Let’s talk about lube. It can be watery, it can be messy, and it can sometimes be made with weird ingredients. Some people swear by it, while others find it intimidating or a bit grotesque. For me, it’s something that I’ve used from time to time and have found to be helpful, especially on days when my menstrual cycle or mental health may be affecting my dampness down there.
This article is intended to answer some common questions about lubricant and what it’s made of. Lube can be a sticky situation, because it’s tough to always know which ingredients are safe to use and which ones are potentially harmful. You won’t find much here about the application of lubricant or the pros/cons of using it. That’s for another article perhaps.
What you will find is a combination of my own personal experiences trying different types of store bought lubes and household alternatives, as well as some research to help you decide on some lubes to try.
A few things I’d like to note before continuing on. First, I am not an expert (hold for waves of shock and disbelief). I have done some research, and I’m also offering insight from my own personal experience. I encourage everyone to do their own research on a product before using it, as this article is just a foundation for a discussion.
I’d also like to note that I have only used these lubricants for penetrative sex as a female-identified person.
Why am I dry down there?
Poor sex education (or in many cases, none at all) has left room for a lot of us to think that if we are aroused, the river will always be a’ flowin. I have personally been in a few situations in the past where everything was right: the mood, the person, the Sabrina Claudio playlist soothing us in the background. But even after all of that, my body was a desert. Because I didn’t know that being dry is a common occurrence for some people, I was mortified.
Our bodies are complex. Vaginal secretion can shift with different phases of our menstrual cycles, certain antidepressants, some birth control pills, stress, and changes in our mental health. Experiencing vaginal dryness every now and then is normal, and there’s no shame in it. If you’re experiencing higher levels of dryness more often than not, and feel that something may be off in your body, that is okay too. You can talk with a professional about some next steps.
Why do companies advertise a “warming sensation” as a good thing?
The first time I ever used lube was an experience I thought would be my last. My partner at the time had fallen victim to KY’s advertising and purchased their “warming” lubricant. The bottle read, “Spice up your love life with gentle warming sensations.” The KY gel definitely spiced things up, but not where I was hoping.
Sparing you the details, my experience with KY gel was not a fun one. I was curious about why I had such an adverse reaction to the gel, so I looked up the ingredients. The ingredients in KY Warming Sensations Personal Lube are:
After that experience, I felt that something as absorbent as my vaginal canal probably deserved a bit more kindness than just some synthetic, “spicy”, warming sensations. I don’t bring this up to say that everyone would have a negative reaction to KY or similar brands, but I do believe that it is important for us to be aware of what we are using in our bodies.
What are some of the lube ingredients that can be harmful (and really difficult to pronounce)?
Again, I’m not here to tell you who/what/or how much of something to put in your body. However, there are common ingredients found in sexual lubricants that have been known to cause various issues when used during intercourse. Some of them include:
Benzoic Acid– Also a preservative, Benzoic Acid is known to throw off vaginal ph and lead to infections.
Glycerin– When in the body, glycerin breaks down into sugars. And overabundance of sugar alcohol can lead to yeast infections.
Parabens- Some research shows that parabens (a preservative commonly found in cosmetics) can lead to hormone imbalance and disruption of the endocrine system. This can be especially tricky in lubricants and condoms because of the absorbance of our vaginal walls and closeness to our reproductive organs.
Phenoxyethanol- This substance is a preservative that might also show up on a bottle of lube as “fragrance.” In higher quantities, Phenoxyethanol can be dangerous if absorbed through the skin.
Propylene Glycol– This one is definitely found in the KY Warming Gel that I tried and instantly regretted. Propylene Glycol is in the petrochemical family, and according to Women’s Health, can be found in products like antifreeze. So that’s fun.
What are some good organic lubricants on the market?
There are plenty of companies out there who are dedicated to making lube that is certified organic in its entirety. These products listed below are made with organic materials, but it’s still important to do your research on individual ingredients if it’s something you don’t recognize. I’ve made note of which products I’ve tried and which ones I have not.
