We love that Chrissy Teigen keeps it real, posting photos of her stretch marks, postpartum mesh panties, and breast pumps while confidently clapping back at trolls, but her latest post left us a little concerned. ICYMI: The model and cookbook author, who just welcomed her second child with hubby John Legend, took to Instagram to share a photo of herself squatting with a blanket draped over her legs, heating pad around her neck, and a sheet mask on her face -- all of which sounds super relaxing. The caption is really what caught our attention, though, as Teigen reveals that the mystery box underneath her is a vaginal steamer.
As if we weren't already bombarded by a seemingly endless array of senseless things to do to our vaginas — from vajazzling to skin lightening to tattooing — we’re feeling particularly put-off by this trendy va-do. Though it should be noted that Teigen is not the first celebrity to taut vaginal steaming — that would be Gwyneth Paltrow back in 2015.
Fans of the treatment say that it helps cleanse the uterus, solves many gynecological issues, and can even release energy. The ancient alternative-health practice involves women squatting or sitting over a pot of boiling water that contains a combination of herbs thought to cleanse or heal the vagina. It’s believed to have been practiced in Africa, Asia, and Central America, and it has recently gained popularity in the Western world.
While it sounds relatively harmless, and, lest we say even relaxing, there’s no evidence that vaginal steaming does anything beneficial. “The claim that it heals the vagina and/or cervix is suspect, because not only does the vagina clean itself, but in its natural state, it’s collapsed, meaning that the walls touch each other,” explains Kyrin Dunston, MD, OBGYN, and holistic health practitioner. According to Dr. Dunston, it is doubtful that the steam even enters the vagina, and there is no scientific research that would lead experts to believe otherwise.
What’s worse is that vaginal steaming is also considered dangerous by most doctors. “As it hasn’t been scientifically tested, we do not know all the dangers, but we do know it can kill the healthy bacteria found in your vagina,” says Peter Rizk, OBGYN and women’s health expert for Fairhaven Health. “While you may think it’s helping, it can actually dry and disrupt the natural bacteria rather than cleanse it.”
Another potential danger is the possibility of a woman burning her vagina due to the steam being too hot. Since vaginal tissue is very sensitive, Anate Brauer, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Greenwich Fertility and IVF Centers and assistant professor of OBGYN at NYU School of Medicine, recommends women stay away from high temperatures, and especially in the form of steam, which may be more likely to burn the area. Dr. Rizk warns that you could potentially burn the lining between your bladder and rectum, too.
In short, this treatment is not recommended by experts. Dr. Dunston would be more likely to recommend a medicinal douche for specific vaginal conditions, including infection. “Those looking to increase their natural cleaning abilities and/or for a way to combat itching, irritation or odors down there could try something that promotes good bacteria, such as eating more yogurt or using a balancing gel,” adds Dr. Rizk. For cramps, the best treatment are NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti inflammatories like Advil) or a heating pad, according to Dr. Brauer. Cleansing wise, she says water and a gentle cleanser do the job.
Case closed: Don’t try it.