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Vaginal dryness, also known as vaginal atrophy, is more common than you might expect. Signs of vaginal dryness include:

  • burning
  • loss of interest in sex
  • pain with sexual intercourse
  • light bleeding following intercourse
  • soreness
  • urinary tract infections (UTIs) that don’t go away or that reoccur
  • vaginal itching or stinging

Most often, people with vaginas experience vaginal dryness during perimenopause and menopause.

“Fluctuation of hormones, specifically a drop in estrogen levels, can lead to vaginal dryness,” explains Mary Jacobson, MD, an OB-GYN and the chief medical officer of Alpha Medical. “Less estrogen means less natural vaginal moisture and elasticity.”

The drop in estrogen causes the tissue that lines the vaginal walls to thin, so there are fewer cells that secrete moisture.

Vaginal dryness happens outside menopause, too. In people who are breastfeeding, estrogen levels are low in part due to elevated prolactin levels, Jacobson explains.

“Estrogen levels usually return to normal once breastfeeding becomes less frequent or stops,” Jacobson adds.

Other reasons you might experience low estrogen and vaginal dryness, according to Jacobson, include:

  • surgical removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy of the pelvis to treat cancer
  • medical conditions or lifestyle changes that induce secondary amenorrhea (which is when you don’t have a period for more than 3 months), including:
    • eating disorders
    • over-exercising
    • poor diet
    • extreme stress
    • chronic illness
  • medications that suppress estrogen during the menstrual cycle, including hormonal contraceptives, like:
    • medroxyprogesterone acetate (Depo Provera, or “the shot”)
    • progestin-only intrauterine devices
  • hormonal therapies used to treat breast cancer, like tamoxifen.
  • leuprolide, a medication used to treat endometriosis or shrink fibroids

There are quite a few non-hormonal options to treat vaginal dryness. In terms of what’s available over the counter (OTC), there are vaginal moisturizers and vaginal lubricants. Both products are effective at relieving discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse for people with vaginas, according to Jacobson.

“They reduce the friction associated with thin, dry genital tissue,” she explains.

Lubricants are applied just before or during sex, and act rapidly to provide short-term relief from vaginal dryness and related pain.

Vaginal moisturizers, on the other hand, rehydrate dry mucosal tissue and are absorbed into the tissue. They can be applied anytime, and are meant to be used on a consistent basis over a longer period of time.

“They adhere to the vaginal lining and mimic natural vaginal secretions,” Jacobson explains.

There are four main types of vaginal moisturizers:

  • The first two are creams and gels, which are usually applied with an applicator or your finger directly into the vagina.
  • There are also suppositories, which are pills and capsules that you place inside your vagina.
  • Lastly, natural oils can also work as vaginal moisturizers. Sometimes, oils come in capsule form, like vitamin E liquid capsules. Coconut oil and almond oil may also be good options.

Though natural oils can be used on their own, they’re also often included as an ingredient in creams and gels. Aloe is another common natural ingredient, notes Rebecca Brightman, MD, a board certified OB-GYN and menopause specialist.

Another key ingredient is hyaluronic acid — just like what you see in skin care products that promise deep hydration by binding to water, explains Alicia Jackson, PhD, the CEO and founder of Evernow.

“This makes the vagina more elastic,” Jackson says.

Another common class of vaginal moisturizer contains bioadhesives.

“These promote intracellular water absorption and also lower vaginal pH, which allows the vagina to absorb more good bacteria for a healthier environment overall,” Jackson says.

Here’s what we considered when choosing the best vaginal moisturizers.

  • pH and osmolality. Choosing products with the right pH and osmolality helps maintain optimal vaginal pH balance, and they will be physiologically most similar to natural vaginal secretions, Jacobson says. A normal vaginal pH balance is between 3.8 and 4.5. According to Jacobson, anything under 1200 mOsm/kg is generally acceptable. “Unfortunately, a number of vaginal lubricants and moisturizers do not include pH and mOsm/kg values in their ingredients,” Jacobson notes. But where possible, we’ve chosen products that fit these standards.
  • High quality ingredients. The best vaginal moisturizers use expert approved ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, bioadhesives, and natural oils and extracts.
  • Fragrance. It’s important to choose products that are fragrance-free and flavoring-free, Brightman says. “While these products may be tempting, they may be more likely to cause irritation.”
  • Positive customer reviews. We considered real experiences with each product — and the company that makes it.
  • Under $25. Vaginal moisturizers don’t need to be expensive to be effective. There are plenty of options under this price point, with many on the lower end of the spectrum.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $15
  • $$ = over $15

Best overall

AH! YES VM Vaginal Moisturizing Gel

  • Price: $

This fragrance-free vaginal moisturizer is a long lasting gel. What sets it apart from the rest is that it’s both pH neutral and has the right level of osmolality to mimic natural vaginal secretions. In fact, it was one of Jacobson’s top picks for these two reasons.

This product comes in a bottle and can be applied with your fingers, but it also comes in pre-filled tubes that can be emptied directly into the vagina, depending on what you prefer.

Since vaginal dryness can also be accompanied by vulvar dryness, and because the applicator product is more expensive, many customers prefer the option to apply it with their fingers.

Reviewers love that they notice a difference in burning, itching, and painful intercourse right away after using this product, and, in many cases, this moisturizer was recommended by their doctor.

