Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/23/2020
Pimples are a pain, both literally and figuratively, and suspecting a pimple on your labia is certainly no different. But there are numerous other conditions that can resemble a labia pimple, and many of them are far worse than an acne lesion.
The good news: If it is indeed a pimple, it will resolve itself. Applying ice can soothe the pain and inflammation, and a warm compress can help bring it to a head.
As with other pimples, you should refrain from picking or popping it, and instead let it run its course.
However, if you’re at all unsure of what exactly it is affecting your labia, a bit of reading can rule out more serious conditions.
The thought process involved with identifying a pimple on your labia probably looked something like this:
“Hmmm. What’s that thing?”
“It definitely wasn’t there yesterday.”
“Wait, was it?”
“Is that a pimple? That can’t be just a pimple. Can it?”
And then you spiral into the ol’ “What if it’s not a pimple?” inner monologue, where you reflect on every single thing you’ve done in the last couple months, and how those things may have resulted in whatever is happening on or around your vagina.
Were we close?
Well, the first thing to do is . Take a deep breath. Whatever that blemish is — and it can be quite a few things — it’s treatable to one extent or another. And in a lot of cases, it’ll clear up on its own.
However, being able to identify what kind of blemish that is, and what caused that blemish, is the first step you should take in figuring out how to remedy the situation.
If you shave, you can develop ingrown hairs on your genitals. Also known as pseudofolliculitis, ingrown hairs happen when hairs curl against and re-enter the skin. Like a pimple, ingrown hairs can be red, inflamed and develop a white head. Also like a pimple, you shouldn’t pick or pop an ingrown hair; it will resolve on its own.
If you seem to have an acne breakout on your labia and surrounding areas, it could be folliculitis. Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles, but it can resemble a patch of acne.
Bacteria on the skin’s surface can find a way into the hair follicles when they are damaged. This damage can be caused by wearing tight clothing, itching or rubbing your skin often, skin friction and even shaving, plucking and waxing your hair.
Generally, folliculitis will clear itself up in a matter of days. You can apply warm compresses if the breakout is causing discomfort. If your symptoms do not improve you need to reach out to your healthcare provider.
Genital warts are caused by a sexually transmitted infection called the human papillomavirus, or HPV. This virus can be dormant in your body long before you experience warts, and of some 100 or so different types of HPV, just a few cause warts.
Genital warts may not resemble a pimple, but do vary in size and shape. They may be small bumps that are skin-colored or slightly darker, may resemble cauliflower and can be raised and rough or flat and smooth.
After diagnosis, a dermatology practitioner or healthcare professional can prescribe medications to limit growth of the warts or boost immune function to fight the HPV. They can also remove the warts with cryosurgery, laser removal, or cutting them off.
Herpes is a sexually transmitted virus (herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2) that can lead to blisters on your labia. These blisters are generally filled with fluid and break open before crusting over and healing. In this way, they can resemble some types of pimples.
Herpes blisters generally appear after you first come into contact with the virus and can then go away for months or even years. They may reappear at any time, after the virus is reawakened by triggers such as stress, illness, surgery, or even your period.
There is no cure for herpes, but a healthcare provider can prescribe antiviral medications to help control flare-ups.
Contact dermatitis is a response to products placed on the skin. It can be an allergic reaction or a burn. It’s not uncommon for contact dermatitis to affect the vulva and therefore labia.
Symptoms of contact dermatitis include a range of symptoms from itching to weeping blisters. Lotions, soaps and laundry detergents are all potential culprits in contact dermatitis. Identifying the product that’s causing the irritation is the key to treating it.
Enlisting the help of a healthcare professional can help. Treatment may involve topical cortisone ointment or oral medication in severe cases.
Both boils and carbuncles are caused by a bacterial infection of Staphylococcus aureus or staph. Boils are more likely to appear on the labia than carbuncles, as they can affect the groin and buttocks, and carbuncles are more common in men.
Boils are pus-filled sores that begin as an infection of a hair follicle. In serious cases, they can get as big as golf balls.
Warm compresses can help bring a boil to a head and begin draining. Keeping the area clean and dry will help the infection from spreading.
Contact a healthcare provider if a boil lasts longer than two weeks, if you have additional symptoms of infection or if they are a common occurrence.
You have tiny glands known as Bartholin’s glands that empty near the opening of your vagina. These glands can abscess or develop cysts on your labia majora.
Bartholin’s cysts are most common among women in their twenties, but are also possible as late as after menopause. If it’s determined you have a Bartholin’s cyst, a healthcare provider can drain it, as they rarely resolve on their own.
Also known as acne inversa, acne conglobata, aprocrine acne, apocrinitis and several other names, hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic but rare condition that can result in painful lesions in the vulvar, anal, armpit and breast areas. These lesions resemble deep pimples or pus-filled boils.
The condition is painful, as the lesions are inflamed, infected and rarely isolated.
Treatment for HS depends on the severity. In some cases, warm compresses and minimal approaches are enough. Others may require antibiotics, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs and/or hormonal therapy.
If your labia “pimple” has friends, a pearly, smooth appearance, or a dimple in the middle, it may be molluscum contagiosum. These lesions are caused by a virus and can take months or even years to clear up.
This poxvirus can be spread via infected bed sheets, towels, clothing and bath sponges, but also through sex with an infected person.
While the lesions generally clear up on their own, if you believe you have molluscum contagiosum on your vulva, its best to follow up with a healthcare provider.
A healthcare provider may remove the lesions or prescribe oral or topical medications.
If you’ve recently found what looks like a pimple on your labia, it can be stressful enough to make your head spin. Is it a pimple, or is it possibly something else?
Luckily, as you learned above, a blemish in or around your vagina can be quite a few different things — some of which will clear up on their own, and others that’ll require the assistance of a certified dermatology practitioner or healthcare professional.
Either way, whether this article answered all your questions or not, the best thing to do — aside from staying calm and being pragmatic — is contact your healthcare provider and go from there.