Sustain Organic Lubricant (have tried it and like it a lot)
This lubricant is water-based but has a bit of a gelatinous texture. It has never made me feel uncomfortable, is easy to wash off, and is compatible with latex. The ingredients are all certified organic, but Sustain Lubricant still contains phenoxyethanol. It also contains:
-Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder
-Flax Seed Extract
-Locust Bean Gum
Wet Organic Aloe Based Lubricant (have tried and think it’s just okay)
Wet Organic Aloe-Based Lube is a really nice, inexpensive lubricant. It’s aloe-based, so it’s latex compatible. It’s the most affordable of the three organic products I’ve covered at $9.99 per 5 oz bottle. The ingredients list is a bit lengthier than other organic lubes, but every ingredient is certified organic. I’ve never had any issues with using this lubricant, but the list of ingredients isn’t my favorite:
-Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice
-Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract
-Chenopodium Quinoa Seed Extract
-Cannabis Sativa Seed Extract
-Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract
-Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract
-Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract
Almost Naked (haven’t tried)
I haven’t tried this lubricant yet, but it’s a popular choice in the world of organic sex products. It’s fairly affordable at $11.99 per 4 oz bottle. The ingredients are similar to Sustain Lubricant:
What can I find around the house that I can use as lube?
Even natural/organic lubes on the market can have complicated ingredients. If you’re wanting to be extra minimal with your lubricants, there are some alternatives that can help. I’ve noted which of these products I’ve tried before, and which ones I haven’t.
Coconut Oil (have used it before and liked it a lot)
Coconut oil is both a great substitute for cooking with hydrogenated oils, and a highly-debated topic among vaginal health experts. Before I get into the debate, I need to make one thing clear: coconut oil should not be used with latex or polyisoprene condoms. Oils break down latex and polyisoprene and can lead to tears or holes in the condoms.
The great coconut oil debate is centered around whether or not this oil, which is known to help balance out candida levels, is actually good for your vaginal area. Some experts argue that it’s harmless and actually works to fight fungi, while other studies suggest that it knocks your vagina’s ph balance off whack, which could lead to infections.
I’m avoiding the task of making a statement on the subject, because in my personal experience, using it every now and then has been harmless and a simple lubricant to find around the house. But if you’re considering using it, I would suggest consulting an expert (which is clearly not me).
Almond Oil (have used it before)
It may sound weird, but I’ve really enjoyed using almond oil. I’ve used this one from Target, which is only $6.99.
Almond oil is mild and has almost no natural fragrance. Its texture makes it one of the thinner, more “watery” oils, so it can be a bit messy. Make sure to look for pure almond oil without any fragrance. And similar to coconut oil, do not use almond oil with latex condoms.
Avocado Oil (have not used it)
I haven’t personally used avocado oil for lubricant, but it’s a common favorite for many use-kitchen-stuff-as-lubricant enthusiasts. It is another mild, natural lubricant option that smells slightly stronger than almond oil. Again, because it is oil-based, avocado oil is not a good pairing with condoms.
Pure Aloe Vera (have used it and LOVED it)
Because pure aloe vera is not oil-based, it’s one of the few “household” products that are safe to use with condoms. The texture is also really easy to work with because it’s not too watery or too gelatinous. I’ve used this brand before and have loved it.
The one thing to consider when buying aloe vera is that unless you’re using it straight from the plant (which I’ve done but wow, it takes a long time), it will almost always contain a few other ingredients. The bottle I recommended above contains:
-Organic Aloe Vera Leaf Juice
-Agar-Agar (a jelly-like substance derived from red algae)
-Organic Grapefruit Seed Extract
Even with these ingredients, I’ve personally never experienced any issues and have loved using it as a household lubricant.
Are there any household lubes to avoid?
Most definitely. Common household items that just aren’t helpful lubricants include Petroleum jelly, baby oil, and lotion. Petroleum jelly is commonly used as an inexpensive lubricant alternative, but it is extremely greasy and can lead to vaginal infections.
Baby oil has also been known to lead to more occurrences of yeast infections, and lotion is far too pungent and irritative to be used as lubricant.