If "French girls" are supposed to be the epitome of elegance and style, explain the bidet? First invented in France in 1600s, a bidet is a bathroom fixture that's designed to spray water and wash your genitals, perineum, and anus. Chic, non?
If you think about it with an open mind, bidets actually are kind of great, and they are definitely becoming mainstream over here in the States. A millennial brand called Tushy launched a $69 minimalist, clip-on bidet earlier this year. Sonja Morgan from Real Housewives of New York City said has several uses for her bidet. And on a recent episode of the self-care podcast Forever35, co-host Doree Shafrir waxed poetic about how a bidet changed her life. Lots of people are getting on the bidet bandwagon right now because it's a more environmentally-friendly option than toilet paper. And people also claim that it just feels like you're cleaning yourself better. So, does that mean using a bidet is healthier than toilet paper?
First, it's helpful to understand how exactly a bidet works. It's basically like a sink or water fountain that you sit on. There are water jets that you can adjust and control so the stream is exactly how you want it. (Here is a fun video of people trying a bidet for the first time.) Afterwards, some people use toilet paper or a towel to dry off.
Believe it or not, there's no research comparing the health benefits of using a bidet versus toilet paper, so we have to make a judgement based on common sense and anecdotal evidence. "Water is the best and healthiest way to clean just about everything," says Donnica Moore, MD, host of the podcast In The Ladies Room, and women's health expert in Chester, NJ. "If you think about it, when we use dry toilet paper to clean our most sensitive and almost dirtiest areas of our body, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense." Our hands are the germiest parts of our bodies, but bidets can be used handsfree. So, you may spread fewer germs cleaning yourself with a bidet after going to the bathroom.
According to Dr. Moore, bidets could come in handy during your period, when you "feel like a mess down there." (Obviously the vagina is self-cleaning, but period blood can get messy.) Compared to most "feminine wipes," which often contain ingredients that can irritate your vulvar skin, a bidet just contains water. Plus, bidets could also be helpful to clean up after sex, Dr. Moore says. "Especially if you enjoy morning sex, and don't have the time to take a complete shower," she says.
Water is the best and healthiest way to clean just about everything.
Donnica Moore, MD
There are also some less-sexy times when a bidet would come in handy, like if you have hemorrhoids, Dr. Moore says. "Toilet paper is very abrasive," so having a gentle stream of water could help soothe the pain and clean your body, she says. Anyone with a gastrointestinal disorder that causes frequent bowel movements, like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, might enjoy a bidet because it's comfortable to use, she says. After all, bidets help clean your anal area quite well.
If you have decreased range of motion or mobility due to pregnancy (or an injury), then reaching behind yourself to wipe can be difficult, Dr. Moore says. "You have this big obstruction that changes your center of gravity and can interfere with being able to reach where you need to reach," she says. Or if you recently gave birth and are in pain, using a bidet could be very practical in that sense. Another thing about wiping: you might have heard that wiping front to back is crucial for preventing a UTI, and the same goes for using a bidet. "Make sure you leave the water in the right direction," Dr. Moore says.
So yeah, bidets are kind of the shit, and they might be healthy, too. If anything, the environmental benefits are huge, so that's something to consider as well. "I personally believe anything that benefits the environment benefits all of our health," Dr. Moore says.
Correction August 3, 2018: An earlier version of this story misstated the price of the Tushy clip-on bidet. It is $69, not $59. We regret the error.