Is Taking a Bath Actually Disgusting? Experts Weigh In

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Claire Harmeyer

Feb 17, 2021 @ 3:42 pm

Ah, just the thought of sinking into a warm bubble bath puts us at ease. Lighting candles, playing soothing music, and settling into a bubbly tub with a book or glass of wine is a favorite self-care ritual for many people. But is taking baths actually disgusting? Think about it: You’re soaking in a tub filled with your own germs. Are you getting clean or dirtier the longer you lie there listening to Bon Iver?

To either validate the theory that there are benefits of taking a bath or debunk the myth that taking baths is disgusting—in terms of germs and their impact on your skin and vaginal health—we spoke to cleaning experts, dermatologists, and OB-GYNs to get the facts straight.

Are bathtubs gross?

It’s no secret that our bathrooms aren’t the cleanest place in our homes. Tons of bacteria live in our showers, tubs, toilets, and sinks. According to the Global Hygiene Study, your bathtub is filled with bacterias like E. Coli, Streptococcus, and staph aureus. However, both bathing and showering expose you to those bacterias (plus, shower curtains contain lots more.) So, how do you combat these germs? Simple: Clean your tub often.

Co-founders of The Laundress, Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd, walked us through how to clean our bathtubs thoroughly. If you’re a bath fanatic, clean your bathtub once a week to ensure clean bathing.

How to clean a bathtub:

  1. Rinse the surface of your tub with warm water. Starting with a damp surface will instantly make the cleaning process easier.
  2. In a bucket of warm to hot water, mix two capfuls of All-Purpose Bleach Alternative (free of chlorine-bleach but extremely fast-acting on grime, scum, and buildup) and one capful of All-Purpose Cleaning Concentrate to create a powerful cleaning solution.
  3. After the mixture has dissolved into the water, use a scrub brush to apply to the tub’s surface.
  4. When scrubbing, always start at the top of the tub and work your way down. Scrub in small circles, paying careful attention to work into any grout as well. Don’t forget the walls!
  5. For clogged drains, try this gentle yet effective recipe: Mix one cup of Scented Vinegar with 1/4 cup of All-Purpose Bleach Alternative in a bucket. Pour it into the drain and let sit for five minutes. Finish by rinsing with hot water.

How does taking a bath affect your skin?

When it comes to the impact bathing versus showering has on your skin, dermatologists agree that there’s not a huge difference. However, one key step is necessary after both cleansing choices: moisturizing. “It’s okay to bathe daily for as long as you like, as long as you moisturize damp skin immediately after,” dermatologist Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., tells HelloGiggles. “Moisturizing damp skin is the key to locking in the moisture from a shower or bath. If this important step is missed, then frequent bathing can be drying.”

Board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, M.D., agrees with this explanation, calling it the soak and seal method. “To avoid dry, cracked, or irritated skin after bathing, apply a thick, bland moisturizing cream within three minutes of a bath or a shower.”

As far as the best bath products go, Dr. Hartman recommends non-fragrant bath oils and gentle soaps and cleansers. “These can aid in the hydration of the skin during a bath and contribute to the overall health of the skin,” he explains. “Olive oil, eucalyptus oil, colloidal oatmeal, salts, and rosemary oil are all helpful in driving increased moisture into the skin.”

But beware: Dr. Hartman says many bubble bath liquid and bath bombs likely contain parabens, alcohol, phthalates, and sulfates, which can dry out the skin. Board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D., seconds this warning and points out that bath bombs are especially misleading.

“Bath bombs are made to look pretty and smell really nice,” she says. “To get them to be so fragrant and look so nice, ingredients that may cause skin reactions are normally added—some people get red and itchy skin after coming into contact with a bath bomb.” Plus, Dr. Jaliman advises against taking a bath for longer than 30 minutes, as you’ll likely end up with wrinkly toes and fingers—and dried-out skin.

Is taking a bath bad for your vagina?

You’ve heard the spiel: Tons of products can mess with your vaginal health. And while you might stick to your trusty bar soap for washing your vagina in the shower, some products do negatively affect your pH levels—especially when you’re soaking in them for an extended period.

Take it from the partner of women’s wellness brand Happy V and OB-GYN Dr. Jessica Shepherd: “Baths can be refreshing and restorative,” she tells HelloGiggles. “However, using a lot of products in the tub can increase vaginal irritation and lead to infections like yeast or bacterial vaginosis.”

Plus, tending to your vagina after bathing is key for preventing infections or discomfort down there. “After a bath, leaving the vaginal area moist or wet can cause irritation because bacteria and fungus thrive in moist environments and can cause bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections,” Dr. Shepherd explains.

Benefits of taking a bath:

On the flip side, there are actually lots of benefits to taking baths occasionally. Aside from the obvious—relaxing your mind and creating a meditative ritual—there are science-backed benefits of taking a bath, too. Studies show that hot baths soothe your muscles and joints, relieve cold symptoms, and perhaps best of all, help you sleep.

So, next time you feel the urge to sink into a warm bubble bath, don’t nix the idea—just make sure that your tub is clean, you use non-irritating products, and you moisturize your skin afterward. Happy bathing!