With most women experiencing at least one in their lifetime, yeast infections are considered one of the most common vaginal infections. Caused by an overgrowth of yeast, symptoms like vaginal itching, inflammation, and changes to the vaginal discharge often ensue.

Read on, to learn what yeast infections smell like, how to differentiate them from other vaginal infections, and what you can do to treat them when they occur or reoccur. 

First off, What Does a Healthy Vagina Smell Like? 

A healthy vagina can smell different for each woman, depending on the vagina owner’s hygiene habits, food choices, daily activities, and menstrual cycle. 

For example, because the female genitals are located in a part of the body that can easily become humid and sweaty, poor hygiene can make the vagina smell musty. Consuming foods that emit strong odors can also affect how the vagina smells. For instance, eating foods like garlic, broccoli, onions, and asparagus can result in a similarly strong smell from the vagina. During menstruation, the presence of blood can emit a metallic-like odor from the vagina. 

That said, the above-mentioned odors are normally brief and typically subside after washing the genitals, excreting foods, or once menstruation has passed. An unpleasant vaginal odor that doesn’t subside within a few days, however, could be a sign of infection. Particularly, if accompanied by vaginal irritation, a stinging sensation when peeing, or changes to the vaginal discharge. 

What Causes a Yeast Infection? 

Also known as Vaginal Candidiasis, a vaginal yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called candida. This type of fungus naturally grows in the vagina as part of the vaginal microbiome, which also incorporates a blend of beneficial and harmful bacteria. A balanced vaginal microbiome, and the mildly acidic pH levels that it maintains, help to keep the vagina healthy and infections at bay. 

When something upsets the balance of the vaginal microbiome and beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli are no longer capable of preventing the overgrowth of candida, a yeast infection occurs.  This can be due to poor hygiene around the vaginal area, or wearing pants or underwear that are too tight and trap moisture around the genitals where candida can thrive.  

Vaginal yeast infections can also be triggered by fluctuating estrogen levels during pregnancy or menopause, unhealthy eating habits, untreated diabetes, stress, and a weak immune system.

Taking oral contraceptives, which disrupts the natural fluctuation of hormones is also known to increase the risk of yeast infections. Taking antibiotics for another condition can play a role in yeast infections too because they destroy beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli as well as harmful bacteria that cause infections. 

What Do Yeast Infections Smell Like?

Some women notice a sweet smell from the vagina when a yeast infection occurs, while others experience a yeasty odor like beer or bread. For many women, however, vaginal discharge is odorless with a yeast infection. 

Typically, the most obvious sign of a yeast infection is the change in vaginal discharge. Healthy vaginal discharge is usually clear or white and ranges from watery to gooey depending on the menstrual cycle. When a yeast infection occurs, the vaginal discharge normally becomes lumpy, white, and thick like cottage cheese.   

Other Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection often include: 

  • Vaginal itching & swelling
  • Vulvar itching and swelling
  • A stinging or burning sensation when urinating
  • Pain during sex (dyspareunia)

What If a Yeast Infection Smells Bad?

If a yeast infection smells bad, then it might not be a yeast infection. Although the vaginal discharge from a yeast infection can sometimes smell sweet like cookies or yeasty like beer, it is not typically described as smelling bad or foul. Noticing a bad or unpleasant odor could indicate a different type of vaginal infection.  

For instance, symptoms of yeast infections are uncannily similar to those of another vaginal infection called Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). Itching, inflammation, burning, pain, and an unusual vaginal discharge are common to both infections. However, the texture and smell of vaginal discharge with BV is the main difference, in that, it can turn yellow, green, or gray and tends to smell like fish.

How to Treat Yeast Infections

The first step in treating yeast infections is to receive a proper diagnosis. As outlined above, symptoms of a yeast infection are very similar to BV, but the medication required to treat both is different. If left untreated, or treated with incorrect medication, BV can increase the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the onset of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). 

Antibiotics are required for BV, whereas yeast infections are treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal medication, which is usually administered as cream or vaginal suppositories. 

When applied regularly for the recommended amount of time, antifungal medication restricts the growth of candida and allows the vaginal microbiome to rebalance. If the medication is not taken regularly, however, the vaginal microbiome may not be fully restored and the risk of another yeast infection is increased.

Treating Recurring Yeast Infections

Women who experience repeated yeast infections can build up an immunity to the antifungal medication used to treat them, meaning the infection often returns again and again. In these cases, Boric Acid Suppositories are recommended in conjunction with antifungal medication. 

