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Should You Ditch the Bath Bombs?

The dinner table is cleared. A candle flickers. You instruct your Bluetooth device to play relaxing music. Then you step into a tub filled with lusciously warm water, ready to soak away your stress.

If that tub is scented by a so-called bath bomb, you may want to change your routine. Bath bombs — bundles of scent and color meant to enhance bath water — are made with ingredients that irritate some women’s vulva or vagina. The same can be true for bubble bath products and scented Epsom salts. You may be better off without them.

Bath Bomb ABCs

You can buy bath bombs in a store or make your own. Either way, they’re generally comprised of bicarbonate, like the foundation of baking soda; that makes the product fizz and dissolve in water. It’s mixed with a mild acid of some sort, often citric acid, along with, possibly, dye, essential oils or even a substance that suds up when wet.

Bath bombs and related products offer an easy, affordable way to self-pamper. For many women, that is 100 percent fine.

That’s not the case if they irritate you, inside or out.

Also, don’t think these products will help you in any important way. Quite frankly, you do not need to wash your vagina. A vagina can take care of itself. In fact, washing it can mess up the flora, which keeps the area balanced. A very gentle soap is fine for the vulva — the outside genitalia. Just say no to douches and other products meant to freshen up your interior female parts. (All vaginas have a smell; that’s natural. If yours is fishy or exceptionally unpleasant in another way, or if you’re in pain, contact your healthcare provider.)

How a Bath Bomb Might Harm You

What damage might a bath bomb cause? It won’t do any major damage, but it can mess up the organically well-aligned Ph balance. For some women, bath bombs cause the vulva and/or vagina to dry out. If that happens to you, skip that step of your stress-reduction routine. The warm water itself will soothe your sore muscles, and of course the music and candle can stay.

Some experts claim that bath bombs can cause urinary tract infections, or UTIs. That has not been proven. However, the products can cause irritation that can be mistaken for a UTI or a yeast infection. Why use something that might make your genital region uncomfortable? Our vaginas and vulvas are sensitive, unlike our hands, which have an epidermis that can withstand harsh substances. With a bath bomb, you’re exposing your tender skin to parabens and talc, maybe even glitter. These substances are foreign and oftentimes unfriendly.

Six Alternatives to Using a Bath Bomb

The aroma of a bath product, the silkiness it might add to the water, the suds that might bubble up … they’re all lovely. If your skin gets irritated, try these tactics instead.

  • Soak your feet. People have soaked their feet in Epsom salts for generations, as the salt compound mixed with water is renowned for reducing inflammation. Play the nice music. Spray a lavender mist concoction into the air. Sit quietly for 15 minutes while your feet absorb the magnesium and other healing elements. The whole body will benefit.
  • Dilute the dose. It’s hard to cut a bath bomb in half, but if you use scented Epsom salt, use two cups, not the full amount recommended on the package. If bubbles are your bag, pour in less than you think you need. You’ll still get the frothy layer that tickles your nose and chin.
  • Time it right. Get out of the tub sooner rather than later. Soak for, say, 20 minutes, instead of an hour.
  • Swap in something natural. Shake in a bit of baking soda, and sprinkle on the petals of nice-smelling flowers, if you happen to have any around. Maybe it’s the scent of oil that calms your mind. In that case, choose one — maybe peppermint, grapefruit or sweet almond — and test a bit on the tender skin of your inner arm. If you have no negative reaction, drip a few drops into the full tub and give the water a stir.
  • Place the scent next to the tub. A lavender candle, for instance, or a diffuser filled with, maybe, sandalwood or bergamot, can waft healing aromas your way. A dose of coconut oil or olive oil in the water adds a moisturizing element. Oatmeal will soothe the skin without adding irritants.
  • Switch to a scented shower. The soak won’t be the same, but choose a “shower bomb” instead. Those infuse your steamy stand-up clean-up session with a smell you enjoy. It won’t touch your skin, so you’ll be in the clear.

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