Are Bath Bombs Bad for Your Vaginal Health?
Is that dreamy evening of TLC in the bath actually traumatizing your vagina? Here's the deal.
In the age of self-care, baths are at the top of the list. There's really nothing more relaxing than running a bath, pouring a glass of wine or soothing tea, turning on a Spotify playlist or grabbing a good book, and soaking for a while. It's pretty much the perfect "me time." Not to mention, baths have a ton of health benefits: They're linked to better sleep, muscle relaxation, and improved blood pressure.
Bath bombs, bubble baths, and other methods of spicing up this luxurious ritual are becoming increasingly more common — especially when they make for great Instagram photos. But if you've heard before that you shouldn't put soap anywhere near your vagina — or if you've recently been having issues like yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis — you may be wondering where bath bombs or bubble baths come into play. After all, you can't exactly divert the water flow away from you vagina while you're chillin' in the tub.
So, are bath products okay for your vaginal health? How can you safely enjoy bath time without experiencing negative symptoms? Here's what you should know.
Are Bath Bombs Problematic for Your Vagina?
There's good news: "Some women can use any bath bomb without issue," says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., ob-gyn and sexual and reproductive health expert for INTIMINA. But not everyone will be so lucky. "Many others are sensitive and will have increased risk of vaginal infection, urethral irritation, and UTI or vulvar skin irritation (vulvitis) due to the ingredients," she says.
ICYDK, the vagina is a self-cleaning organ and maintains its own ecosystem. It's highly susceptible to disruption by external agents (think: chemicals, fragrances, even soaps) because they can easily disturb your vaginal flora and shift your body's natural pH, increasing your risk of things like bacterial vaginosis (an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina) and yeast infections (and overgrowth of naturally occurring yeast in the vagina). Because your vaginal ecosystem can so easily be thrown off, it's really important to pay attention to what you're using in this oh-so-sensitive area.
So, if you're already prone to irritation, yeast infections, UTIs, or bacterial vaginosis, it may be safer to avoid bath bombs altogether and taking a look at what's inside your favorite one, says Dr. Dweck. Here are some ingredients that Dr. Dweck says you might want to avoid:
- Heavy fragrance or dyes: These chemicals can lead to irritation and pH imbalances within the vagina. This can cause discomfort or even bacterial vaginosis. They often appear as "fragrance" or things like "Blue 2" or "Red 4" in ingredient lists.
- Talc: Talc has a possible link to ovarian cancer, although this idea is debated among medical professionals and researchers. Best to steer clear, just in case.
- Parabens and phthalates: Dr. Dweck described these as endocrine disruptors, meaning they can interfere with your hormonal functions. Many endocrine disruptors are also hazardous for the environment, so overall it's best to avoid them in any personal hygiene or beauty product.
- Glycerin: Glycerin, a common ingredient in beauty products, breaks down into sugar. While, as a humectant, it's great to seal in moisture for dry skin, glycerin near your vagina can lead to an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections because some bacteria and yeast feed off of sugar, and introducing it to the area can least to yeast overgrowth. (Note: Glycerin is also found in many OTC vaginal lubricants, so make sure you're checking the ingredient list on those bottles as well.)
- Glitter: It may also be a good idea to avoid bath bombs with glitter. Glitter is hard to clean off of anything (including skin) and may scratch the skin of your vagina. Ouch. (Sorry, I guess we all can't live out our fairy princess fantasies from childhood.)
It's important to note that brands claiming to be "clean" and "natural" still make products with these ingredients, so always check the ingredient list before making a purchase. When in doubt, go with a product with as few ingredients as possible, because then there will be fewer things to potentially cause a reaction.
On the flip side — and for some good news! — many bath bombs use sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) as the fizzing agent, and baking soda baths are sometimes recommended to soothe vulvar itching and may even help manage yeast infections. This doesn't necessarily cancel out any of the problematic ingredients listed above, but rather, if you see it in a bath bomb, rest assured that it shouldn't cause any problems.
Which Bath Products Are the Safest?
When it comes to alternatives to bath bombs, such as bubble baths or bath salts, the latter is your better option. Bubble baths are typically ill-advised because they can also majorly alter the vaginal flora and result in issues like UTIs. Bath salts still pose a risk of throwing your pH off balance, but in reality, so do a lot of things, including having partnered or solo sex. It's all about what you decide is an acceptable risk and how sensitive your body is.
If you're extra sensitive or if you want to be super safe, Dr. Dweck suggests plain warm water with fragrance-free Epsom salt. For those who favor scented essential oils in a bath, use only a tiny amount and be mindful of possible irritation, she says. If you're looking for a moisture boost, consider adding a small amount of coconut oil to your warm bathwater. It will coat your skin and have you coming out of the water feeling super soft. (Just make sure to rinse the tub afterward to avoid a nasty fall.)
If you'd like a more luxurious product, consider other bath salts with the above ingredient recommendations in mind. Try bath salts from brands including Foria and Maude, which both make personal lubricants as well, as they've developed their whole products with this sensitive area in mind.
If you happen to experience irritation or other negative symptoms, discontinue using the product, stat, advises Dr. Dweck. If you notice irritation immediately, it's a good idea to drain your bath right away and rinse off any product on your vulva with warm water. And remember, the best method to solve any vaginal trouble is to visit your gynecologist. They can diagnose your symptoms much better than the internet.
It's hard to say that all bath bombs are unequivocally bad for vaginal health. However, it's important to pay attention to the ingredients in the products you use around your vulva in general. When it comes to sensitive areas, less is always more — especially if you're already prone to vaginal infections. While the ornamentation of a fizzy, glittery, super colorful and super fragrant bath bomb feels fun, what's less fun is the trip to the doctor's office you may have to take afterward.