Top products and tips for tackling vaginal dryness in menopause - and beyond...
Ouch…just the mention of vaginal dryness will have many of us clenching our teeth or pursing our lips. It’s uncomfortable, distressing, and is often a complete passion killer because it can make sex painful. It affects women of all ages and, although it’s commonly associated with menopause, an estimated 17% of women aged 17-50 experience it and over half of all post-menopausal women. That’s millions of women…
For generations, vaginal dryness and, in particular, the way vaginal dryness affects sexual enjoyment, has been a taboo subject; women were expected to put up and shut up. And even these days, many women who have plucked up the courage to consult their GP, don’t always get correct information, nor the answers or support they are entitled to expect. It can also be difficult to discuss the subject with your partner and it’s often equally difficult for your partner to know what to do or how to support you. They may be worried about hurting you, and what has been a happy and satisfying sex life for both of you gradually dwindles away, and this can be the cause of great sadness. But, of course, you don’t need to be having an active sex life to be affected by the discomfort of vaginal dryness.
So, we’ve put together a list of top products and tips to help ease vaginal dryness both during menopause and after. But, don’t forget, everyone is different so what works for one woman might not work for you. The good news is that all our tips are safe and most of the products won’t affect any medication you are taking or using, such as HRT or topical oestrogen cream (but do check with your GP before taking any supplements). You may need to experiment for a while before you find what suits you best.
1) Use menopause vaginal moisturisers
When we’re young, our vaginas are naturally moist but they become drier as our oestrogen levels drop during and beyond menopause. You can replace that lost moisture with a good quality, natural moisturiser, like Yes VM Gel that you apply to your vagina regularly – each application last for three nights. It’s hormone free and hypoallergenic and is available in the Live Better With online shop with or without applicators or as part of the Yes 3-Step Intimate Dryness kit.
Other vaginal moisturiser popular with Live Better With customers is Evaux EvoGyn Intimate Moisturising Gel and many of our Facebook group members swear by Replens; it’s long lasting, oestrogen and fragrance free and safe to use with condoms. Some of our members have found that natural products like organic coconut oil (as long as you’re not allergic to it!) or olive oil can help to moisturise the vagina too. Natural oils can also be used as a chemical-free lubricant – but please don’t use oils with condoms!
2) Don’t rush sex – take your time
It’s important not to rush sex if your vagina isn’t ready. Spend more time on foreplay to encourage your vagina to produce as much natural moisture as possible and to avoid the dreaded sandpaper effect!
3) Love your lubricant
Intimate lubricants are designed to make sex easier and more comfortable. Make it part of foreplay and apply in and around your vagina or on your partner’s penis. If you are using condoms, we recommend a water-based lubricant like Sylk (which doubles as a moisturiser). It’s plant-based, matches your vagina’s natural pH and is hormone and paraben free. If you aren’t using condoms, you might prefer an oil-based lubricant, such as Yes OB, a hypoallergenic, richly nourishing, plant-based oil that contains no chemicals or preservatives – and it’s recommended by gynaecologists.
If you are finding that sex is painful, do read our recent article on the subject; it explains why this can happen during and after menopause, and includes advice and information on what can help.
4) Wash, shower and bathe the chemical-free way
Keep perfumed soaps and shower and bath foams, creams and gels away from your vulval and vaginal area as they can irritate delicate tissue. Opt instead for unperfumed, natural, organic products, like the unfragranced version of Yes Cleanse Intimate Wash or look for an SLS-free aqueous cream, which you can use as a vulval cleanser and rinse away.
(Although aqueous cream is often described - and sold - as a moisturiser, current medical advice from NICE and the National Eczema Society is not to use it as a leave-on moisturiser, as it can trigger allergic reactions.)
5) Supplement with sea buckthorn
If you are looking for a supplement that is backed up by clinical trials, Live Better With suggests sea buckthorn capsules. Many women are discovering the benefits of Pharma Nord Omega-7 SB24 which has been proven to ease vaginal dryness. It’s a nutritionally rich supplement, derived from the berry and seed of the vibrant sea buckthorn plant, which is found in parts of Asia and Europe. Together with beta-carotene, these nutrients help to enrich vaginal mucous membrane, which is responsible for natural lubrication.
It’s safe to use throughout menopause and in the post-menopause years but always check with your GP before taking any supplement, to ensure that it won’t interact with or affect any medication you are taking.
6) Get to know and understand your vagina better
It may sound strange and possibly a little daunting to suggest getting better acquainted with your most intimate area but it can be surprising how much we don’t, in fact, know about our vaginas and vulvas. Not only is Jane Lewis’s book, My Menopausal Vagina, a great read, it’s highly informative too. The idea for the book stemmed from Jane’s own experience of trying to cope with and find a solution to vaginal atrophy. It wasn’t an easy journey - and her journey continues - but her book is now required reading for vulval health professionals and is gradually finding its way into more and more GPs’ practices. You can read our interview with Jane here.
A better knowledge and understanding of your vagina and vulva will also make your more alert to any changes that need medical attention, such as splitting, bleeding, changes in the colour of skin or tissue, or dryness and discomfort that tip over into permanent pain. If you experience any or all of these symptoms, do consult your GP. It’s important to get a correct diagnosis and start any recommended treatment as soon as possible.
7) Avoid products that can irritate
Don’t put any product into your vagina that isn’t specifically designed for it – so absolutely no non-vaginal creams or moisturisers, such as facial or body care products, and no petroleum jelly. Products like these can irritate sensitive vaginal tissue and cause infection, making you even more uncomfortable.
Are you trying to cope with vaginal dryness during or after menopause? Have you found anything that helped? Visit the Live Better With Menopause Community Forum for information, advice, and tips, and to share your own questions and suggestions.