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Many conditions can cause peeling, flaking, and itching in and around the vaginal area. These include conditions that affect skin, as well as those specific to the reproductive organs.

Read on to learn about the most common causes of vaginal peeling and how to treat this symptom.

People with female genitalia often think of their entire “down there” region as a vagina, but in actuality, the vagina is only one part of the vulva.

The vulva contains multiple layers designed to cover and protect the sexual organs and urinary opening. These parts are:

  • Vagina. This muscular canal connects the cervix to the outside of your body.
  • Vaginal vestibule. Located between the urethra and the anus, this is the opening to the vagina.
  • Clitoris. Located just above the urethra, the clitoris is a sex organ that produces pleasure.
  • Urethra. Part of the renal system, the urethra moves urine out of the body.
  • Labia majora. These are the fleshy outer “lips” of the vulva.
  • Labia minora. This is the delicate skin, located underneath the labia majora, that encloses the clitoris.
  • Perineum. This is the area between the vaginal opening and the anus.
  • Bartholin’s glands. These glands produce lubrication and are located on each side of the vaginal opening.

If any part of the vulva becomes irritated or inflamed, peeling, flaking skin can result. Dry skin, in and around the vagina, can also cause itching and flaking.

Vaginal skin peeling may be accompanied by other symptoms. The symptoms you have will be determined by the root cause of your condition.

Other symptoms include:

  • itching, which may be intense
  • burning or stinging sensation
  • scaling of the skin
  • small skin tears
  • red or white patches of skin
  • bumpy rash
  • vaginal odor or discharge

There are many potential causes of vaginal peeling. They include:

Eczema (dermatitis)

There are seven different types of eczema. According to the National Eczema Society, the types most likely to affect the genitals are:

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that may affect many areas of the body and face. Eczema causes the skin to take on a red, rash-like appearance and can be itchy. It can also cause cracks in the skin, as well as flaking and peeling.

Eczema can affect the outer layers of the vulva and the vaginal vestibule. If you scratch, this can worsen the condition and lead to skin thickening, swelling, and increased amounts of vaginal skin peeling.

Eczema is sometimes triggered by exposure to an allergen. The vulva may become irritated or inflamed if you are allergic or sensitive to products that come in contact with this area of your body. These include:

  • laundry detergent
  • soap, wipes, and body wash used to clean skin
  • ingredients in hair removal products
  • latex
  • spermicide
  • lubricants
  • fabrics such as nylon or polyester

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune condition that involves a rapid buildup of skin cells that may cause raised plaques and scales to form on the skin. Up to 63 percent of adults with psoriasis have psoriatic lesions in their genital area.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, the two types of psoriasis most likely to affect the genitals are:

When psoriasis affects the skin of the vulva, pink or red patches and skin cracks are common symptoms.

Candidiasis (vaginal yeast infection)

Vaginal yeast infections are common. They’re caused by an overgrowth of Candida, a naturally occurring yeast that lives in the vagina.

A thick, odorous discharge that looks like cottage cheese is a common symptom of candidiasis. Your skin may be intensely itchy and swollen. It may also peel or scrape off, especially if you scratch.

Lichen sclerosis

Lichen sclerosis is an inflammatory skin condition most likely to affect postmenopausal women. Young girls who have not entered puberty or menstruated yet may also be affected.

Common symptoms include white patches of crinkly, shiny skin around the genitals and anus, plus intense itching. Skin affected by lichen sclerosis becomes thinner than it should be. For this reason, peeling, bruising, and blistering can also occur.

Lichen planus

Lichen planus is a skin rash triggered by an overactive immune system. It can affect the skin inside the vagina, as well as the outer layers of the vulva. It also affects other areas of the body, including the inside of the mouth.

Lichen planus is sometimes mistaken for vaginal atrophy. It causes raw, burning skin that feels sore inside and outside the vagina. The skin may crack or look red. It may also be streaked with white, or have a lacey pattern.

When it affects the inside of the vagina, symptoms may include a thick yellow discharge.

Sexually transmitted infections (STI)

An STI may be another cause of peeling skin on or around the vagina.

STIs that may cause sores or dry skin that may lead to vaginal peeling include:

herpes simplex virus (HSV)
genital warts
syphilis
HIV/AIDS

The conditions which cause vaginal peeling have different treatments. In order to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, see a gynecologist if you have vaginal peeling. To make a diagnose, your doctor will visually assess your genital area.

They will ask about health issues you may have, such as autoimmune diseases and inflammatory skin conditions. They will also ask about medications and supplements you currently take. They will ask about your sexual history and may do tests for STIs.

If lichen planus or lichen sclerosis is suspected, they may perform a skin biopsy.

If you have vaginal peeling, stop using products which might irritate your skin. If eczema is causing your symptoms, this may be enough to eliminate symptoms.

Soothing treatments, such as soaking in a warm colloidal oatmeal bath, may also help.

Wear only breathable fabrics such as cotton, and loose undergarments that don’t bind.

Yeast infections are one of the most common causes of vaginal symptoms such as skin peeling. This condition can be treated with over-the-counter medications designed for this purpose, such as antifungal creams. If you don’t have a yeast infection, these treatments may make vaginal peeling and itching worse. For that reason, see your doctor first, especially if you haven’t had these symptoms before.

Your doctor may prescribe high potency corticosteroid creams or oral corticosteroids. In some instances, estrogen cream may also be prescribed.

If you have psoriasis or eczema, you may be more likely to have vaginal peeling and other uncomfortable genital symptoms. Having psoriasis also increases your risk of lichen sclerosis.

If you swim or work out regularly, change out of damp or sweaty clothing quickly. Any activity that puts pressure on the genitals, such as cycling, can also increase risk.

Wearing nylon and other nonbreathable fabrics, or using products containing fragrance or chemicals, may irritate vaginal skin and increase risk.

No matter what the cause, vaginal peeling usually responds well to treatment. Let your doctor know if you have a recurrence of symptoms. In some instances, a different topical or oral medication may be prescribed.

Vaginal peeling can be caused by several underlying conditions. This symptom is often accompanied by itching, burning, or swelling.

If you have vaginal peeling, your doctor will often be able to make a diagnosis by doing a visual assessment. This condition typically responds well to treatment.