Sex Lube: Your Own Personal Oil Slick


We’ve all got one – a little tube in the nightstand drawer, ready for those moments when our bodies seem to be failing at what they’re supposed to do naturally. At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I’m just going to say it: vaginal dryness happens.

Maybe you’re on birth control pills, or maybe your man isn’t spending enough – ahem – quality time before the act itself takes place. But if you find yourself reaching for lubrication, stop and read those ingredients! You might be filling one of the most delicate parts of your body with a bunch of scary chemicals, and even affecting your fertility.

It’s all too easy to just grab whatever the most promising-looking plastic tube on the drugstore shelf. The labels on products like KY Jelly, Astroglide and Durex Play focus on adjectives like “sensual” and “warming”, not safety – and sometimes, ingredients aren’t even disclosed.

Here’s the thing about most conventional sex lubes:

Many contain parabens. KY brand lubricants – aside from the ‘sensitive’ version – contain parabens, a class of chemicals used as preservatives. Even the relatively natural-sounding brand ‘Phyto Soya’ is packed with practically every paraben in existence. Parabens are estrogen mimickers and have been linked to breast cancer. Chemicals like parabens are easily absorbed through the skin, and mucous membranes – like vaginal tissue – are even more susceptible.

They’re often petroleum-based. Any lubricant that lists mineral oil in its ingredient list is made from petrochemicals. An obvious offender is plain old petroleum jelly. If you like putting fossil fuels in your vagina, raise your hand! Yeah, that’s what I thought.

They can cause infection. Whenever you see glycerin or a word starting with “glycol” in the ingredients, you’ve got potential problems. These ingredients – common in lubes like Astroglide – are closely related to glucose, which means they’re a sugary feast for yeast. Not exactly sexy.

They affect fertility. If you’re trying to conceive, think twice about using any old lube. Studies show that lubricants like KY, Astroglide and FemGlide affect both sperm quality and motility, meaning they slow ’em down and damage their DNA. While a product called “Pre-Seed” proved to be the most sperm-friendly, it does contain parabens, so it’s best not to use artificial lube at all if possible.

That doesn’t mean that just because you’re breastfeeding, going through menopause or taking antidepressants, you have to resign yourself to uncomfortable sex. Check out some of these alternatives:

Firefly Organics – Though not made for use with latex condoms (polyurethane is okay), Firefly Organics is a 100 percent natural, paraben-free personal lubricant made with sunflower seed extract, cocoa butter and shea butter.

Yes Lubricant Yes brand lubricants come in both water- and oil-based varieties for latex condom compatibility. The oil-based product contains shea butter, sweet almond oil, sunflower oil, beeswax, cocoa butter and vitamin E while the water-based product is made with aloe, guar gum, locust bean gum and flax extract.

Good Clean Love – Totally natural, organic and vegan, Good Clean Love lubricants come in naturally scented versions like lavender rose, almost naked with a touch of lemon and vanilla, and cinnamon vanilla – a spicy scent reminiscent of pumpkin pie, a scent that most men find sexy.

Coconut Oil – Some ladies swear by plain old virgin organic coconut oil as a sex lube, and though no studies have been done on its safety, it seems like a great choice. Coconut oil is naturally fungicidal, so nothing funky will grow in it (which is a common problem in any kind of lube). It’s also antibacterial and silky smooth, but avoiding it in conjunction with latex condoms is probably a good idea.

Image: Zawezome

Stephanie Rogers

Stephanie Rogers currently resides in North Carolina where she covers a variety of green topics, from sustainability to food.