Gwyneth Paltrow Loves Vaginal Steaming — But What Is It & Should You Try It?

Photo: goop
Gwyneth Paltrow V-Steaming What Is Vaginal Steaming

Vaginal steaming is having a moment, y’all, and friend to womankind Gwyneth Paltrow is 100% to blame.

Well, kind of.

Before sites like Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop started advocating a herbal vagina steam as the key to long life, good health, and awesome sex, vaginal steaming was a regular part of every vagina-having woman the whole world over.

Seriously, that’s not hyperbole: Korea, Mozambique, South Africa, Indonesia, and Thailand are all countries where the practice of steam-cleaning your oven (what I will now call vaginal steaming from now until, uhm, FOREVER) has been exceptionally common for hundreds of years.

I am the kind of person who is open to trying anything when it comes to vagina. (That is a joke that doesn’t need a punchline because it also happens to be totally true.)

Jade eggs to strengthen my vaginal muscles? Tried ‘em. Needle full of my own blood injected into my own clitoris and g-spot for better sex? Been there done that, thanks O-shot!

In fact, the only thing I won’t do to my vagina is use a douche. Why? Because your vagina is designed to clean itself like some fancy oven that a Real Housewife might own and use for shoe storage.

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Introducing stuff like soaps and other cleansers that may container perfume, silicone, or artificial flavors to your vagina can wreak havoc on your vagina’s natural flora. What do I mean when I say “havoc”? I mean bacterial infections, yeast infections, and other types of nastiness.

Do not want.

That’s why when I first heard of vaginal steaming, I didn’t run out and try it. The words “steam” and “vagina” are pretty close to washing your vagina in some fancy-ass way and as previously stated, this homie don’t play that way.

That said, I am an adventurer of the vagina, so it didn’t feel right ruling it out all together. So I decided to put on my reporter hat and get to the bottom of vaginal steaming and see if there was any science to the hype.

What is vaginal steaming?

Vaginal steaming as a practice is pretty straightforward although it sounds a little strange if it’s not something you’ve grown up hearing about.

To steam your vagina, you squat over water (or sit on a stool with a hole cut out strategically) infused with herbs (some popular choices include rosemary, mugwort, wormwood and basil). The water is heated on coal or another heat source.

There are variations on this practice, primary among them vaginal smoking. Yup, that’s right. Rather than steam, the herbs are directly burned beneath the vagina and the smoke is encouraged to waft inside of it.

Frankly, that’s all I’m going to say about it because I do not want to go to sleep at night thinking I might accidentally have sent some poor woman off to her doom, smoking her vagina like a nightmarish hunk of jerky.

What are the health benefits of vagina steaming?


In Korea, the practice of vaginal steaming is done for women who are suffering from “reproductive ailments.” That can mean anything from severe PMS, menstrual cramps, infertility, recovery from a miscarriage, recovery from labor itself, and more.

In other cultures, those are also common ailments that vaginal steaming is thought to clear. In addition to these conditions, some women practice it believing that it makes them more “feminine” or that in enhances the feeling of the vagina for men during sex.

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People who believe in the benefits of vaginal cleaning say that it increases female hormones and that it also “revitalizes your uterus.” Given that you’ve got a not dilated cervix up there (knock wood) odds of the steam actually even reaching your uterus are nil.

According to several OB-GYNs, there is no conclusive medical evidence that vaginal steaming has any of the benefits that its proponents swear it provides.

What are the health risks of vaginal steaming?

While many people love getting their vaginas steamed, several experts have spoken up against the treatment. In an interview in The Guardian one doctor actually went so far as to say that steaming your vagina with herbal tinctures can have harmful effects on your vagina.

There is also evidence saying that steaming while pregnant to could lead to premature labor and that practices similar to vaginal steaming (aka douching — I KNEW IT) can lead to infections like bacterial vaginosis (Ah yes, good ol’ BV).

Another big risk? Burns! If you sit too close to the steam or smoke the risk of getting second degree burns on your genitals couldn’t be more real, and trust, as a woman who once burned her own vagina, this is not a thing you ever want to experience.

For some women, vaginal steaming (I refuse to call it V-Steaming just because Goop did. V-Steaming is not going to be a thing, Goop) is an important part of their cultural traditions. In fact, when I visit the Korean Day Spa in my neighborhood there is very often a line of folks waiting to use the vaginal steaming chairs.

In spite of the risks, there are reasons people keep coming back to the practice. Some of those reasons are cultural; others are because of the false narrative that our vaginas are something that are dirty and in need of serious treatment.

Finally, there’s one other factor that some speculate is the real reason women keep coming back for me: the heat of the steam engorges the sexual organs making you feel hot as hell.

I get the appeal of being aroused, but ladies, take a hot bath with a good ol’ sex toy if you’re looking for cheap thrills that won’t leave with you a nasty infection.


Rebecca Jane Stokes is a sex, humor and lifestyle writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the sex, love, and dating advice show Becca After Dark on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday. For more of her work, click here