Are These Terrifying Old Wives Tales Fact Or Fiction?

I was not allowed to take baths as a child. 

I’d never questioned why — we were just a shower-only household. But at a sleepover with my 6-year-old BFF, I got to take a bath. 

There were bubbles! Assorted toys! And bath chalk! It was amazing and I went home the next day and demanded to take baths. 

My mom said no. 

I whined, “But whyyyyyy?” as 6-year-olds tend to do. 

She explained that baths were dangerous for girls because it could lead to an infection in my vagina (my dad is a doctor so scientific terms were always used). 

Speaking of my dad, he chimed in with “You’re sitting in your own filth.”

I didn’t have much luck persuading them after that; after all, they were adults. I trusted them to tell me the truth. 


Myth No. 1: Baths are Bad for Women 

Now, I’m not calling my mom a liar — I’m sure her mom told her the same thing. 

But as an adult I’ve come to find that A LOT of moms gave erroneous info to their daughters; not on purpose, but because an adult woman had told them. It’s a cycle. 

So can baths cause vaginal infections? The answer isn’t as clear cut as my mom made it seem. 

Fact or Old Wives Tale?

“It’s unfortunate but true: bubble baths can lead to the development of vaginitis, like yeast infections,” according to Julie Levitt, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn at the Women’s Group of Northwestern.

The reason why women can develop infections has to do with healthy pH levels, which is a measure of how acidic something is. 

“We are more acidic (with pH being 4-4.5) and the bubble baths are more basic (8-9 on the scale),” Dr. Levitt explained.

So if you’re susceptible to vaginal or urinary tract infections, steer clear of fragranced bubble bath products.

My mom was half right. 

Myth No. 2: You Shouldn’t Wear Underwear to Bed 

One night in elementary school my friend Lisa was sleeping over and she removed her underwear before bed. 

She asked me why I wasn’t taking mine off and I did not have a better answer than “I always sleep in underwear,” to which she replied, “But it’s bad for your cookie! It needs to breathe!”

WHAT? Why are so many things bad for our vaginas? Why didn’t my mom tell me this? Why did I have to call it a vagina when she got to use a cute name like cookie? 

My mom said it was bubbemeiss (Yiddish for bulls**t) so I keep mine on to this day. 

Fact Or Old Wives Tale?

“Underwear serves two main purposes: Protection and hygiene,” says David E. Bank, MD, a dermatologist and founder of The Center For Dermatology in Westchester, New York. 

“Wearing well-fitting, breathable underwear at night can help wick sweat and other moisture away while providing a place to put protection against bladder or period leakage.”

I feel like a Mythbuster — and also relieved because I will never, ever feel comfortable without a layer of cotton between my vagina and the world. 

Myth No. 3: Never Sleep in an Underwire Bra

Three other big fears instilled in me by high school and college friends, told to them by THEIR moms, were that sleeping in an underwire bra causes cancer, as does wearing deodorant and shaving your armpits. 

That’s a lot to take in, so I’ll break them down one by one. 

I never sleep in an underwire bra, because that’s uncomfortable for me. But if you do, you can rest easy (although how you sleep well with wire poking into your boobs escapes me, but you do you!). 

Fact Or Old Wives Tale?

“According to a Scientific American article this myth began with the publication of a book in the mid-90s, that claimed that women who wear tight-fitting bras with underwire have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who do not,” says Dr. Laura Hutchins, a UAMS medical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer. 

“The overall consensus among doctors is that neither the type of bra worn nor the tightness of undergarments has any connection to the risk of breast cancer,” according to UAMS Health. 

Myth No. 4: Wearing Deodorant Can Cause Cancer

The deodorant one scared me, obviously, due to the fact that I wear deodorant. 

The claims are based on the concerns that “Antiperspirant chemicals are absorbed through the skin, block the release of toxins when you sweat, and cause these toxins to build up in the breast,” says

Fact Or Old Wives Tale?

There is zero scientific evidence to support this claim. 

“Even the strongest antiperspirant doesn’t block all perspiration in the armpit. Most cancer-causing substances are removed by the kidneys and released through urine or processed by the liver. Sweating isn’t a significant way for your body to release toxins. 

“And while there are concerns about chemicals, such as phthalates and parabens used for fragrance and preservation, from a whole list of personal care products (including antiperspirants) being absorbed by the body, these chemicals are unlikely to be culprits in causing breast cancer.”

Phew, I can continue coating my pits in Dove Shower Fresh Scent. 

Myth No. 5: Shaving Your Armpits Can Cause Cancer

Another armpit alarm I worried about is shaving. 

My first college roommate, whose mom is an OB/GYN, waxed her underarms instead of shaving. 

I thought it was a harmless preference until she told me WHY she waxed — shaving your armpits can cause cancer. 

More cancer? I called my mom in tears because I certainly didn’t want cancer and I definitely didn’t want hairy armpits (again, a personal choice, absolutely nothing wrong with underarm hair). 

She assured me it was bubbemeiss and that I could go about my hair removal technique — but was she right?

Fact Or Old Wives Tale?

“The answer is no,” says The American Cancer Society. “There is not enough evidence to support the link between the frequency of shaving and the chance of getting breast cancer.”

There is a risk of irritation if you cut yourself and then apply deodorant, but the chances of the chemical entering your body and causing changes to your tissue is very low. 

Myth No. 6: Hot Drinks Can Cool You Down

Let’s do one that’s not scary, shall we? 

I drink hot coffee year-round, no matter the temperature — even this summer, when temps have hit 100 degrees — and it’s not just because I dislike iced coffee. 

At some point in my life, I overheard my bubbe explaining why she drank hot coffee on hot days. I can still hear her voice in my head: “It cools down your body temp,” she said. There was more info about tricking your body, but I only remember the first part. 

And I’ve repeated this line when Starbucks baristas look at me in horror when they reach for a clear plastic cup and I say, “No, hot please!”

So is this contradictory cooling system sus or the real deal? 

Fact Or Old Wives Tale?

The real deal, according to Ollie Jay, a researcher at University of Ottawa’s School of Human Kinetics. But only in certain circumstances. 

“If you drink a hot drink, it does result in a lower amount of heat stored inside your body, provided the additional sweat that’s produced when you drink the hot drink can evaporate,” Jay says.

Myth No. 7: No Swimming After Eating

The tallest tale every kid has heard from their mom or caretaker is that you have to wait a certain amount of time to go swimming after eating. 

Why? Because if you swam after eating, you’d get a cramp and drown. Didn’t matter if it was a stick of cheese or an entire buffet — you put food in your mouth, the water was off limits. 

The time varied from family to family. Some said an hour, while others lived dangerously and said 30 minutes. 

You were at the beach, a pool and you inhaled lunch or a snack because you obviously wanted to get back into the water — you probably didn’t want to get out in the first place. 

As you raced back toward whatever body of water you heard the dreaded words: “YOU HAVE TO WAIT AN HOUR.”

Fact Or Old Wives Tale?

But did you? YOU DID NOT. 

“A normal-sized meal consumed before swimming will not cause cramping,” says UCHealth. 

Although you can be sleepy after eating a large meal, it won’t cause the cramp our moms feared would lead to our drowning. 

There you have it — take baths, wear deodorant with abandon, sleep with a bra on, shave your armpits, drink hot coffee to cool down, and swim after you eat. 

And while I’ll be keeping my undies on, you can sleep naked if you like — that’s none of my business. 


Did your mom, a female figure or friend ever warn you of the old wives tales listed or one that wasn’t mentioned? Let us know below!

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