Health warning: Your shower could be a ‘breeding ground for bacteria’ – risks of soap

Dr George Moncrieff advises against taking long hot baths

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Stephanie Taylor, an intimate health expert, pointed out that a healthy pH balance on the skin is between 4.5 and 5.5, which ensures the skin retains moisture whilst keeping bacteria out. “Using harsh soaps can cause significant changes in your skin’s pH balance which can result in irritation and intolerance,” Taylor cautioned. “Using harsh soaps on your intimate areas can be particularly harmful. If the balance of bacteria is disturbed, this can lead to infection and inflammation.”

Taylor elaborated: “For women in particular, a dramatic change in the vagina’s pH level can result in infections such as bacterial vaginosis or thrush.”

Bacterial vaginosis

The NHS highlighted that the most common symptom of bacterial vaginosis is “unusual vaginal discharge that has a strong fishy smell, particularly after sex”.

The colour and consistency of discharge may become grey-ish white, thin and watery.

Once you have BV, as it’s known as, it’s common for the condition to return within a few months.

Treatment, however, can be straightforward, which can involve antibiotic tablets, gels, or creams.

Thrush

Thrush leads to different symptoms to BV, where the vaginal discharge takes on a “cottage cheese” appearance in both sexes.

There may also be itching and irritation around the genitals.

“A delicious scent in your soap may be a drawcard while you’re browsing the aisles at your local store, but these can irritate your skin,” continued Taylor.

Heavily perfumed soaps can lead to contact dermatitis, leaving skin to become itchy, red, and inflamed.

“Once irritated, even simple things such as friction of your clothing, urine and sweat can exacerbate the issue, so it’s best to steer clear,” Taylor advised.

Contact dermatitis

The NHS added that contact dermatitis is a type of eczema, leaving skin to become blistered, dry and cracked.

“This reaction usually occurs within a few hours or days of exposure to an irritant or allergen,” the health body added.

The condition tends to clear up completely if the irritant is avoided.

If you choose to wash with a bar of soap, you also need to be careful, as it can be a “breeding ground for bacteria”.

“Studies have found that bar soaps are particularly vulnerable to bacteria when they are used regularly and left to sit in a warm, moist environment,” Taylor added.

To help prevent bacteria mounting on the soap bar, it should “ideally” be “left in a well-ventilated area or in its own box”.

Taylor stated that you also want to “rinse the soap before you use it and to replace it regularly”.

To protect your skin and health when washing every day, Taylor recommends using a body wash that requires you to “squeeze or pump out the product”.

This “ensures that it isn’t sitting stagnant in the shower”. Taylor also suggests looking for a body wash that has a good pH balance.

Stephanie Taylor is an intimate health expert and founder of Kegel8, an online retailer of intimate health products.

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