Here’s What Vaginal Steaming Does (and Why Chrissy Teigen Is Talking About It)

Chrissy Teigen attends Lip Sync Battle Live: A Michael Jackson Celebration at Dolby Theatre on January 18, 2018 in Hollywood, California.

Chrissy Teigen | Tara Ziemba/Getty Images

In 2015, Gwyneth Paltrow took to her lifestyle website to preach about the effects of vaginal steaming. And her newest “spa find” made headlines for good reason: People had no idea what it was. Now, model Chrissy Teigen has decided to give the bizarre trend a try as a way of recovering from giving birth — but doctors warn it isn’t safe.

What is vaginal steaming?

Vaginal steaming is the process of directing herb-infused steam into the vaginal area to clean the vagina, uterus, and reproductive tract. It supposedly originated in Korea, and spas dub it an “ancient Korean treatment” meant to cure ailments, cleanse, and revitalize the vaginal area.

The process starts by choosing a selection of herbs and placing them in hot water. The herbs most commonly used are mugwort, rosemary, wormwood, and basil. After letting the herbs steep for a bit, women can wrap a towel around their waist and legs and sit over top to let the steam to allow it to infiltrate the vaginal area. The sessions cost around $75 and usually last between 20 and 60 minutes, but it depends on how hot the water is. The steaming can also be done at home.

Along with cleaning the area, some have claimed that vaginal steaming relieves stress and depression. Other say it helps with hormones and infertility, although none of the claims are backed by science. The steaming sessions also supposedly suppress fatigue, headaches, and generalized pain — none of which have been proven.

Chrissy Teigen has put the treatment back in the spotlight

Chrissy Teigen in her vaginal steam

Chrissy Teigen during her vaginal steam | Chrissy Teigen via Instagram

Although Gwyneth Paltrow shed light on the steaming treatment a few years ago, Chrissy Teigen recently posted about it on her Instagram. She captioned a photo, “Face mask / heat pad / vagina steam no I don’t know if any of this works but it can’t hurt, right? *vagina dissolves*” Gwyneth Paltrow commented on the photo, “Glad to see you finally hopping on this throne.” Other celebrities, such as Khloe Kardashian, either found the photo comical or said they were glad Teigen is living her best life, but none seemed to outwardly support the treatment. Teigen’s photo prompted doctors to come out against the treatment, saying it can be dangerous.

Doctors warn against the treatment, calling it ‘potentially harmful’

When Teigen posted her photo on social media, doctors were quick to warn Teigen’s followers that vaginal steaming is not what it seems. “The vagina steam is a scam. Potentially harmful,” wrote Dr. Jennifer Gunter, OB/GYN. She added, “Sitz baths definitely endorsed,” referring to a bath that only submerges someone up to their hips — it’s commonly used as a form of relief after giving birth.

For years, doctors have recommended sitz baths for women recovering from delivery. (Teigen recently gave birth to her second child.) But doctors warn that vaginal steaming’s supposed effects have never been proven. Doctors told Today that boiling water to create the steam could lead to potentially serious burns. Steam burns can be just as harmful as regular burns, and the vaginal area is extremely sensitive and its skin doesn’t fare well in a boiling hot environment.

Plus, vaginal environments are very delicate. It doesn’t take much to disrupt the good bacteria that grow in the vagina. Exposing the vaginal area to unnecessary “herbed steam” could potentially create the perfect environment for an infection. The herbs combined with the heat could cause unnecessary irritation, especially for women who are recovering from delivery. Doctors suggest trying a sitz bath instead and disregarding the celebrity hype surrounding the unproven vaginal steaming technique.

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