these symptoms before your annual, schedule an appointment ahead of time to get it checked and assuage your concerns.
If you discover that your lady parts aren’t the same color as the rest of your body, you can always make an appointment with your OB-GYN to ask about vaginal hyperpigmentation. They’ll be able to determine if it’s just your natural skin tone, or if you might need further testing.
Vieira-Baptista, P., Almeida, G., Bogliatto, F., Bohl, T., Burger, M., Cohen-Sacher, B., Gibbon, K., Goldstein, A., Heller, D., Likes, W., Longo da Silva, C., Marchitelli, C., Moyal-Barracco, M., Posey, K., Sluga, M., Stockdale, C., Marquini, G., Zalewski, K. “International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease Recommendations Regarding Female Cosmetic Genital Surgery” 2018.
Dr. David M. Kimble, M.D., a board-certified urogynecologist at The Kimble Center
Dr. Cheruba Prabakar, M.D., an OB-GYN
Dr. Cynthia Flynn, M.D., an OB-GYN with JustAnswer