Most women will experience dry vaginal skin at some point in their lives, and usually the causes are fairly mild and easy to treat. These causes can range from tight-fitting clothes to the use of scented soap. Sometimes vaginal dryness may have a more deep-rooted cause, such as hormonal imbalances or vaginal infections.
Menopause is one of the most common causes of dry vaginal skin. During child-bearing years, the mucous membranes of the vagina usually create a fluid to help lubricate the vaginal lining. The creation of this fluid is encouraged by the hormone estrogen. During menopause, estrogen levels typically decline, which may cause the skin of the vagina to become dry and sensitive.
Certain lifestyle choices may also be to blame for vaginal skin dryness. For instance, tight-fitting clothing or material that does not allow for a proper amount of airflow can cause the vagina to become irritated, which may lead to the skin becoming dry. Soaps and body washes with a lot of perfume, chemicals, or oils, as well as certain feminine hygiene products, may also result in dry skin. A poor diet, prescription medications, and emotional stress can lead to a decline of certain hormones, which in turn can also cause the skin of the vagina to lose moisture.
Although most of the causes of dry vaginal skin are fairly harmless, others may be more worrisome. Certain autoimmune conditions, like Sjogren's syndrome and lichen sclerosis, may affect the moisture content of the genital region. Sjogren's syndrome causes an increase of antibodies in the blood, which may work against certain tissues in the body. In some cases, this can cause inflammation of the lining of the vagina, which may lead to irritation and dryness. Lichen sclerosis causes dry, scaly patches to form on the vulva and anus, though these patches may also develop in other locations.
Dry vaginal skin may also be a symptom of certain infections, skin conditions, or allergic reactions. Bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections may serve to increase vaginal dryness to outer areas of skin, mainly because these areas frequently come into contact with irritating, infected discharge. Certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as the herpes simplex virus and genital warts, can also deplete vaginal moisture. In addition, vaginal dryness may be a physiological response to contact dermatitis and genital psoriasis.