Lubes are pretty commonplace in the sex lives of many people, and for several reasons. We live in a world where solutions are created every day to improve the quality of life. But most times, these solutions have their risks. The average person will drop household names like Astroglide or KY Jelly when asked about their go-to choice of lubricant. People know all the good stuff. What they don't know, is the dangerous ingredients that go into some of these 'goodies'. Several lubricants have been known to heighten susceptibility to STIs and cause infections and irritations.
We are going to hit on some vital facts about lubricants in this article: how they work and what they contain.
FOUR KINDS OF LUBES AND THEIR COMPONENTS
Lubes do a good job of making sex comfortable, pleasurable, and fun for users who may not be able to self-lubricate despite being aroused. They have become so popular that we now have four major types of lubricants today. They are:
- Water-based lubes
- Silicone-based lubes
- Hybrid lubes
- Plant-oil lubes
The 'base' here refers to the primary component or ingredient in these lubes. Let's expand on each lube type now.
Water-based lubricants are made out of 95% water and have a texture that is pretty similar to the natural lubricant of a vagina. The affordability of water made water-based lines equally cheap. In 2015, they made up over 72.5% of the overall lube sales.
Besides water, other ingredients are used to increase thickness. They include dispersants, preservatives, and humectants. However, these additional components have not fully been given the green light.
Remember K-Y? The company produces preservatives like chlorhexidine and petroleum-derived ingredients such as glycerin. These have been known to cause damage in both anal and vaginal tissues, exposing users to irritation, STIs, and infections.
- Similar to natural vaginal lubrication
- Water soluble
- Requires frequent application
- Contains potentially harmful ingredients
Silicone-based lubes are like the superheroes of all things lubricants. They work differently from water-based lubes in the sense that they do not evaporate easily. This means they can last for the duration of time you and your partner are going at it.
This kind of lubricant will resist water to the point where it can be difficult to get off your hands. They are non-toxic, inert, and hypoallergenic and don't require preservatives, making them gentle and safe for your body tissues.
- Zero smell
- Great for pre-lubricated condoms
- Non-compatible with silicone sex toys
- Hard to maintain
A hybrid lube is what you get when a silicone line and water use make babies. A common example is a Sliquid Silk. Hybrids are lubricants that feel like water-based lubes but have the durability of silicone lubes. Hybrid lubes are easy to maintain and will work well with sex toys made from silicone.
This type of lubricant contains organic ingredients such as aloe vera, coconut butter, coconut oil, and shea butter. They are known to be the most gentle of all four lube types.
Plant-based lubes are unique in that they do not need humectants, thickeners, anti-microbial, or preservatives. The absence of water in plant lubes means that they have zero osmolality and pH, making them safe for tissues.
This lubricant does not work well with latex condoms and oil-based lubricants in general but is compatible with polyurethane condoms.
- 100% organic
- Great for sex toys
- Last longs
- Stays for too long in the body
- Incompatible with latex condoms
THE SCIENCE OF WATER LUBRICANTS
I promise to explain this as simple as possible so don't be worried about the word "science" here. Why are we going into this? Because while we have the good stuff, some lubes have been tagged risky for reasons I'm going to explain.
Some of them are Astroglide, Gynol, Durex Play, K-Y, and so on. These are under examination for integrating risky, harsh preservatives and petroleum-derived ingredients into products.
To this effect, the World Health Organization has recommended that people stay away from water-based lube. But, what makes them so controversial? Let's start by explaining these concepts:
This simply refers to the number of ingredients in water apart from H2O itself. The instrument used to measure this is called an osmometer and the unit of measurement is millimoles per kilogram.
For our topic, the osmolality of cell fluids found in the anus and vagina is measured at 280-290 m0sm/kg. A lubricant is deemed safe if it is Iso-osmolar to cell fluid. In other words, if it is close to the standard osmolality of cell fluids.
Defines the quality of a lube having higher commonality than your cell fluids. When both come together, a reaction occurs in which natural components now try to regulate the imbalance of both concentrations.
