That video reveal of a multi-colored bath bomb fizzing away in your bathtub makes for a super cute Instagram story, yes. Absolutely. But are these very pretty and highly gram-friendly products vagina-friendly too? Unfortunately, probably not.
It turns out that people with vulvas actually run the risk of disrupting their bodies’ chemistry by not bathing with all-natural, vagina-safe products. Why? What irritates our delicate skin down there? We consulted OB-GYNs and health experts to find out if bath bombs are worth a shot for the ‘gram, and if so, which products will help to chill you out without compromising your health.
“While bath bombs are fragrant, pretty, and offer the joy of a luxurious bath experience, they have the potential to affect the delicate skin of the vagina and vulva,” Dr. Kecia Gaither, Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln tells SheKnows. That’s because the fragrances (aka chemicals) within them can irritate some people’s skin and make their way inside of the vagina, ultimately affecting and throwing off vaginal pH.
“The vagina is on the acidic side, which serves to reduce the ability for infectious agents to set up shop,” she adds. “With the use of chemicals in bath bombs, the vagina may become more alkaline, allowing a change in the flora, thus increasing risk of infection.” The results for people who are particularly sensitive? Itchiness and inflamed, red skin on the outside. Irritation and infection on the inside. Yikes.
“Vaginas are normally between 3.8 and 4.5 [on the pH scale],” says Adina Mahalli, a certified mental health consultant and women’s health specialist at Maple Holistics. “There are many bath bombs on the market that can throw off your vaginal pH, which can cause discomfort, UTIs, and yeast infections. There are [also] several bath bombs on the market that have acidic levels between 3.8 and 4.5.” If you’re specifically sensitive to infection, she recommends being more aware of the pH balance of your bath bomb than the ingredients list.
Salvaging your evening soak
If you’re an avid fan of baths, you can still take them, of course. And plenty of vagina-owners do use the occasional bath bomb without irritation. But do consider the following tips to maintain optimal vaginal health:
First of all, stop using products if they cause irritation and be sure to consult your doctor or a medical professional regarding allergies and your vaginal pH levels before using any products that might irritate your skin, especially if you’re extra sensitive and/or prone to infections.
If you want to avoid bath bombs altogether, consider taking a nice warm bath sans fragranced products instead. “Water, and soaps made of natural ingredients (ex: vegetable-based products), without color/fragrances are the best options for cleansing the genital area,” says Gaither.
If you want to spice up your bath without any worries, Elizabeth Trattner, a licensed acupuncturist, integrative-medicine practitioner and doctor of Chinese medicine, tells SheKnows that she recommends making your own concoction with baking soda, arrowroot starch, non-yeast derived citric acid, organic oils, and a drop of essential oil. Or you can just use sea salt and a drop of essential oil to play it safe.
Also, don’t skimp on cleaning up before and after bath time: “It is imperative that women must always clean the tub before bathing, using non toxic cleaners,” Trattner says. “The tub should also be rinsed and wiped down before bathing to reduce and eliminate possible bacteria entering the vagina which can cause an infection.”
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A version of this story was published December 2019.
Before you go, check out our favorite vagina-friendly wipes that won’t mess with your pH: