LUBE: A GUIDE

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WHAT’S IN YOUR LUBE?

Oh, how we love lube. And how helpful that it can be found everywhere from your local pharmacy store, to Planned Parenthood and even Amazon.  Everyone can benefit from a bit of lube whether it’s just to try something new, for your toys, for vaginal dryness, menopause or during the lower-estrogen times of your cycle. It’s really for every body! But every lube isn’t for every body. See, there are three main types of lube on the market: water-based, oil-based and silicone-based.

Here is something v. important to know (PSA):

Oil-based lubes are not safe to use with latex condoms!

The oil can actually break down the latex, causing the condom to break. So. good. to. know!

Some more guidance on the different lube bases:

  • Silicone-based and water-based lubes are safe to use with latex condoms

  • Silicone-based lubes are not great to use with silicone toys

  • Water-based lubes dry up the quickest, so keep around for re-application as needed

Cool. Now that we got the types down, it’s more than the base that you should take into consideration when perusing for a lube. The vagina is a super absorbent part of the body. And, it has its own special ecosystem of bacteria that when in balance, keeps you healthy. By introducing anything inside, you risk throwing that balance off. So what you put inside you, matters!

SOME COMMON INGREDIENTS YOU MAY WANNA LOOK OUT FOR:

Glycerin: A preservative often found in water-based lubes, particularly ones that are flavored or sensation-inducing. Glycerin is a humectant (meaning, it keeps things moist) but this kind of moisture can be akin to wearing leggings on a hot, sweaty, summer day. (We all know how that goes for the vag) With all this moisture, glycerin can throw the vaginal bacterial ecosystem outta whack. And when our bacteria is out of whack, infections like yeast can flourish. This doesn’t mean everyone who uses a glycerin-containing product will develop an infection, but it is something to look out for! On a different note, glycerin can also irritate sensitive skin, so remember to always do a little skin test first before fully committing to a product with glycerin.

Chlorhexidine Gluconate: This lovely sounding ingredient is usually found in mouthwash, but also, in lubes. You know- your mouth and your vagina…the same! It is antibacterial. Therefore, it kills bacteria. And as you know the vagina has a lot of bacteria. And in a balanced vaginal ecosystem, the bacteria there is GOLD. So, killing it all off…not the best. We won’t go further into this here, but simply Google “chlorhexidine gluconate in lube” and you’ll never want to use a product with this in it again. Trust us.

Nonoxynol-9: This is a chemical spermicide- meaning it helps kill off sperm to help prevent fertilization from occurring. Lube plus contraceptive in one?! Sounds like a dream. But that would be too easy. Research has shown that frequent use of this stuff can actually increase your risk of contracting HIV, and other infections, particularly for those in vulnerable communities. And, it should definitely not be used for anal sex as it can cause the anal lining to “slough off.” Yikes!

Parabens: Ok, you likely know all about these. Or, at the very least are already thinking to yourself… Cancer. We still don’t know everything about these man-made chemical preservatives, but we do know they are absorbed into the bloodstream. And that the vagina is very absorbent. As there is so much controversy on the overall long-term health effects, and so many other options exist, why not just leave these ones at the door for now?

Written by: Camilla Andrea, C+S Staff

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REFERENCES

“Use and procurement of additional lubricants for male and female condoms” World Health Organization https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/76580/WHO_RHR_12.33_eng.pdf;jsessionid=52562D582C0D8CF967A3FD8A87F5630D?sequence=1

NAM. “Nonoxynol-9 spermicidal lubricant” April 7, 2009. http://www.aidsmap.com/Nonoxynol-9-spermicidal-lubricant/page/1323016/

Planned Parenthood. “What is Nonoxynol-9?” Oct. 14, 2010. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens/ask-experts/what-does-nonoxynol-9-means

Romm, Aviva MD. “When Wetter Isn’t Better: The Unhealthy Truth About Vaginal Lubricant” March 28, 2018. https://avivaromm.com/vaginal-lubricant/