Dryness is a common side effect of hormonal birth control. This includes oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices (IUDs), arm implants, shots, skin patches, and vaginal rings.

However, this dryness is usually temporary and treatable. It may go away if you stop using hormonal birth control. If you continue using birth control, you can soothe the dryness in a few ways.

Vaginas are typically moist. This wetness keeps the tissue healthy and functioning. When you’re having solo or partner sex, the lubrication can make penetration easier and more comfortable.

Sometimes, however, you may experience vaginal dryness. A few possible reasons for this exist.

Firstly, hormonal contraception can sometimes decrease your libido, making it more challenging to get aroused. Your vagina often produces natural lubrication when you experience arousal, but you might secrete less from low libido.

Secondly, a 2023 study showed that using oral contraception can reduce blood flow to your genitals, which can reduce lubrication.

Use a vaginal lubricant during sexual activity

Try a water-based lube that doesn’t contain fragrances or other harsh, drying ingredients.

If you’re using latex-based condoms, avoid oil-based lubricants like olive oil, petroleum jelly (Vaseline), or coconut oil. Oil can cause the latex to degrade, increasing your risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy.

Read our guide to shopping for lube and check out our picks for the best vaginal lubricants.

Use a vaginal moisturizer daily or as needed

A vaginal moisturizer is an over-the-counter topical treatment that can soothe dryness and discomfort. Unlike a vaginal lubricant, you don’t just use moisturizer during sexual activity — you can use it whenever you like.

Get a moisturizer that’s developed specifically for your vagina. Your vaginal tissues are sensitive and can be more prone to infections, so use gentle, fragrance-free products.

Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before applying vaginal moisturizer.

Avoid harsh ‘feminine hygiene’ products and practices

Many so-called ‘feminine hygiene’ products (vaginal hygiene products) — including those sold at your local pharmacy or grocery store — can actually be pretty damaging for your vulva and vagina.

For example, vaginal douching can cause burning, itching, and irritation. Another widespread practice, vaginal steaming, can also carry the risk of irritating your internal and external genitalia.

Avoid harsh soaps when washing your vulva. Do not use any soaps — even gentle products — inside your actual vagina. Your vagina cleans itself, and trying to wash the inside of your vagina can throw off your natural pH balance.

Sometimes, hormonal birth control can dry out your skin. Many types of contraception can also reduce the production of sebum, your skin’s natural oils.

Excess sebum can cause blackheads and pimples. This is partly why healthcare professionals often prescribe hormonal contraception for reducing acne.

However, you need some sebum to keep your skin healthy and moisturized. Without enough sebum, your skin might become dry, dehydrated, and sensitive.

Simplify your routine

An 18-step skin care routine may help you feel pampered — but it can actually dry out your skin.

If your current approach isn’t keeping your skin as healthy and hydrated as you’d like, strip your skin care routine down to the basics.

Your morning routine can include using a:

  • cleanser
  • moisturizer
  • sunscreen

Your evening routine can include using a:

  • makeup remover or cleansing oil
  • cleanser
  • moisturizer

Read our guide to the best face washes for dry skin.

Avoid products with harsh ingredients. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests avoiding products that contain fragrances or alcohol, as this can dry your skin out.

The same goes for your body: Moisturize regularly using a hydrating body cream or lotion.

Repair your skin barrier

Your skin barrier keeps your skin healthy and protects it from infections. When your skin is super dry, your barrier might weaken.

You can incorporate a mix of humectants, occlusives, and emollients to moisturize your skin and lock in hydration.

A humectant helps your skin pull in moisture from the environment around you. Popular examples include:

Occlusives act as a barrier to help your skin hold moisture in. They’re mostly oil-based.

Emollients, on the other hand, keep skin soft and smooth by replenishing the lipids (fats) in it. Emollients can be in creams, lotions, and ointments.

Drink a lot of water

You might already know that drinking enough water is essential for your well-being. Staying hydrated is also good for your skin health, and being dehydrated can lead to drier skin.

While many online sources recommend drinking 8 cups of water per day, the actual amount you need can vary, depending on your unique biology. You may need more water on hot days or if you sweat or exercise a lot.

Need help to reach your daily recommended intake? Read our tips on drinking more water.

Use a humidifier

Dry air can cause your skin to become drier. It can also dry out your nasal passages, eyes, and hair.

Consider using a humidifier, especially during dry seasons. Humidifiers are appliances that add moisture to the air.

Learn more about how to use a humidifier safely.

Hormonal contraception can sometimes dry out your eyes. According to a 2021 study, hormonal birth control is a risk factor for dry eye disease.

It’s not exactly clear why hormonal birth control can dry out your eyes. The reason may be that it reduces tear production and affects the lipid layer that protects your eyes from dehydration.

To soothe dry eyes, use artificial tears or eye drops, both of which are available over the counter.

If you use contacts, they may worsen dryness and discomfort. Try to wear glasses instead, or alternate between contacts and glasses.

Hormonal birth control has its benefits, but some people may experience side effects like vaginal dryness, dry skin, and dry eyes.

If it’s difficult for you to manage dryness from birth control, it may be a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional.

It’s essential to get medical advice if you’re experiencing:

  • eye pain
  • cracked skin or skin rashes
  • pain during penetration
  • symptoms of vaginal infections, such as burning, itchiness, and unusual vaginal discharge
  • vaginal bleeding between periods

A healthcare professional can help you explore appropriate treatments to soothe your symptoms, like prescription medication. If you’d like to try a different form of birth control, an expert can also advise you on your options.

Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.