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If you’re a fan of personal lubricants for sex, you know first-hand the sensation-enhancing difference they make. If you haven’t tried them, let me tell you… whether you’re with a partner, with a toy, or on your own, lubes can add some serious yessss!! to your sexual experience. (Just sayin’.)

However new or experienced you may be, it’s important to understand the different types of lubrication, so you can fully enjoy the benefits without accidentally compromising the protective barrier of your condom, melting your sex toy, or ending up with a vaginal or anal infection. Yep! As amazing as lubes are, they can do all these things, if you use the wrong type for the situation.

In this article

First, avoid these toxic ingredients in sex lubes

If you hope to keep your sensitive bits irritation-free (and who doesn’t?), you’ll want to say no to most of the lubes you’d find in a drug store or sex shop. Why?

Because most commercial lubes contain petrochemicals that can burn your genital and anal tissues. They can also contain parabens, phthalates, and other nasty ingredients that are either known or suspected to cause cancer and/or disrupt the body’s natural hormone production. For women, these ingredients can also kill the beneficial bacteria in your vagina, leaving you more susceptible to STIs, yeast infections, and other diseases. Fun, right?

Along those lines, flavored lubes often contain glucose, which converts to sugar as your body assimilates it. This sugar feeds any candida that may be present in your vagina, also making you more vulnerable to a candida overgrowth (i.e. yeast infections).

KY Jelly Personal Lubricant Ingredients

So, that’s the bad news.

The good news is that there are plenty of healthier and highly effective natural lubricants out there. And it’s likely you already have some of them in your kitchen or bathroom.

Also read: Most Drugstore Condoms Have Chemicals You Don’t Want Touching Your Genitals. Here Are Your Healthier Options.

Plant oils as a natural lubricant

Pure plant oils and butters, especially when organic and unrefined, provide the cleanest and most natural form of sex lubrication you can find. Melt some cocoa butter, shea butter, or coconut oil in your hand for a few seconds, then apply. Or drizzle on a few drops of olive oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, or grapeseed oil.

When it comes to natural sex lubes, you aren’t short on options. They’re body-nourishing and last much longer than water-based lubes. They’re also great for use in the shower and safe to use with most sex toys.

That said, one very important thing you need to know is that oils (plant-based or otherwise) can break down natural latex, degrading the efficacy of a condom and making it easier to tear during intercourse. This is especially true for mineral oil (petroleum jelly, baby oil) and mineral oil-based lotions, which have been shown to degrade a condom by as much as 90% in as little as sixty seconds. Yikes!

Oils can break down natural latex, degrading the efficacy of the condom and making it easier to tear during intercourse.

Worry not! Natural oils and butters are only an issue for condoms. They are still a fantastic option for solo play, manual stimulation, and sex with a dedicated partner, where STI prevention (hopefully) isn’t a concern.

Water-based sex lubes

Unlike plant and petroleum-based oils, water-based sex lubes won’t melt your condoms. While most commercial brands are filled with scary-looking ingredients, aloe vera tends to be the main ingredient in naturally formulated water-based lubricants. Here’s why.

Aloe vera (on its own) is sold as a juice or a gel — it is not an oil and it will not degrade a condom. The reason it’s so often used in sex lubricants is that it emulates (to a fair degree) the natural lubrication of a woman’s vagina.

That said, you probably wouldn’t use aloe vera gel on its own, because it’s pretty sticky. Plus, the aloe vera sold in most drugstores and supermarkets contains alcohol and other unsavory ingredients that are not good for your va-jay-jay.

The safer ingredients you’ll find alongside aloe in water-based lubes include:

  • Citric acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), potassium sorbate, and/or sodium benzoate: These preservatives help to protect the product against bacteria and give the lube a longer shelf life.
  • Xanthan gum and/or agar agar: These are natural thickeners from plants and seaweed, respectively, and help to give the lubricant an even smoother texture.

While water-based lubricants can be used with condoms and sex toys, their downside is that they typically don’t last very long and need to be reapplied, which can mess with your mojo.

Silicone sex lubes

Silicone-based lubes are longer lasting and even more slippery than oil-based lubes, making them especially popular for anal sex.

You don’t have to worry about silicone breaking down the latex in condoms, which is great. However, it does break down silicone toys. This means, if you use silicone-based lubes with silicone sex toys, the toys will become sticky and less fun to use.

During my research, there were five ingredients that I kept seeing on the labels for silicone-based lubes… including the ‘safer’ brands. I checked the ingredients against the EWG Skin Deep Database and while they aren’t terrible, I wasn’t 100% happy with what I found.

Two of these ingredients, dimethiconol and cyclomethicone, were rated as completely non-toxic. Great! But the other three common ingredients: cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, and cyclotetrasiloxane, were essentially scored the equivalent of a “C”.

First, when I’m looking at the label, I don’t want to see an unrecognizable ingredient, no matter what the Skin Deep Database says. If I can’t eat it or pronounce it, I’m wary about putting it on my body, let alone in it. Also, dimethiconol vs. dimethicone and cyclomethicone vs. the other two? I can barely tell them apart and could easily mistake one for the other while shopping.

With that in mind, natural oils and water-based lubes are my preferred options. But when you absolutely need that extra glide, silicone wins. The thing is, I’m not sure you can find silicone lubes without at least one of the “C-rated” ingredients (I couldn’t). As such, I’m not 100% happy with my recommendation below… but it’s the cleanest one I could find for you.

Quick Comparison of Natural Sex Lubes

Already forgot which lube to use when? Here’s a quick summary:

  • Oil-based lube: Use natural plant oils with silicone sex toys, but not with latex condoms.
  • Water-based lube: Use aloe-based lubes with sex toys and condoms. May need to reapply often.
  • Silicone-based lube: Use silicone lubes with condoms, but not with silicone sex toys.

Given the varied uses, you may want to keep more than one type of sex lube on hand (so to speak) to cover all your bases. Then test them at your pleasure. Er, leisure! I meant test them at your leisure!


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