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Sexuality in Conversation

Unnecessary Roughness: How to Heal from Common Sex Injuries

One thing I wish they would have covered in sex ed? Beard burn on your inner thigh. That was the thought I had one morning after waking up next to my scruffy-faced ex-boyfriend after a particularly fulfilling evening in bed. It was my birthday, so particular attention had been paid to my bits before we got down to full-blown sex. And while I very much enjoyed it in the moment, I hadn’t realized that I was setting myself up for a morning full of googling “can I use diaper rash cream that close to my labia?” (When I die, for the love of god, someone delete my search history.)

The fact of the matter is if you’re having sex, it’s likely you’ve experienced some minor injury from it. I’m talking your garden-variety ouchies: hickeys, bite marks, light bruising, soreness, and yes, beard burn just south of your ‘nads. Like any kind of rigorous physical activity, the opportunity for injury is there when it comes to sex. And while the idea of aftercare is well-documented in BDSM circles, those of us participating in more vanilla versions of p-in-v sex are rarely, if ever, schooled on what to do when your vagina is sore after a marathon sack session. Or how to deal with the fact that you’ve got a bite mark on your shoulder and a board meeting at 9 a.m.

So, in order to try to mitigate the crazy googling that comes when trying to cover up a hickey, I spoke to Gigi Engle, a certified sex educator and writer, about ways to prevent and treat five of the most common coitus conundrums. But please note, these tips are for minor injuries obtained during otherwise safe, consensual sex. If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault, please contact RAINN for help. Stay safe.

Hickeys
No matter how much I’ve tried to cancel hickeys, the fact of the matter is that they happen. One moment, your partner is gently smooching your neck, and the next, you’re looking like you just finished seven minutes in heaven with Brett from algebra after homecoming. “Hickeys happen when you restrict blood vessels in the skin,” Engle says. When those vessels burst, they form a bruise—and those bruises tend to look like gaping fish mouths because of the way in which they’re formed. In other words, they’re not a good look.

Unfortunately, according to Engle, there isn’t much you can do to prevent hickeys. Even more disturbing? There’s very little you can do to get rid of them immediately, although there are a few ways to diminish their appearance. The first is to gently rub a soft-bristle brush against the hickey. The best options, according to Engle, are a Mason Pearson brush or one you’d use for dry brushing the skin. “Gently rub it in different directions,” she instructs. “This helps to break up the vessels and heal faster.” If you’re going the makeup route, Engle suggests applying yellow-toned concealer first before your regularly-shaded foundation. “The yellow will help counteract the blue in the hickey, which helps to hide it,” Engle says.

While the idea of aftercare is well-documented in BDSM circles, those of us participating in more vanilla versions of p-in-v sex are rarely, if ever, schooled on what to do.

Bite Marks and Light Bruises
These two boo-boos are actually pretty similar, which is both a good and a bad thing. The good news is that they’re treated similarly. The bad news? Like hickeys, there’s very little by way of a quick fix, aside from the same concealer trick for hickeys. “Ice packs are helpful in reducing inflammation, especially if your bruise or bite mark is raised,” Engle says. If, after sex, you’re feeling like you might be developing one (or both) of these issues, then popping an ibuprofen can help. Just make sure to avoid aspirin. Since it’s a blood thinner, it can make bruising worse.

Luckily, a lot of folks won’t look at a light bruise on your thigh and immediately think “Sex! J’accuse!” So don’t worry so much about the occasional blue mark. If it’s something that bothers you, however, have a conversation with your partner. The two of you can and should work together to figure out more gentle ways to express yourselves sexually.

Vaginal Soreness
Hey, you with the vagina so sore it feels like you just completed the Tour de France over gravel. Let me ask you a question. Did you use lube? Did you use enough of it? Because if your answer is yes to either one of those questions, and you still have a sore vag, then guess what? You’re a liar. “The number one reason for vaginal soreness is not enough lubrication,” says Engle. “Maybe you started sex before you were properly aroused, didn’t reapply, or kept going even when you felt dry. Either way, if you have sex without being properly aroused, you’re going to be sore. You can’t use too much or it, so please, for the love of your vagina, lube up pre-coitus.

It turns out, though, that lube isn’t only the solution in preventing vaginal soreness. It can also be what saves you. “I love the Awaken lube from Foria,” Engle says. It’s a CBD-laced personal lubricant that is helpful in getting your engine revving that much faster. What’s more? Since it’s got CBD in it, and CBD has been shown to be useful in pain management, it’s also great to spread on your bits post-sex, too. If you’re feeling more of an icy or spicy solution, Engle is also a fan of Private Packs. They’re a maxi pad-shaped pack that can be warmed up in the microwave or chilled in the freezer, and then slipped into your underwear to give your yoni some TLC. (Pro tip: They’re also clutch for new moms who are suffering from post-delivery soreness.)

Beard Burn
If you’re hoping to avoid the searing pain of beard burn on your face or vulva, then the most logical solution would be to stop dating people with beards. But if you are like 21-year-old Maria, then you are attracted to anything with facial hair, a sleeve tattoo, and a weird obsession with Pantera, so you’re unable to be reasoned with. In that case, Engle says to reach for the coconut oil lube.

“There isn’t much you can do to avoid beard burn, unfortunately,” she says. “But putting coconut oil lube on his beard will help create a barrier between his beard and you.” It also helps to keep his beard more moisturized, thus creating a more pleasant hair experience overall. When he’s going down on you, ask him to lick more than he sucks. “If his tongue is extended, it creates more distance between you and his beard,” Engle says. “Sucking ensures his hair is rubbing right up against you.”

And if you wake up in the morning and find thighs hotter than those in a bucket of Popeyes? Diaper rash cream or Vaseline are helpful in soothing rashes like that. Also, avoid hot showers and tight clothing that is vulnerable to chafing. “If you can, go commando in loose clothing,” Engle says. “It will give that area a chance to breathe.” Panty-free is the way to be—if you’re hoping to treat beard burn, that is.

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