Sex can be a lot of fun, until that moment where you suddenly go dry. Talk about a major mood killer. It’s nothing some lube can’t fix, but what happens when you don’t have any? Avoid grabbing just any slippery product, because according to a 2013 study, this move may bring on a vaginal infection.
A commercial lubricant is specifically designed for sex. On the other hand, solutions like petroleum jelly and oil have no business down there. They can cause condoms to break, and the vagina is a delicate area. If you’re not careful, the wrong solution will throw things off.1
What Does The Research Say?
A 2013 study, which was published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, involved 141 women between 18 and 65 years old. Researchers gathered information on their sexual habits with a questionnaire. At regular visits, each woman was tested for bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection. This went on for 2 years. Of the 141 women, 70 used sexual lubricants, while 17% used petroleum jelly and 13% used oils.
The results of this 2-year study weren’t pretty. Researchers discovered that ladies who used petroleum jelly in the vagina increased the risk for bacterial vaginosis by 22%. Oils, on the other hand, increased the risk for yeast infection by 32%.2
How Do Infections Develop?
Petroleum jelly and oil mess with the vagina’s pH. If the area becomes too alkaline, bacteria can thrive and grow! Some products may even damage vaginal tissue and disrupt local immune response. In turn, the natural balance of the vagina is disturbed, making way for irritating infections.
What’s worse is that those same vaginal infections are associated with a higher risk for STD’s, HIV, and pelvic inflammatory disease.3
Harmful Ingredients In Lubes
Moral of the story? Never, ever use anything but a commercial sexual lubricant. Even then, it wouldn’t hurt to avoid potentially harmful ingredients. Here’s what you should skip.
In lubricants, glycerin is used to make the solution more slippery. It also acts as a stabilizer and gives the lube a decent shelf life. Unfortunately, as a type of sugar alcohol, it disrupts microbial balance and provides food for yeast. Some people might even be allergic to glycerin.4 5
Paraben-free shampoo, makeup, and toiletries have caused quite the buzz. But what about lubricant, which literally ends up inside the body? Cut off parabens in all products including lube. The packaging should state that it’s paraben-free.
3. Propylene Glycol
A chemical called propylene glycol may potentially cause irritation. Even worse, it’s been shown to increase STD transmission in animal studies. Brands might list it as an “inactive ingredient”, but avoid when possible.6
Some condoms and lube contain benzocaine, a surface anesthetic. This is often used to make sex less painful, especially during anal intercourse. Yet, pain is the body’s way of letting you know something is wrong, so this can be very risky.7
As a spermicide, nonoxynol-9 is added to kill sperm. It sounds like a useful ingredient, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that it might cause irritation. Research has even found links to increased HIV transmission.8 9
Sex has to be a pleasurable act and lubrication should only add to that, not be a hindrance. Be sure to buy lubrication that does not contain these ingredients for an enjoyable time under the sheets.
|↑1, ↑8||Male Condom Use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2, ↑3||Brown, Joelle M., Kristen L. Hess, Stephen Brown, Colleen Murphy, Ava Lena Waldman, and Marjan Hezareh. “Intravaginal practices and risk of bacterial vaginosis and candidiasis infection among a cohort of women in the United States.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 121, no. 4 (2013): 773-780.|
|↑4, ↑5||Dezzutti, Charlene S., Elizabeth R. Brown, Bernard Moncla, Julie Russo, Marilyn Cost, Lin Wang, Kevin Uranker et al. “Is wetter better? An evaluation of over-the-counter personal lubricants for safety and anti-HIV-1 activity.” PLoS One 7, no. 11 (2012): e48328.|
|↑6||Moench, Thomas R., Russell J. Mumper, Timothy E. Hoen, Mianmian Sun, and Richard A. Cone. “Microbicide excipients can greatly increase susceptibility to genital herpes transmission in the mouse.” BMC infectious diseases 10, no. 1 (2010): 331.|
|↑7||Benzocaine. PubChem, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑9||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC. “Nonoxynol-9 spermicide contraception use–United States, 1999.” MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report 51, no. 18 (2002): 389.|