Gwyneth Paltrow Is A Fan Of Vaginal Steaming — Should You Be, Too?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Gwyneth Paltrow describes it as an “energetic release.” (Photo: Getty Images)

For better or worse, celebrities are often the way we, the general public, hear about new trends in wellness. Take “vaginal steaming,” for example: Gwyneth Paltrow raved about the practice in her latest GOOP newsletter. But is it actually healthy?

First, a little background: Vaginal steam baths, also known as “chai-yok” in Korea and “bajos” in Central and South America, have been used for centuries. Proponents claim that they ease anxiety and help with irregular and painful periods, vaginal cysts, bladder and yeast infections, hemorrhoids, uterine fibroids, scarring from childbirth and hysterectomies, and even infertility. 

Gwyneth, who received the “Mugwort V-Steam” at Tikkun Spa, described the treatment as “an energetic release — not just a steam douche — that balances female hormone levels. If you’re in L.A., you have to do it.” The treatment entails sitting “on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al,” she writes.

Related: 6 Reasons Why You Should Sleep Naked

But the spa treatment may come with risks, health experts say. "It doesn't have health benefits. It can give you a nice cleaning on the outer part of the skin, but anything with extreme heat can create a problem,” Sheryl Ross, MD, an OB-GYN practicing in Santa Monica, tells Yahoo Health. “A lot of people get yeast infections with extreme heat. You have to be careful with what you are inserting into the vagina.”

As far as its supposed cleansing benefits, Ross adds that it probably doesn’t do much. “It's the same reason we don't recommend douching. The vagina does not need to be cleaned in that way,” she says. “It's important to clean the vagina on the outside. You don't really have to do too much internal cleaning. It has its own internal washing machine that keeps it cleaned and balanced. It's all about PH balance. As soon as something disrupts that balance like extreme heat or taking antibiotics you can get a yeast infection. This is the same idea."

Related: 8 Myths You Should Stop Believing About Vaginas

And then there’s the issue of how the steam would even get into the uterus, because unless the steam is under high pressure, there’s no way for it to go from the vagina to the uterus, Jen Gunter, MD, an OB-GYN and pain medicine doctor, writes on her website. “Air (whether hot of [sic] cold) does not magically wander from the vagina into the uterus. Heck, even water in the vagina doesn’t get sucked up by the uterus,” she writes.

Mugwort, the herb used in the Gwyneth’s vaginal steaming procedure, has been shown to have health benefits, particularly for digestive disorders, according to the American Cancer Society (though it doesn’t say that receiving mugwort via steam has the same benefits). But Gunter explains that "vaginal absorption of medications requires the right medication and dose and the right delivery vehicle. Steam does not meet this criteria."

Herbal steams could have some relaxing effects and some beneficial superficial effects on the skin, just like a sauna or a facial steam would,” Camilo Gonima, MD, an OB-GYN based in Texas, tells Medical Daily.

But according to Gunter, “if you want to feel relaxed get a good massage. If you want to relax your vagina, have an orgasm.” 

Your Next Read: 9 Sensual Aids Gynecologists Prescribe For Better Sex