Made from natural ingredients, boric acid suppositories are considered a safe and effective treatment for recurring yeast infections (and BV) and offer relief of itching, swelling, and burning within 24 hours. Containing both antifungal and antiseptic properties, boric acid stops the growth of yeast, destroys harmful microbes, and most importantly, it can successfully restore a healthy vaginal microbiome to prevent future infections.  

Women who experience multiple yeast infections are also advised to address any underlying factors that could contribute to future infections, such as; diabetes, stress, poor hygiene, wearing pants that are too tight, or hormone fluctuations during menopause.

It is important to note that boric acid is used as vaginal suppositories and should not be taken orally, nor is it recommended during pregnancy. 

How to Prevent Yeast Infections

Making some minor lifestyle and hygiene alterations can go a long way toward preventing yeast infections. Whether to eliminate recurring yeast infections or simply to avoid your first yeast infection, the following tips are recommended. 

Refrain From Douching & Using Fragranced Hygiene Products

The vagina is a self-cleaning machine that requires a daily wash with warm water and nothing more. Douching or using fragranced hygiene products that promise to keep your vagina smelling ‘fresh’ is not only unnecessary but also disruptive to the natural balance of the vaginal microbiome. Scented sanitary pads, tampons, and soaps can have the same effect.  

Take Probiotics with Antibiotics

In addition to improving gut health, probiotics have also been recognized as a beneficial supplement for vaginal health – particularly for those who suffer from repeated yeast infections. When taken in conjunction with antibiotics for other conditions, probiotics can stop beneficial bacteria from being destroyed by the antibiotic medication and help maintain a balanced vaginal microbiome to prevent yeast infections. 

Here at Intimate Rose, we’ve included cranberry and D-mannose in our Flora Bloom Feminine Probiotics to help maintain a healthy vaginal microbiome and pH levels for those prone to other forms of vaginitis like UTIs and STIs. 

Switch to Cotton Underwear 

Underwear made from synthetic materials increases humidity and the build-up of moisture and sweat around the genitals, making it a perfect environment for bacteria and candida to flourish. Instead of synthetic materials, switch to breathable cotton underwear that allows moisture to evaporate and maintains a dryer genital environment. 

Change out of Damp Gym Gear & Swimwear

Damp gym gear and wet swimwear create a similar environment to synthetic underwear, in that they provide a moist environment where harmful bacteria and fungi can thrive. Changing out of both after a workout or a swim will help to maintain a healthy vaginal environment that keeps infections at bay. 

Ditch the Tight Pants 

Wearing tight pants, jeans, or pantyhose can also create a warm, moist, or sweaty environment where yeast and bacteria can flourish. Loose pants, on the other hand, allow for the circulation of air and a cooler genital area. 

Avoid Hot Tubs

Avoiding hot tubs and hot baths is highly recommended to avoid yeast infections. Similar to wearing tight pants or damp gym gear, hot tubs and hot baths provide a moist and warm environment that is perfect for candida to thrive.  


Although yeast infections are generally odorless, some women experience a sweet or yeasty smell along with symptoms like vaginal itching, inflammation, stinging when peeing, and a lumpy, cottage cheese-like discharge. Antifungal medication can successfully treat initial yeast infections; however, the addition of boric acid suppositories is recommended to eradicate recurring yeast infections.  

The most important factor to note about the smell of yeast infections is that they never emit a foul odor. If an unpleasant, fish-like odor accompanies symptoms like vaginal itching, swelling, and burning, it’s important to rule out a BV infection to avoid more serious symptoms.  


Johns Hopkins Medicine – Yeast Infection - https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/candidiasis-yeast-infection

Cleveland Clinic – Vaginal Discharge - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/4719-vaginal-discharge

Intimate Rose - Vaginal Odor: 5 Common Va- gina Smells and Potential Causes - https://www.intimaterose.com/blogs/womens-health/vaginal-odor-5-common-vagina-smells-and-potential-causes

World Health Organization – Bacterial Vaginosis - https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/bacterial-vaginosis

National Library of Medicine - Clinicians’ use of Intravaginal Boric Acid Maintenance Therapy for Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis and Bacterial Vaginosis - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6878170/

National Library of Medicine - Vaginal and oral use of probiotics as adjunctive therapy to fluconazole in patients with vulvovaginal candidiasis: A clinical trial on Iranian women https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9006731/

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