For better understanding, the lube sucks the moisture from your vaginal or anal tissue, causing your tissues to dehydrate and your cells to die. The result is painful irritations, risk of yeast infection, dryness, B.V., and low STI defenses.
Defines the quality of a lube having low osmolality than your tissues. What happens here is the opposite of what happens with hyperosmolar lubes. Here, your cells are the ones that suck all water from the lubricant resulting in swelling and bursting.
Hyper-osmolar lubes see rare but has the potential to damage vaginal tissues.
Defines the quality of lube being within range of the osmolality of your cell fluids. When your cells meet with an iso-osmolar lube, neither component jeopardizes the other. Iso-osmolar lubes are 100% safe and are known to even rejuvenate and restore your cell growth.
There are different factors through which a lubricant can affect your anal and/or vaginal health. One of them is by altering the pH of a vagina. In science, there is a concept known as the pH scale that measures the acidity of a liquid. 0 represents high acidity while 14 represents low acidity.
While the vagina is acidic with a pH of 3.5-4.5 (15), a water-based lube with a higher pH will lower your vagina's natural defenses exposing you to STIs. Naturally, the vagina's acidity is produced by lactobacilli, a bacterium that not only keeps the vagina clean but restricts the excessive growth of pathogens and bad bacteria.
For the anal area, the acidity is lower with a pH of 6 to 7 which serves as a cushion between your body and alkaline fecal matter. Now, since the average water-based lube has a pH of 4 to 5, people who have sores will feel a burning sensation when this line comes in contact with their anal environment.
WHAT'S BEHIND THE LABEL?
Lube ingredients all belong to different categories. Some are used as preservatives, some are used for thickness, and some are used to distribute ingredients.
Let's look at their purposes:
- Dispersants: prevents ingredients from separating
- Flavors: give oral lubricants a better taste
- Base: serve as the major component of a lube
- Thickeners: thicken lube to prevent it from being runny
- Humectants: prevent lube from vaporizing
- Preservatives: boost the shelf life of lube and prevent bacteria from growing
Chemical categories include xenoestrogens, a chemical that is known to cause problems in sexual copying the effects of estrogen, and petrochemicals, an ingredient gotten from crude oil.
Common Ingredients Found In Lubes
- Sodium Hydroxide:sometimes referred to as lye or caustic soda. It is found in detergents, drain cleaning fluid, and soap.
- Glycerin: increases lubricant osmolality. Glycerin thickens water and serves as a humectant for K-Y.
- Citric Acid: citric acid releases a lemon-like smell due to the citric acid. This preservative is commonly found in organic water-based lubes.
- Carrageenan: it's a natural thickener gotten from red seaweed.
- Polyquaternium-15: Commonly known by the abbreviation PQ, polyquaternium comprises a group of synthesized chemicals made up of 55 distinct numbers.
- Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice:It's more water than any other component and is derived from the aloe vera plant. This juice contains minerals that restore, soothe, and strengthen.
- Chlorhexidine: This is a synthesized chemical that functions as an antiseptic and disinfectant.
- Methylparaben / Propylparaben: this ingredient is a weak xenoestrogen and synthetic preservative.
- Potassium Sorbate: potassium sorbate is a salt that is created synthetically and found in berries. Besides working as a preservative, it prevents fungus and mold from growing in a lube.
- Propylene Glycol:This is a glycerin alternative that serves as a humectant, stopping water evaporation
- Propendiol (Natural): Propendiol is derived naturally and is eqjmu a natural humectant. This clear viscous ingredient helps to keep water-based lubricants from vaporizing.
- Sodium Benzoate: This ingredient is created by reacting with benzoic acid and sodium hydroxide.
When it comes to lubes and choosing one for yourself, it's important to understand that every body type is different, meaning that just because a lube worked for your next-door neighbor doesn't mean it would work for you.
So, before you get a water, silicone, hybrid, or plant-based lube, be sure that it fits your needs and personal criteria.