There’s nothing like sinking into a warm, sudsy bubble bath at the end of a long day, after a hard workout, or just because. But while it might be good for your self-care routine, that bubble bath might not be so great for your vagina.
Take it from Shelby Tristin, a Las Vegas-based lifestyle influencer. “I have had moderate back pain from a car accident a few years ago. A natural remedy for the pain was to take warm baths before bed. I would take baths 2-3 times a week. At least once a week I would add a “bath-bomb” or a few drops of (what I thought) bubble bath that was safe for pH level/females,” she explained. It wasn’t long before she started feeling pain in her kidneys, sending her to an urgent care center. “After running a few tests the doctor asked me if I frequently take baths.” It turned out that the combination of the bubble baths and the water in Las Vegas was leaving Tristin prone to bladder infections. “I was told you should not bathe for longer than 10 minutes at a time while any products or washes are in the bath.” She hasn’t sworn off baths for good, but she does keep it to once every two weeks, adding only a few drops of essentials oils to the water.
Don’t blame Vegas — while the water there may have contributed to Tristin’s bladder infections, bubble baths anywhere can wreak havoc. The ingredients that make bubble bath and bath bombs smell so nice can sometimesdisrupt your vaginal pH, Michael Cackovic, M.D., and OBGYN at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center tells Self. A normal pH (between 4 and 4.5) keeps infection-causing pathogens at bay, he explains. When that pH is thrown out of balance — because you’re, say, soaking in a bath of chemicals — you can end up with an infection.
Not everyone will have a bad reaction to the artificial fragrances in bubble baths — but if you’re already prone to UTIs or yeast infections, be on alert. You can also look for brands with milder ingredients in their bubble bath and bath bomb — like Tubby Todd Bubble Bath. “Most soaps and bubble baths have a pH of 9-10, while the Tubby Todd Bubble Bath [has] a pH level of 5.5, which makes it agreeable with almost all types of skin from newborn to adult and for all genders too,” the brand explains on their site.
Essential oils are also a safer bet. “If a woman generally doesn’t have a problem with vaginal infections/irritation, a bath with a few drops of essential oils to create fragrance is OK,” UnityPoint Health advises. Finally, brands that lean toward natural ingredients may also work better for your body. LUSH creates most of their bath bombs with ingredients like baking soda, citric acid, food- and cosmetic-grade colors, and essential oils, but some are milder than others. For sensitive skin, they recommend their Ickle Baby Bot, Butterball, Blackberry, and Avobath Bath Bombs.
You can also make your own gentle bubble bath with castile soap and vegetable glycerin. Feel free to customize with your favorite bath ingredients, like epsom salt (great for soothing sore muscles) or essential oils.
When in doubt, check the label (or ask the staff if you’re at a speciality shop). If your vagina is feeling itchy or irritated, take a break from the bubbles — and make an appointment with your OBGYN if things don’t settle down. Depending on what kind of infection it is, they may suggest over-the-counter or prescription remedies.