Lube can be a lifesaver in the bedroom. But if you pick the wrong one, it can be seriously harmful to your health. Many of the bestselling varieties contain some of the same ingredients that are also used in anti-freeze, brake fluid, and even oven cleaner, says Wendy Strgar, founder of Good Clean Love, a sexual health company that also makes lube.
And those chemicals might throw off the natural salt balance and pH in the vagina, putting you at a higher risk of contracting bacterial vaginosis. (And if you’ve ever had BV, you know that no mind-blowing orgasm is worth getting it for.)
Luckily, not all lubes are created equal, and there are plenty of natural – and effective – alternatives. “The best lubricants are those that are iso-osmotic, which means they match the healthy conditions of the vagina – they don’t add or subtract any water from the tissue cells or disrupt the healthy bacteria,” says Strgar.
Here are the four scariest ingredients to steer clear of.
Glycerin, a sugar alcohol, increases the osmolality of the lube (a technical way to describe the measure of how much of one substance has been dissolved in another substance). A high level of glycerin isn’t good, says Strgar. Too much of this sugar alcohol can lead to bacterial growth and unpleasant side effects like yeast infections and UTIs.
Petrochemicals like propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol and petroleum
“Most flavoured or warming sensation lubricants are made with petrochemicals,” which are chemical substances derived from petroleum, and may be found in products like anti-freeze, says Strgar. “There is a common misperception about warming lubes, which is that it is sexy to feel burning, but good sex should never burn,” she says. “True arousal causes engorgement and a natural warming of sexual organs, so you don’t need to pour chemicals on there to make it burn.”
Preservatives like parabens, benzyl alcohol and citric acid
“Many people have had bad experiences with lubes that burn, itch, or feel really sticky during or after use. Oftentimes those side effects are caused by preservative ingredients like these,” says Strgar. Natural products don’t have cause those issues, she says.
“Benzocaine is an irritant that numbs you and can be found in lubes targeted for painful sex or for making anal play less scary,” Lilly, a sex toy critic for DangerousLilly.com, writes on her blog. “This is just a bad idea, because pain is your body’s way of saying HEY STOP. If you keep going you can end up with injuries, micro-tears to the delicate tissue, and major problems.”
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com