Best capsule

K-Y Liquibeads Vaginal Moisturizer

  • Price: $

Capsules can be a great option for those who don’t want any mess or cleanup associated with using a vaginal moisturizer. This product is sold in packs of six, and needs to be reapplied approximately every 2 days.

So you’ll be looking at about $30 a month if you use the product regularly, which is a little on the pricey side.

Still, reviewers love how easy these are to insert, and that they provide long lasting lubrication. K-Y is a trusted brand for many people with vaginas, since their lubricants are some of the most popular and well-regarded on the market.

Best drugstore pick

Replens Long-Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer

  • Price: $$

If convenience is key, Replens is a great pick, since it’s available at most major drugstores and retailers. That’s because it’s been around for years.

It was even studied in several older trials in comparison to estrogen treatment for vaginal dryness, and it’s been shown to be an effective alternative to estrogen vaginal cream.

One potential drawback of Replens is that it doesn’t have an ideal pH balance for this type of product, and so some customers say it led them to have yeast infections. That said, many other reviewers have used it for years without problems, and it does contain an all-important bioadhesive, which is what makes it so effective.

Replens is meant to be used every 2 to 3 days. That means one package should last a month or more, making it quite budget-friendly.

Best oil-only option

Carlson Key-E Suppositories

  • Price: $$

For those hoping for an all-natural pick, these vitamin E capsules will fit the bill. Because they don’t contain any medication, they can be used as often as you like. Each box comes with 24 inserts.

It’s important to note that you cannot use this product with condoms due to the oil content. So if you need protection, this is not the best choice.

Reviewers love that this product is hormone-free and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals, fragrances, or extra filler ingredients. Plus, it can be used right before intercourse for extra lubrication.

Best lubricant moisturizer combo

Satin by Sliquid Natural Intimate Moisturizer

  • Price: $

This pH-neutral, fragrance-free moisturizer has 12 uses, and comes in a variety of sizes. What really sets it apart, though, is that it can be used as a lubricant right before intercourse and as a vaginal moisturizer anytime.

Reviewers especially like that you can get this product in single-use pouches, which come in handy for travel.

Key ingredients include vitamin E, aloe extract, and carrageenan extract. Like all of Sliquid’s other products, it’s paraben-free and vegan.

If you’re using a vaginal lubricant, apply it right before or during sex.

A vaginal moisturizer needs to be used regularly for the best results.

“The effect is cumulative, so try to build a habit of using it a few times a week,” Jackson says. “For best absorption, apply it to the walls of the vagina.”

If you’re also using a prescription vaginal product, you can definitely keep using vaginal moisturizers and lubricants. You just want to be strategic about your timing with moisturizers specifically.

“I recommend applying moisturizers and prescription vaginal products on different days,” Jacobson says.

If you’re not sure which vaginal moisturizer is right for you, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for a recommendation, Brightman says.

Also, if OTC options don’t relieve your symptoms, it’s worth checking in with an OB-GYN.

While vaginal moisturizers and lubricants are useful for people with mild symptoms, others have persistent symptoms. In these cases, hormonal medications and other treatments may be better options, Jackson says.

Without intervention, vaginal dryness will continue to progress, so it’s better to get help sooner rather than later.

Can you use lotion for vaginal dryness?

Lotions are on the list of products you *shouldn’t* use in your vagina, Jacobson says.

That’s because lotions, petroleum-based products (like Vaseline), and massage oils not designed for internal use can change the pH of your vagina and increase your chance of getting an infection.

Can you use a vaginal moisturizer with a condom?

Generally, yes.

If you have any doubts, check the moisturizer or lubricant’s directions for use. One exception is oil-based products.

“Oils will break down the latex in many condoms, and a damaged condom may not protect you from an undesired pregnancy or an infection from your partner,” Jacobson notes.

What are the options if OTC moisturizers aren’t working?

“Most prescription medications contain estrogen and are used directly in the vagina,” Jacobson says.

These include:

  • creams, like Estrace and Premarin
  • vaginal rings, like Estring and Femring
  • vaginal tablets and suppositories, like Vagifem and IMVEXXY

For moderate to severe painful sex, doctors can also prescribe a vaginal insert with prasterone, also known as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

Additionally, ospemifene (Osphena) tablets can be taken orally, and are a once-daily non-hormonal treatment for vaginal dryness and painful intercourse.

How common are problems with vaginal dryness?

Very common.

“So many people come to my office thinking something is wrong with them when they’re experiencing menopause symptoms, like vaginal dryness or painful sex,” Brightman says. “The truth is, these symptoms are common, but often under-treated.”

Many people experiencing vaginal dryness aren’t aware of the treatment options, so knowing what to ask for — and that help is available — is half the battle.

Vaginal dryness, also known as vaginal atrophy, is more common than it may seem, especially during perimenopause and menopause.

Thankfully, there are quite a few non-hormonal options to treat vaginal dryness, such as vaginal moisturizers and vaginal lubricants. Both products are effective at relieving discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse.

If you’re not sure which vaginal moisturizer is right for you, or if they don’t relieve your symptoms, reach out to a doctor.


Julia Malacoff is a London-based freelance editor and writer who covers all things health and wellness. She’s a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. When she’s not writing, there’s a good chance she’s walking her two cocker spaniels.