Harvard Women's Health Watch

What is vaginal steaming?

Ask the doctor

Q. When I was having coffee the other day, I overheard two young women talking about having their vaginas steamed. What is this procedure, and what is it designed to do?

A. In vaginal steaming—often described as a “facial” for the vagina—a woman sits over a bowl of steaming water infused with herbs. This procedure has been used in ancient medicine for centuries, but it has re-emerged in spas more recently over the last decade. Some tout its benefits as cleansing the reproductive organs, including the uterus, cervix, and vagina.

However, there is no scientific evidence to support vaginal steaming. In general, the vagina does not require “cleaning.” In fact, other practices like douching—which also has been promoted in the past for vaginal cleansing—have long been discouraged. Since the vagina is designed to host a particular array of bacteria, vaginal cleansing can alter this normal balance and may theoretically increase one’s risk of vaginal infections. For that reason, gynecologists do not routinely recommend this practice.

— by Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.

Editors in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch

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