We love TikTok for the dance challenges, life-changing product reccos, viral pasta recipes and free therapy. But what about turning to the app for sexual health advice? We reached out to Maria Sophocles, MD, Gynecologist and Medical Director of Women’s Healthcare of Princeton, NJ for her take on four popular TikTok trends—the good, the bad and the WTF?
1. The trend: Putting moisturizing melts in the vagina
First up, what the heck is a moisturizing melt? Basically, it’s an unmedicated vaginal suppository that claims to make your vagina smell and taste better (the products come in a variety of flavors like strawberry and peach). In January, one TikTok user told viewers that the melts “make your downtown taste and smell like the flavor you choose” while another user summed up her experience in a video that garnered 2.2 million likes with the words, “bon appetit.”
The expert take: “Just because these vaginal suppositories are made with ‘all natural’ ingredients (which is nice if you are allergic to additives and preservatives), some people will still have irritation from it or even be allergic to the ingredients,” cautions Dr. Sophocles. And here’s another reason why you might want to skip this trend—your vagina isn’t supposed to taste or smell like fruit or flowers. “The vagina does have its own smell, and that doesn’t have to be a negative thing—it’s normal and natural as the vagina cleans itself,” says Dr. Sophocles. But if you are worried about the smell down there, you should see your doctor. “Strong odor coming from the vagina can be socially embarrassing and may indicate a pH imbalance. In that case, there are commercially available vaginal inserts which balance the pH that I recommend, such as RepHresh Gel which has been more rigorously vetted for quality and consistency and safety and is clinically backed.”
2. The trend: Putting ice cubes in the vagina
Here’s the deal—someone on TikTok claimed that an ice cube in the vagina can make it tighter and that it can cure bacterial overgrowth in the vagina, which lead to people posting videos of themselves trying this bizarre trend (just type in #icecube or #icecubechallenge and see for yourself). And yeah...you can see where this is going, right?
The expert take: “If the vagina is dry, the ice cube could stick to it and that would be very painful, but more likely it will just melt and do nothing,” says the gynecologist. How painful, you ask? Well, remember that scene from Dumb & Dumber? And that’s not all. “It’s also possible that melting an ice cube in the vagina could alter its pH because water has a pH of 7 and the vagina’s pH is between 3.5 and 4.5.” Finally, inserting an ice cube so that the water can act as a moisturizer will never work, says the gynecologist, since it won’t adhere to the vaginal walls. If dryness down there or bacterial overgrowth is a concern to you, then speak to your doctor.
3. The trend: Saying that ‘cheap wine’ is behind your yeast infections
When TikTok user @lisajwho recently posted a video about something she learned way too late in life, her comment that drinking too much cheap wine can give you a yeast infection garnered over 1.2 million views. But is she right?
The short answer is yes; you can get a yeast infection from the intake of too much sugar, including wine. But it’s worth noting that you can also get a yeast infection from the intake of too much sugar in other ways; consuming anything with a high sugar content or high glucose content may cause an overgrowth of yeast, the doctor tells us. “Lower quality grapes used in cheaper wines tend to have more residual sugar which is why cheap wine is often very sweet,” says Dr. Sophocles. But rather than thinking in terms of price, she recommends thinking of sweet versus dry wine. Some sweeter wines to stay away from are Sauternes, Riesling and dessert wines.
The expert take: This TikTok video isn’t necessarily bad, but Dr. Sophocles cautions that it could lead to some misinformation about yeast infections. While too much sugar can indeed cause yeast infections, there are multiple other factors to consider including things like hanging around in wet swimwear, sitting too long in exercise clothes post workout or consistently wearing non-cotton underwear that can trap moisture in the vagina. “There are also systemic causes of yeast infections, i.e., some people are prone to them if they are diabetic, immunocompromised, etc.,” adds Dr. Sophocles. If you get recurrent yeast infections, talk to your doctor so that you can determine what may be causing them and how to treat them.
4. The trend: Taking a shot of lemon juice to delay the onset of a menstrual cycle
“Not me at 2 am trying to stop my period early because ticktock said so,” user @jaymelynn11 wrote recently, while knocking back two shots of lemon juice. “I’ll update tomorrow to let ya’ll know if it worked.” In a follow-up video, she reported that the method reduced her bleeding “significantly.”
The expert take: Sorry, but this one simply doesn’t work. “Your period happens, and it has nothing to do with what you eat or drink,” says Dr. Sophocles. “Taking a lemon juice shot does not affect the ovaries or the brain that talks to the ovaries.” Having said that, a shot of lemon juice isn’t bad for you per se but… it just doesn’t make any sense. Instead, doctors can delay the onset of a menstrual cycle hormonally. “Sometimes doctors use birth control pills to induce periods early so that the next cycle will be delayed,” explains Dr. Sophocles. One more time for the people in the back—if you would like to delay your menstrual cycle for whatever reason, talk to your doctor about it.