Lubrication can be an essential component of safe, healthy, and enjoyable sex. But if you’re not using organic lube, you’re missing out on some major benefits.
Using lubrication can unlock worlds of pleasure you may have never known existed. Still, many of us feel hesitant to use lube at all because we’re told there’s something wrong with us if we don’t get wet naturally. It’s time to move past lube-shaming, however. The truth is, around 30 percent of people with vaginas experience vaginal dryness. By simply using a lubrication product, dryness no longer has to be an issue. Voila!
Nonetheless, not all lube is created equal. Mainstream lubricants that aren’t organic can contain silicone, parabens, sugar (glycerin), propylene glycol, artificial flavors/dyes, and other shady ingredients that aren’t doing your genitals any favors. Organic lube is a valuable alternative.
No matter which lube you love the most, you’ll be glad that you tried them all. There’s no wrong way to lube.
Should you be using organic lube, and what are the benefits?
To be on the safe side, it’s always a good idea to use organic lube. To get the low-down on organic lube, we spoke to Wendy Strgar, author, and founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, a leading organic lube company. We also spoke with Erik Vasquez, the marketing director at Sliquid is a lube brand that runs Sliquid organics, a popular line of organic lubrication products.
1. Organic lube (usually) doesn’t contain parabens.
Parabens are common preservatives found in everything from food to cosmetics to lubricants. Although there’s no direct link between parabens and cancer, research suggests that parabens could be carcinogenic. It’s probably not the *best* idea to put products with potentially harmful substances on your body’s most sensitive areas. After all, a study found that parabens can stimulate certain types of breast cancer cells’ growth. WebMD even notes that “[parabens] appear to be able to do this even in tiny amounts.” While there’s no need to be alarmist about it as so many products contain parabens that mostly won’t affect you at all, choosing paraben-free lube to be on the safe side is never a bad idea.
2. There’s less risk of irritation when using organic lube.
By using organic lubrication, you might be decreasing your risk of irritation. Many lubricants contain ingredients such as sugar/glycerin, propylene glycol, and other synthetics that can cause infections and irritation such as yeast infections and UTIs.
After all, manufacturers also use ingredients such as propylene glycol and parabens in solutions that aren’t intended for genitals, such as brake fluid and antifreeze, according to Strgar.
However, keep in mind that the FDA hasn’t concluded that these ingredients are harmful in the amounts present in lube products.
Furthermore, Toxicology Reports published a Good Clean Love-sponsored study that found “Hyperosmolal vaginal lubricants markedly reduce epithelial barrier properties in a three-dimensional vaginal epithelium model.” In this study, biophysicist Richard Cone and his colleagues explain how hyperosmolar formulations increase your risk of transmitting genital herpes infections and “increase susceptibility to HIV in target cells in cell cultures.”
Spoiler: Most lubrication products are hyperosmolar solutions and can be risky to your health.
3. It’s better for vaginal pH.
According to Strgar, "the vagina is a biome." The ingredients in mainstream lubricants can disrupt that biome. The pH of most vaginas falls between 3.8 and 4.5. Any lubricant that has a pH exceeding 5 can cause a vaginal pH imbalance. Some lubricants can have a pH as high as 7. Lubes with a high pH increase your vaginal pH. Anything that increases your vaginal pH also increases your risk of developing bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.
“We make all of our lubricants at an optimal vaginal pH which is low (about 3.7),” says Strgar.
“Sliquid Organics lubricants are 4.2 pH,” says Vasquez.
Hear that? That’s a vagina sighing in relief. A lubricant with a low pH is also useful if you’re more prone to yeast infections.
4. Better Osmolality
Remember osmosis from science class? According to ScienceABC, the process of osmosis happens when your body tries to create equilibrium. It’s through osmosis that vaginal tissue absorbs the molecules present in lube. So, when you introduce lube ingredients that disrupt your vagina’s balance, things get wacky down there.
