Fresh off of showing how all-consuming motherhood can get by posing for a breast-pumping pic on Father’s Day, Chrissy Teigen has once again taken to Instagram with another glimpse into her post-partum life: a photo of herself steaming her vagina. In the photo, the model/chef/A+ social media user is pictured sitting over the vagina steam with a towel draped over her legs, a heating pad over her neck, and a white face mask on. “[F]ace mask / heat pad / vagina steam,” she wrote. “No I don’t know if any of this works but it can’t hurt right? *vagina dissolves*.”
In case you missed it, vagina steaming became consciously coupled with the American public’s consciousness around three years ago, when one Gwyneth Paltrow sang its praises within the pages of Goop. “You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al,” she wrote. “It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels.”
Like some other Paltrow-endorsed fads though (jade vagina eggs, anyone?), vagina steaming isn’t exactly endorsed by the medical community. To answer Teigen’s question, no, vagina steaming doesn’t work, and may be dangerous. In 2016, when Paltrow was once again publicizing her v-steaming adventures, one OB-GYN spoke to SELF about the risks of the practice. “There is no need to steam the vagina,” Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of OB-GYN and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, told SELF. “This could really burn someone like crazy, and I’d hate to be dealing with intravaginal burns.”
“There are really very few bacteria in the lining of the uterus compared to the billions in the vagina,” Minkin continued, adding that what bacteria exists in the uterus is the “good” kind. “These are the various lactobacilli, which help to keep the vagina acidic—a low pH in the vagina is good, not bad—and you don’t want to kill these guys off. You want more of them there to protect you. When the vagina is acidic, the environment is inhospitable for many of the bad guys who might end up giving you a real infection.”
As for Paltrow’s claim that vaginal steaming balances female hormone levels, Minkin said that’s bunk. “We have very effective treatments [for hormonal issues], but steam-cleaning isn’t one of them,” she told SELF.