The biggest problem with lubricants intended for sexual use isn’t necessarily the chemicals inside them, the lack of FDA regulation or their under-use. The biggest, most dangerous problem with most sexual lubricants is their osmolality.
Bear with me here: research done through the country’s leading (and only) lube expert, who runs a body-safe sex toy store in Minneapolis. shows that most accessible (water-based, over-the-counter) lube has a higher osmolality (concentration of dissolved particles in water) than the epithelial layer of the vagina or the colon, causing water to move through cell membranes away from your tissues, so that skin sloughs off, mucus dehydrates and skin is left more susceptible to STIs. It’s basic osmosis; when there’s more stuff in the lube, it pulls water out of the body to attempt to create an equilibrium.
Nowadays, our lube is full of stuff: xenoestrogens and petrochemicals, sugar and glycerin, microbicides and parabens. And it’s all going in our bodies.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be using lube. In fact, please use lube! If you can, though, watch out for some things on the list and decrease your risk of BV, yeast infections, skin irritation, STIs and contact dermatitis.
XENOESTROGENS (like some parabens) are chemicals that act like estrogens and can cause sexual development problems in all bodies. PETROCHEMICALS (like propylene glycol and many glycerins) are derived from petroleum or crude oil and increase osmolality in lubricant. MICROBICIDES (besides carrageenan) kill viruses or bacteria and can cause yeast infections and compromise immune systems.
So what’s safe? Not K-Y, or Astroglide; in fact, stay away from most water-based lubes you’ll find in Target. Oil-based lubes erode latex and polyisoprene, so they’re not going to be your best friend in college. Don’t use flavored lubes inside of people, since the sugars can cause yeast infections in both anuses and vaginas. So, we’re looking at unflavored silicone lubes (which can damage silicone toys, so be careful) and water-based brands like Sliquid, Aloe Calabra, Ride, Waterslide, Coconu, Blossom Organics, Southern Butter and Hathor.
I don’t mean to scare anyone. Chances are, your lube’s not going to kill you. However, if you’re at all concerned with the health of your nether regions, take the extra step and monitor your lube. God knows the FDA isn’t doing it.
For more information and a list of reputable sources, visit badvibes.org/whats-in-your-lube/.
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