As a successful businesswoman on the go (I’m a low level hack in the entertainment industry), I am plagued by stress. So much stress. I’ll do literally anything to make it go away, short of exercising, eating right, or some other stupid shit like meditating. Basically, if a doctor tells me to do it, I’m gonna take a hard pass.
But if a skinny blonde in an ugly wig tells me that blowing hot air up my vagina is going to cure everything I’ve ever suffered from, including a bad relationship with my mother, well, then, I’m gonna listen to Gwyneth Paltrow, because girlfriend knows science.
In the latest installment of her essential lifestyle newsletter GOOP, Gwyneth recommends something called a “V-steam.” Let me let her explain, since she’s the best in the biz:
“You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al. It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels. If you’re in LA, you have to do it.”
Well, I’m in LA, and so I guess that means I have to do it. *Shoots self in face because Gwyneth tells me to.*
The V-steam is the Americanized version of a centuries-old Korean tradition called chai-yok, during which women hover over a piping hot cauldron of Wormwood and Mugwort to be thoroughly cleansed from the inside out. Wormwood and Mugwort, which sounds like a class Neville Longbottom would excel in at Hogwarts, are actually herbs that have alleged antibiotic and antifungal properties, as well as healing powers. Basically, it’s sorcery for your vagina. The average chai-yok session promises to reduce stress, fight infections, regulate your menstrual cycle, alleviate hemorrhoids, promote circulation, correct digestive disorders and clear up hormonal acne. Yes, vaginal steaming is the secret to world peace. Or, you know, a bunch of hooey. Either way.
Tikkun Holistic Spa in Santa Monica offers the V-steam in many forms to cure whatever ails your aching vag. Suffering from postpartum depression? TIKKUN POST PARTUM V STEAM™. Want to get pregnant? TIKKUN INFERTILITY V STEAM™. Or simply looking to shed a few pounds? TIKKUN SLIMMING V STEAM™. They even offer the V-steam for men, which is more of an A-steam, if you catch my drift. (It’s for your butt.) I chose the TIKKUN SIGNATURE V STEAM™, which promises all the benefits of chai-yok from the comfort of a padded throne.
Entering the vagina steaming room (I just don’t know what else to call it), I’m faced with what looks like a Victorian police cell toilet situated over a steaming pot of Grandma’s Chai Spice Vagina tea. I hover over the hole in the seat just so and then settle down so that the steam may rise into That Which Is Most Sacred. I cannot tell a lie: At first, it feels incredibly weird to have hot wet air wafting into my cooch. My entire body tenses as I actively clench my vaginal muscles to protect myself from the invading shower of scorching steam. It would feel exactly like the poison fog from the Hunger Games arena, I think. First a burning heat and then convulsion after convulsion of electric pain!
No, no. I have to stop this! I didn’t pay $50 to sit here and push hot air out of my vagina. I paid $50 to become more like Gwyneth and Gwyneth relaxes into things; she consciously uncouples, like, all the time. She allows herself to engage in humiliating white girl rapping. She rides motorcycles around Spain with her best friend, Mario Batali. Respect.
I force myself to take deep breaths and visualize my vagina opening like a freshly painted Georgia O’Keefe, inviting the warm breath of life inside my uterus. Welcome, I said. And as I say this, I begin to ease into it. It feels foreign, but not bad; like visiting a new country that you weren’t sure would be safe for women travelers and then stumbling upon a lesbian bookstore collective. And you know what? I like it. I zen out as my vagina sucks up steam and drips out whatever; I fantasize about getting a really good spa-style exfoliating scrub beatdown afterwards. I want to feel as clean on the outside as I feel on the inside. Which is to say, very clean. Squeaky clean. Just me and my squeaky clean vagina.
At the end of my 30 minutes, I stand up and have a distinct feeling of emptiness. Not in a scary way but in a calming way. I feel good. I imagine this is how Gwyneth Paltrow feels all the time; empty and just a little bit better than other people. It’s almost like I can hear her voice whispering into my vagina. And Gwyneth is saying “You are living your best life, Laura.” Or maybe that’s Oprah.
The treatment might feel good but does it deliver on any of its claims? According to Dr. Siri Chand Kaur Khalsa of One Medical Group, in LA, in general, spa claims of “detoxifying” “have not been substantiated in research.” “The premise that the body needs spa treatments to remove toxins has no clear basis in human biology,” she wrote, “However, these treatments can be beneficial in reducing mental, emotional and physical stress.” And V-steams specifically? “Regarding Vaginal Steaming’s proposed health benefits, the vagina has extensive blood flow and mucous membranes, so it absorbs medications easily, but there is no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of absorbing herbs vaginally.” So . . . you aren’t actually getting a dose of herbal remedy. Also, the doctor said that it was not recommended for women who were pregnant or having hot flashes. It does not, however, actually hurt you (or as she put it, “damage the delicate membranes of the vagina”).
It’s hard to say whether my V-steam was worth $50. If you’re Gwyneth Paltrow and $50 is what you use to wipe your butt (true story?), then yes. If you’re a human being who lives on this Earth, probably not. You can take a hot bath, sit in a sauna, or microwave a glass of lemon water and just squat over it for 10 minutes for very similar results. But did I kinda love it and want to go back? I guess I just have to work harder so I can afford it. Wait. What?