You’ve all heard horror stories of that one friend’s-cousin’s-classmate who put some random object inside her vagina during a heated moment and ended up in the hospital with an embarrassing story—and maybe even some serious physical damage. So what’s actually dangerous to put in there? We talked to a few health professionals to break it down. Here’s what to steer clear of…
Some women like to use douches to clean the vagina, but in actuality, this is totally unnecessary. It can also be dangerous because, according to Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a gynecologist and Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, it can cause “a horrible imbalance of the typical bacteria that is supposed to be in the vagina and actually cause an infection.” Douching is a known culprit when it comes to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and bacterial vaginosis. If you’re worried about keeping your vagina clean, the best thing you can do is wash your vulva with soap and water when you take a shower, being careful not to put any soap inside your vagina. See a doctor if you think something smells off. Ultimately, your vagina is self-cleaning, so it doesn’t need your help to make it cleaner.
Yes, steaming your vagina at the spa is totally a trend these days, and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. “They sit on a specific type of spa with no underwear, on special chairs that have herbal infused steam coming out of them, and they steam their bottom,” shares Dweck. “And while any sort of warm treatment could feel good and enhance blood supply to the area, we’ve seen some burns come out of this and irritation from the types of herbs, so I would use significant caution of that. I’m not sure how effective this is to do anything anyway.”
3. Tea tree oil
“If you’re using household oil as a lubricant, you need high-grade quality oil, not what you use in your kitchen to fry food,” says Dr. Raquel Dardik, M.D., a gynecologist and Associate Professor of Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. “And you want to use oil that is pH neutral, so for example, almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil, probably okay.” What you don’t want to use is tea tree oil, which can cause scary chemical burns: “it’s incredibly caustic and will cause a vaginal burn, so probably not okay.”
4. Chocolate syrup
“All that stuff has sugar which will change the bacteria and yeast proportions which can cause infections. Those substances can also be irritating to the vaginal skin, so it might seem like a good idea at the time, but you may have either vaginal irritation or a vaginal infection afterwards,” says Dardik.
5. Whipped cream
“I would not recommend putting it inside the vagina,” says Dweck. “It’s really tough to get this stuff out, especially if it’s causing a reaction. Fair enough for sexual play if you want to put this stuff on the vulva or other portions of the body and get an erotic experience—that’s fine. But I wouldn’t advise putting it inside.”
This is occasionally thought of as an easy form of lubricant, but according to Dweck, Vaseline or any other type of petroleum product can actually be source of infection in the vagina.
7. Yeast infection home remedies, like yogurt-soaked tampons
According to Dweck, “Sometimes when people have a yeast infection and they feel like [yogurt on a tampon] is a more natural way to treat it. Probably not a great idea. Bacteria and yeast love dark, moist places so I think that could be causing of infection.” If you suspect you have a yeast infection, get checked out by a doctor and if she gives her okay, treat it with Monistat, an easy over-the-counter treatment, instead of yogurt.
8. Fruits and vegetables
For starters, the old wives’ tale is a lie: vegetables cannot take root inside your vagina and grow. There are some major concerns with putting veggies in there, though, according to Dardik. “Vegetables have pesticides, so you’re putting pesticides in your vagina which I don’t really recommend, and you can have them break off and have little bits and pieces that stay there for rather unhealthy amounts of time which, again, I don’t recommend. But nothing takes root, it’ll just rot.”
9. Anything you’ve just used for butt stuff and haven’t yet cleaned
“We see ‘vaginal pH havoc,’ if you will, break out from [using a toy in the vagina that has just been used for anal play],” says Dweck. “If you want to use a toy in the anal area, first of all, remember that it has to have some sort of a retrieval device, a string or something along that line. My husband happens to be a colon and rectal surgeon, so I hear of toys getting stuck in the colon because there is nothing to remove it. If you want to switch back and forth between vaginal and anal play then I would definitely wash the toy in between, and you may want to use a condom on some of the toys as well.”
10. Any sharp objects
“The blood supply to the inside of the vagina is so rich that even the smallest cut can cause incredible amounts of bleeding and although it’s a forgiving area and typically will heal, that’s not a chance that you really want to take,” says Dweck.
11. A hair brush handle
“I can only imagine a handle getting stuck inside the vagina or some trauma being caused, so I can’t really condone that,” Dweck insists.
12. Alcohol-soaked tampons
“I’ve heard of the practice of putting alcohol on a tampon and putting it into the vagina for advanced absorption and getting a buzz off of that,” says Dweck. “I would say that sounds like it would be horribly uncomfortable and can cause damage to the vaginal mucous so I definitely wouldn’t advise that.”
13. Your cell phone
Yes, the phone vibrates, but it doesn’t belong inside you. “I mean there’s a battery in there, that could certainly be a problem,” says Dweck.
14. Pop Rocks
This can definitely traumatize your lady parts in a flash—just ask this woman who tried it and ended up on Sex Sent Me To The ER!
15. Aerosole Cans
Dweck experienced a horror story of her own when a patient came to her office after inserting a whipped cream aerosol container, complete with an attached cap, into her vagina (“because the shape of the top of it was a little bit phallic.”) Terrifyingly enough, “a couple hours later we were in the operating room removing it because it had caused so much trauma.”
Lest we forget about vagazzling, the hottest trend of 2010 (and don’t you worry, it’s still kickin’ in 2015), Dweck is here to remind us to be careful about the placement of those nifty rhinestones, because the glue used in the process can be an irritant. “Vagazzling is probably not an issue on the outside [of the vagina] but don’t put it on the inside. Some people have sensitive tissue and they get a reaction to the glue.” Case in point: keep the rhinestones in the same place you might normally put a landing strip, and nowhere else.
17. An electric toothbrush
If that vibration of a toothbrush floats your boat, “use it clitorally rather than inside the vagina so that it’s externalstimulation,” says Dweck, though as a general rule, she doesn’t really recommend you put any household items in there. That’s what vibrators are for!
18. Small animals (!!)
“This is rare, I’ve seen it once in my 24 years of practice,” says Dweck, “but probably one of the worst experiences that I ever had was someone putting a small tiny animal in their vagina as part of their sexual play, so obviously I think that’s totally out.” Enough said.
The ultra-simple solution to avoid putting household no-nos in your hoo-ha? Get yourself some quality sex toys. “Women are very comfortable nowadays going and getting a vibrator,” says Dr. Dardik. “They don’t really feel like they need to sort of, you know, experiment with what’s at hand…All the vibrators or dildos [that are of quality] are made from sterile material that doesn’t hold bacteria, so they can be cleaned, they’re safe, they don’t change the vaginal pH, they don’t attract bacteria, so they’re the better option.”
Be picky when choosing a toy, and opt for a high-end product from a trustworthy company, because some sex toys could leak chemicals called phthalates, which may be harmful to your health. If a brand new toy smells strongly of chemicals (that indescribable “new plastic” smell we all recognize) when you first open it, it’s a strong indicator that it could be made with phthalates, which you should take into account when deciding whether and how you want to use it. If you plan to put the toy inside your vagina, first be sure that there are no instructions on the packaging that say “for external use only”—and if you do spot any, take them seriously. Try quality sellers like Babeland, Good Vibrations, and The Pleasure Chest (they sell toys online as well as in brick-and-mortar stores in case you’d like to shop from the privacy of your couch) to find toys and sexual health information you can actually trust. If you’re on a budget, affordable sex toys made by Trojan are available on Amazon and at local drugstores.
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