Like the rest of your body, aging changes your vagina and vulva. As you age, your vaginal skin can start to thin, and your pelvic floor muscles may begin to relax. This can make your vagina look less "plump" and feel dry or "loose." On top of that, body-altering events like perimenopause, menopause, pregnancy, and birth also change how your vagina feels and looks over time.
Vaginal changes are a normal part of aging. An aging vagina is still a healthy vagina, but if you want to help counteract the effects of time, you can take steps to keep your pelvic floor muscles and vagina strong.
This is the most effective way to preserve vaginal health. Your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, bowels, and uterus. When you contract these muscles, you tighten the opening of your vagina. These muscles can stretch and weaken from aging, pregnancy, and vaginal birth.2 This can make the vagina feel loose and uncomfortable. Pelvic floor changes, especially from pregnancy and vaginal delivery, can cause bladder leakage or urinary incontinence.3
Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.4 Doing Kegels regularly can help improve blood flow and tighten up the muscles around your vagina.3
However, Kegels are not recommended for everyone.
Talk to your healthcare provider or a physical therapist specializing in the pelvic floor to learn if it's safe for you to perform Kegels and how to do so properly.
2. Use right menstrual products
As you get older, you may notice you may notice some changes to the appearance of your vulva and vagina. Decreasing estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause can thin vaginal tissue and reduce the production of vaginal fluids causing vaginal atrophy. Vaginal dryness can also cause irritation and soreness during your periods or sex.
3. Stay Sexually Active
Sex is already good for your health and well-being. But having sex can also help increase blood flow to the vagina, which may help improve the effects of aging, like vaginal dryness and thinning.6
Dropping estrogen levels from menopause can decrease blood supply to the vagina and lead to vaginal dryness and thinning vaginal tissues.1 More blood flow helps plump your vaginal tissue and provides more natural lubrication.6
Sex can become painful as you age if you deal with vaginal dryness. Lubricants can help replenish those lost vaginal fluids and make sex more comfortable and enjoyable.6
Pain during sex, known as dyspareunia, is common when you lose lubrication since these fluids help prevent chafing from penetrative sex.8 Applying water-based lubricants is recommended during sex to help increase moisture.6 You should avoid using petroleum-based products because the jelly sticks around longer than other lubes, which may invite bacteria that can lead to an infection.
5. Wash With Water Only
To keep your vagina healthy, avoid using fancy floral-scented soaps to freshen up, and never douche. Using scented cleansers, vaginal washes, and douches can irritate thinning and dry vaginal tissue. They may change the balance of your vaginal flora and pH, which can increase your risk of vaginal infections and STIs.9
Your vagina is self-cleansing, so there's no need to insert soap or anything inside it to clean it. Instead, doctors recommend using warm water to wash the outside of your vulva.9 If you feel the need to use soap down there, it's best to use a gentle, unscented cleanser on the vulva only.
6. Regular Screenings
As you age, you're more at risk for certain cancers, including cervical cancer. Visiting your ob-gyn for regular pelvic exams, Pap smears, and human papillomavirus (HPV) tests can help you catch potential issues early.
Cervical cancer affects your cervix, the area that connects your uterus and vagina – and most cases are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).10 HPV is a common virus passed during sex. Many people don't know they have it because it usually doesn't cause noticeable symptoms.10 But, certain strains of HPV can eventually lead to cervical cancer.
Getting routine Pap smears can detect precancerous cells and help catch cervical cancer before it starts. If you are 30-65 years old, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting Pap smears every three years and an HPV test every five years.11
7. Drink Water
Drinking enough water is excellent for your health. Your body is made of about 60% water, after all.12 When you don't drink enough water, your skin can become dehydrated, which looks dry, hollow, and dull.13 The same can happen to the skin outside of your vagina.
Staying hydrated also helps improve blood flow, which helps keep your vaginal tissue healthy. Since perimenopause and menopause can reduce blood flow to your vagina and cause vaginal dryness, sipping plenty of water can help reduce the effects of vaginal aging. Dehydration can also make it difficult for your body to produce vaginal fluids, making vaginal dryness worse.