Have you ever checked out the label on your favorite lube? If you’re not familiar with the ingredients used in your lubricant, now is the time. Not all lubricants are created equal, and you’ll probably be surprised by what you find.
Clients often ask us, “What lube should I use?” And the answer varies from woman to woman. We always recommend a good quality lubricant to help make your experience as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. If you deal with pain during intercourse, lubricant can sometimes be helpful. However, it is important to note that pain with intercourse can often be caused by pelvic floor issues. And even the best lubricant won’t fix the root cause of your discomfort.
Take our quiz to see if you have a pelvic floor issue that you may need to resolve before you can enjoy intercourse again!
Why Ingredients Matter
The vagina is a really fascinating place, and with a little attention, we can keep our vagina healthy and happy. The vagina actually has its own microbiome, made up of many different bacteria.
“The vagina, in particular, is home to a rich ecosystem of bacteria that, when balanced and healthy, helps to prevent infections — from routine yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis to HIV. A healthy vaginal microbiome also helps keep more minor irritations, like itching and pungent odor, at bay.”Becco, L. B. (2019, December 6). How to Support Your Vaginal Microbiome. Retrieved from https://experiencelife.com/article/how-to-support-your-vaginal-microbiome/
A balanced vaginal ecosystem allows for the right types of bacteria to grow and also keeps the vaginal pH low. pH is a measure of how acidic or basic (aka alkaline) something is. The ideal range of pH in the vagina is 3.5 to 4.5. In this environment, good bacteria can thrive and bad bacteria can’t, allowing the vagina to defend itself against infection. So it’s important that the products we use don’t interfere with the natural microbiome and pH of the vagina. This will help prevent infections and irritation, keeping the vagina working as it should.
What’s In Your Lube?
When choosing a lubricant, there are a few ingredients to watch out for and avoid whenever possible.
- Petroleum: Increases risk of vaginal infections and can break down condoms
- Parabens (methylparaben or propylparaben): Preservative chemicals that can irritate the mucous membrane and can cause rashes. Some parabens have been linked to fertility issues and hormone disruption
- Chlorhexidine Gluconate: A disinfectant chemical that kills off lactobacillus (an important vaginal bacteria)
- Cyclomethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, and Cyclotetrasiloxane: Ingredients commonly found in silicone lubricants that have been linked to reproductive harm and uterine cancer.
It is also important to consider the osmolarity and pH of a lubricant. Osmolality is important because if the number of particles in the substance is higher than the particle number in the vaginal canal, this can lead to dryness and breakdown of the vaginal tissue. As mentioned earlier, lubricants with too high of pH alter the vagina’s natural pH, leading to an increased risk for vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis. With most lubricants, you can find research studies that have been conducted for each of these properties. This can help you to know how the lubricant stands up in the areas of osmolarity and pH.
What Lube Should I Use?
There are three major categories of lubricants: water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based. We’ve got the low-down here on each of these for you in this handy chart.
|Safe to use with condoms and devices||Higher risk of yeast infection when product also contains glycerin||Good Clean Love: BioNude Ultra Sensitive|
|More natural ingredients||Desert Harvest Aloe Glide|
|Long shelf life||AH! Yes WB (Water-Based)|
|Minimal vaginal irritation||Slippery Stuff|
|Safe with latex condoms||Do not use with silicone devices or toys||#Lubelife Barely There Thin Silicone Lubricant|
|Lasts longer||Stay away from “warming” lubricants as they dry out quickly|
|Holds up in water|
Ingredients to be watchful of in silicone-based lubricants (due to the possibility of reproductive harm and cancer in animal-based studies):
|Natural options (coconut, olive oil)||Destroys latex condoms||AH! Yes OB (Oil-Based)|
|Can disrupt vaginal pH and good bacteria levels|
|Do not use synthetic oils (mineral oil, vaseline) internally|
Click here to get a FREE downloadable copy of our lubricants guide!
If vaginal dryness or pain is keeping you from enjoying sex, don’t suffer needlessly! Contact us to set up a FREE consultation with a pelvic floor physical therapist to see how we can help you find a solution to your issues. We stock all of our recommended lubricants at our offices, and we would love to help you find the right lubricant for you.
And be sure to check out our Virtual Sexual Health Clinic to find where we can give you a personal recovery blueprint, provide tools and strategies to ease your pain, and help you enjoy your sexual experiences again.
Sources: Women’s Voices for the Earth, The World Health Organization, & individual lubricant sites.