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If you’re the kind of person who frets about chemicals and toxins in your moisturizer, maybe it’s time to think about what you’re using to lubricate your sex parts.
There’s a growing number of bloggers and health experts who are advocating for natural lube. Though what “natural” means is debatable (homemade vs. store-bought, organic vs. FDA-safe chemicals), what you basically want is a product that has the healthiest ingredients and the lowest number of ingredients, according to Dr. Madeleine M. Castellanos, aka the Sex MD, who’s also a licensed psychiatrist and a professor at NYU.
“You don’t want to put synthetic stuff into your very sensitive mucosal membranes because everything gets absorbed through there,” she told the Daily Dot. “You want something that’s thin that doesn’t create a reaction in you.”
Though she was speaking of the vagina, the same care should be taken when it comes to the anus. “These tender tissues absorb chemicals and ingredients more easily that our outer skin layer,” she says, warning against lubes with mint extracts and “warming” or “numbing” qualities. “The danger with these is that because they make the area less sensitive, it may be more difficult to know if you are engaging in any action that may be causing physical damage,” she says. “When the tissues are numb, it’s much more difficult to identify irritation or chafing and could put one at risk for tearing if the action gets too rough.”
Other ingredients to avoid are glycerine, she says, “because that’s sugar that bacteria can feed on for a yeast infection.” Nor do you want a lube with propylene glycol, since that’s an ingredient found in antifreeze. Coconut oil is a popular choice among bloggers and naturopaths, but Castellanos points out all oils (coconut, almond) can increase the risk of condom breakage, so only use them if you’re not worried about STIs or pregnancy. Also, with oils, “a little goes a long way,” she says.
So what do you use? First off, there are two types of lubes to look for: water-based or silicone-based. Water-based ones are usually more comfortable and less sticky or tacky (Castellanos says if you turn a lube tub upside down and it doesn’t move, add water). But silicone is good for menopausal women who have general problems with vaginal dryness, on top of needing lubrication during penetration. Silicone is also good for shower sex since it won’t wash off easily.
Position, however, doesn’t matter much when it comes to water-vs.-silicone-based lube (though silicone can stain sheets, so keep that in mind). Whether you’re going the anal route or doing Cirque du Soleil-esque acrobatics, lube choice is more about your “physiology and your happiness in using it.”
For women, “not everyone has the same lubrication every single day or during every single sexual encounter,” says Castellanos. “It could be dehydration, it could be anxiety, it could be expectations the person might or might not see you in a certain way, even allergy medications—all those things could affect lubrication.”
In other words, lube isn’t just for old ladies and kinksters. Keep lube handy on the nightstand, next to the condoms. Carry a tin of it in your purse. “Do what you can to increase your pleasure—because that’s the whole goal,” she says.
According to Castellanos, plus blog and Amazon reviews (because, hey, who knows a product better than the customer), here are some the best natural lubes on the market.
The best natural lubricants
1) Aloe Cadabra
The all-natural aloe-based lubrication is Dr. Castellanos’ favorite. It’s 95 percent aloe (you know, the plant you use to soothe burns and moisturize your skin), and has also been cleared by the FDA, which isn’t the case for most “organic”-labeled products. Other active ingredients: vitamin E, xanthan, citric acid, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate (both preservatives recognized by the FDA as safe), and organic vanilla planifolia concentrate.
2) Sliquid H20
This water-based lube has no parabens (preservatives often found in cosmetics that have also been identified in breast tumors) and is 100 percent vegan-friendly, without any flavoring or scents. In other words, its ingredient list is as bare-bones as you can get. Also, with a name like Sliquid, you can already feel the glide. Active ingredients: purified plant water, plant cellulose, Cyamopsis, potassium sorbate, and citric acid.
Castellanos vouches for this silicone-based lube, calling it “very high quality without any noxious chemicals.” There are also water-based and flavored varieties. Active ingredients: (the first four are derivatives of silicone) dimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, dimethiconol, phenyl trimethicone, vanillyl butyl ether, and mentha piperita (peppermint) extract.
4) Isabel Fay
One of the top sellers on Amazon, this water-based lube is a proven aid for those with partners and those going solo. As one reviewer said, “It made the toys’ insert super easy. No issue with friction or anything.” Active ingredients: purified water, propanediol, citric acid, hydroxyethylcellulose, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and xanthan gum.
Maple Holistics makes various hair and skin care products, but this water-based lubricant is popular for its ease and comfort. However, if you’re looking for something with a little more flavor, this taste-free lube may not be for you. Active ingredients: water, organic aloe vera, leaf juice (reconstituted), vegetable glycerin, propanediol, carrageenan, sodium hyaluronate, (food-grade) potassium sorbate, (food-grade) sodium benzoate, and gluconolactone.
This brand not only has minimal ingredients, it prides itself on being great for menopausal dryness without being extra thick or sticky. Active ingredients: olus oil, olive fruit oil, argania spinosa kernel oil, and pichia/resveratrol ferment extract.
Carrageenan is an effective lubricant made from “ocean plant life” and is one of the more popular natural options available online. Organic aloe, agave inulin, and vitamin E are some of the key added ingredients. It’s odorless, comes with a and fragrance-free to avoid any irritation.
Passion is a natural water-based lubricant that is free of petrochemical, glycerin, parabens and other bad ingredients. The lubricant doesn’t leave a greasy residue and is easy to clean, making it a great and simple option for all your personal needs.
A brand that specializes in two all-natural types of lubrication, Coconu is a product for those who care what they put on their bodies. Coconu is a USDA-certified lubricant that’s a cruelty-free, edible, and hypoallergenic water-based or coconut-oil based formula. The lubricant’s ingredients differ from which formula you choose but are filled with a handful that are certified organic.
Sylk is an all-natural, PH-balanced, and eco-friendly lubricant that mimics your body’s natural lubricant. It’s made with Kiwifruit vine extract that is smooth, moisturizing, and great for those with sensitive skin. The lubricant is condom and toy compatible, so it can be used for any situation.
Editor’s note: This article regularly updated for relevance.
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Jessica Machado is the IRL editor of the Daily Dot. Previously, she was an associate editor at Rolling Stone. Her work has been published in the Washington Post, Elle, Vice, Salon, BuzzFeed, Guernica, Bitch, Bust, the Cut, the Awl, the Toast, among others.