Is Your Shower Soap Increasing Your STI Risk?


Think you're squeaky clean … you know … down there? Think again.

A new study says that washing your private bits with shower soap puts you at a higher risk of developing sexually transmitted infections.

How, you ask? Dr. Joelle Brown, the leading researcher at UCLA behind this study, says that every time you scrub down in the shower using those perfumed soaps, you're increasing your chances of developing bacterial vaginosis — a condition that occurs when the bacterial balance becomes disrupted. When this happens, harmful organisms are more likely to grow. Therefore, you put yourself at risk for catching sexually transmitted infections. Yep. That means herpes, chlamydia and HIV.

"The problem with perfumed products is that they change the natural pH or acidity of the vagina," says Dr. Sovra Whitcroft, an English gynecologist. "The normal pH is four to five. If this is altered and made less acidic, it loses its natural protection and bacteria are allowed to thrive and multiply. The very product designed to improve body odor can, in a short space of time, do the opposite by contributing to an overgrowth of odor-producing bacteria."

But what if we still want to smell pretty?

"The truth is as long as a woman is healthy, washes thoroughly with soap and water frequently and changes her underwear every day there should be no need for cover-up deodorants," she says, "Using a chemical perfume to cover potential odors may mask an underlying infection or even cause one."

So the takeaway from this is to keep your vagina clean … but not too clean. I know, this doesn't seem to make sense. But the vagina is actually pretty simple. We already know that doctors don't recommend that women wash themselves internally … period. This is because it can alter the balance of bacteria in your body, which sounds silly since we don't usually think of bacteria as a beneficial thing. But your vagina grows lactobacilli, a good bacteria that protects you from bad bacteria. You know what else lactobacilli grows in? Yogurt. So eating yogurt is pretty healthy for you (we don't just mean your diet) 

Soap and water does the trick. No spraying or spritzing required. And your risk for STIs will not be unnecessarily increased.

Don't believe me? Just ask the 141 women recruited for this study, some of whom were found to have bacterial vaginosis. They will agree with me.