I was once having a lengthy sex marathon with my partner when I started to notice something strange. After the fourth or fifth time I received oral sex (yup, told you it was a marathon sex session), I started to feel intense pain down there, like there were knives around my vaginal opening and clitoris.
Upon further investigation, I realized that my partner hadn’t shaved that day. The scruff on his cheeks and chin had irritated my vulva to the point that I needed to take a seriously long break from sex. I had gotten beard rash on my lady bits.
It would never have occurred to me in a million years that this was possible, but when you think about it, it makes total sense. You know how your partner’s chin can get a bit red and irritated when you’re having a hot makeout session? That’s beard rash. Men naturally have 25% thicker skin than most women, so if your facial hair rubs against her face for long enough, you better believe there will be irritation.
The same applies to her bathing suit parts, if not more so. “The skin of the vulva [the external part of the female genitalia, comprised of the labia, mons pubis, and clitoris] is very sensitive and vulnerable to external irritation,” Dr. Sherry A. Ross, a women’s health expert and author of she-ology. The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period., tells MensHealth.com. “With hair follicles and sweat glands, the skin of the vulva can be easily irritated by coarse facial hair during oral sex.”
It doesn’t matter if the vulva is clean shaved, full bush, or neatly trimmed, Ross adds. This can happen to anyone. (FYI, it can also happen for men who have sex with men, as facial hair can irritate the scrotum.)
If you’re new to this whole giving head thing, or if you’ve seen your partner wincing in pain after you come up for air, we have the answers you need to avoid giving her beard rash and be the very best cunning linguist you can be. Here’s what you need to know.
1) Even if you don’t have a beard, you should shave every single day.
Don’t rock facial hair? Sorry, you’re not off the hook: Five o’clock shadow is definitely the worst vulva beard rash culprit of all. Having short hair on your chin and around your mouth can make her feel like her most sensitive area is being rubbed with sandpaper. So be sure to shave every single day: a clean canvas is the best way to a burn-free clitoral zone.
2) Try 69ing.
There are many different ways to approach a clitoris. When she’s on her back, your chin is more likely to have contact with her vaginal opening and other areas of the vulva.
“If his facial hair does not touch the skin, it may not be a problem. Others may push their face more forcibly on the vulva, making it more prone to irritation,” says Ross.
You can protect the actual clitoris by using the clitoral hood as a shield.
“Use more tongue, finger play, toys, and less chin action. Focus on giving pleasure with broad licking and flicking motions of the tongue while avoiding vulva contact with the beard,” says Kristie Overstreet, PhD., a psychotherapist and clinical sexologist.
Another alternative? You can try 69ing (nice). This way, her vulva is less likely to come into contact with your furry chin. If 69 is a difficult position for you (and don’t worry — it is for lots of people), try it on your side. Just be sure not to make full-face contact with her clitoris.
3) Try layering.
When it comes to the clitoris, different women have different preferences. Some enjoy direct stimulation, while others may find that too intense. This becomes especially true when you throw beard rash into the mix.
If your girlfriend tells you her clitoris is feeling over-sensitive or overstimulated, try layering, a common and effective technique for clitoral stimulation. Drape the labia minora and/or majora with your fingers over the clitoris to avoid direct contact. You can hold the lips in place. This gives her the stimulation she wants, while keeping your beard at bay.
Be sure to communicate with her. If you ask her what she wants and what feels good, you’ll score major points.
4) Shampoo and oil your beard.
The coarser the facial hair, the more irritating it can be to the vulva. So f you have a thick, unruly mountain-man beard, your girlfriend’s vulva is going to be at risk for road rash.
Ross suggests using a beard-softening shampoo and after-shower oils to keep your beard lush and soft. While this won’t entirely eradicate the problem without some proper technique, it will certainly help keep things … smooth.
We love the Jack Black line for all things beard-related. They make an excellent beard grooming kit. It comes with a scrub, wash, shaving foam, and aftershave oil. The brand’s Kalahari Melon beard oil ($25, buy it here) will leave you smelling like a sex god.
5) Give something else a try for a bit.
Think about the last time you had a sex marathon: Your penis was probably pretty wiped out from the end of it, right? So if she’s uncomfortable, there are other ways to get her motor running that don’t involve cunnilingus. “Find other ways to enjoy one another that doesn’t involve vulva-contact until the pain goes away,” Overstreet says.
Maybe give doggy-style a go or see if she’s interested in reciprocating oral sex while her vulva takes a break from the action. If you’re looking to focus on her pleasure alone (kudos to you!) you can try lightly teasing around her vulva with a vibrator or internally stimulating her G-spot with your fingers or a G-spot wand.
Always talk it out and suggest alternatives. Encourage your partner to let you know if she is feeling discomfort or pain. The ways we enjoy each other sexually are literally limitless. Don’t let one speed bump slow you down.
Gigi Engle is a certified sex coach, educator and writer living in Chicago. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @GigiEngle.
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