Paired with a page-turner, candlelight, and a glass of red wine, a bubble bath can easily turn into an hour-long activity. But while a frothy soak can be incredibly soothing for the muscles and the mind, bubble baths don't always have the same positive effect on vaginal health.
It's unfortunate but true: bubble baths can lead to the development of vaginitis, like thrush, according to Julie Levitt, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn at the Women's Group of Northwestern.
The reason has to do with pH levels, which is a measure of how acidic something is. "We are more acidic (with pH being 4-4.5) and the bubble baths are more basic (8-9 on the scale)," Dr. Levitt explained.
The vagina's more acidic pH balance is "perfect for the many protective organisms which all live happily together in the vagina," said Dr. Sherry Ross an ob-gyn and co-founder of URJA Intimates. "Anything that disrupts this delicate balance could lead to vaginal misery such as an infection, dryness, itching, or burning."
So things like bubble bath and even certain soaps can throw off the pH of the vagina, potentially leading to an imbalance or overgrowth of bacteria or yeast. If you're prone to vaginal or urinary tract infections, you'll also want to pass on fragranced products and use a candle or a diffuser to create that relaxing aroma instead.
Swapping out your beloved bubbles for bath salts and essential oils isn't necessarily the best solution either. "Epsom salts and essential oils are safer and more agreeable with our natural pH, but too much of any good thing can tip the scale and cause vaginitis if you soak too often or too long," Dr. Levitt said.
"The Lush and Body Shop products are higher quality and safer in terms of composition, but not bubbly," she said. "If you want bubbles, go for baby wash products." Never use shampoo or hand wash as a bubble bath. Dr. Levitt cautioned that these two products can be especially harsh and drying to the genital area and can cause a form of dermatitis, which is a condition that causes red, irritated skin. While it can feel similar to thrush, it requires a different treatment.
Not everyone is equally susceptible to vaginitis, and some people have more severe bouts than others, noted Dr. Levitt. A once-a-week bubble bath is likely fine for most. But Dr. Levitt recommended not going overboard with the product or sitting in the bath for more than 10 minutes. And post bath, rinse off with plain water or shower to remove the remaining product.