Osmolality refers to a solution’s concentration based on solute particles per kilogram. Products with osmolar levels that are too high or too low can affect the vagina in not-so-fun ways.
Here’s what actually happens:
John Hopkins University published a report from the Global Consultation on Personal Lubricants called Nontoxic Lubricants For Vaginal and Rectal Intercourse: Anatomy and Physiology by Richard Cone. According to Cone, hyperosmolar solutions (solutions with high osmolality such as many widely available lubricants) drain water from your cells and shrink them until they shed off. This makes the vagina more susceptible to developing bacterial vaginosis and HIV infections. Hypo-osmolar solutions (low osmolality), on the other hand, concentrate water in the vagina’s lumen/rectum area. This also leaves the vagina vulnerable to infections.
Ingredients in regular lube, such as propylene glycol and sodium hydroxide, disrupt the vaginal biome because they’re hyperosmolar. Strgar says, “Those ingredients are very chemically heavy compared to the osmolality of human tissue.”
Vaginal tissue is sensitive, so it’s more absorbent and reacts more intensely to chemical-heavy ingredients. Iso-osmolar solutions, however, don’t disrupt the vaginal biome. This is especially beneficial to people with sensitivities “down there.” Good Clean Love’s lubricants are iso-osmolar, so they don’t disrupt your vaginal biome.
If you want to keep your genitals safe, pay attention to the ingredients in lube. Vasquez thinks that while lube is ultimately a matter of preference, organic lube has a clear advantage thanks to its ingredients.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says, “The osmolality of a personal lubricant should not exceed 380 mOsm/Kg to minimize any risk of epithelial damage.”WHO acknowledges that most personal lubricants exceed the osmolality, but nonetheless recommend that “procurement agencies should source lubricants with osmolalities of not greater than 1200 mOm/kg.”
5. Organic lube is more eco-friendly
Organic brands tend to be more environmentally-friendly than other brands.
“When you talk about the environment, you have to be talking about packaging,” says Strgar. “Our lubricant is the only one in the world that’s made with bio-plastics — We use sugar cane packaging which is recyclable and we are carbon-neutral.”
As for Vasquez, he claims that Sliquid Organics’ key to being green-friendly is the ingredients.
“Organic lubricants use botanical materials,” Vasquez explains, “meaning the ingredients are both a sustainable and renewable resource that have not been affected by the use of harmful chemical agents.”
An organic lube’s label usually says whether or not it’s green-friendly.
6. There’s less animal testing involved in the production of organic lube
Most lubricants aren’t cruelty-free. After all, the FDA requires animal-testing for personal lubricants. However, companies can forgo animal tests if they can convince the FDA that their product doesn’t require them. That’s how Good Clean Love became the first company to get FDA approval for their lube with only one animal test involving mice. (Most lube companies have to undergo much more animal testing than that for FDA approval.)
“When it comes to vaginas, animal testing doesn’t give you real information,” says Strgar. She even claims that animal-testing can result in “false positives" because an animal’s tissues aren’t the same as a human’s tissues. Considering genitals’ sensitive nature, this is dangerous.
“Pretty much many/most lubes you find in an adult store aren’t FDA-compliant,” says Strgar.
Sliquid is also making progress towards ending animal testing. Dean Elliott is the founder and CEO of Sliquid. Elliott is known for being an animal-lover who prioritizes ethical, green-friendly business practices. According to a Vice from 2015, Elliott was gathering data to present to the FDA in order to prove to them that animal testing isn’t necessary for Sliquid products. That’s more of an attempt to stop animal testing than most lube companies make.
“Sliquid does not test on animals,” Vasquez claims. “We are still working to beseech the FDA to avoid animal testing.”
Remember: You can’t trust a lubricant just because you found it on a shelf. Simply put, many mainstream lubricants have shady ingredients that have no business being near sensitive tissues. However, there are organic lube brands out there who care more about your health, happiness, and safety than the mainstream brands do. That’s why you should always research a lubricant thoroughly before buying it. Your genitals will thank you for it. Happy lubing!