9 Toxic (And Common) Lube Ingredients To Avoid

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Melissa Thompson, PT, DPT, MTC

Dr. Thompson is board certified and the owner of Louisiana Pelvic Health. Her expertise is in alleviating bladder, bowel, and sexual pain symptoms during pregnancy, postpartum, and throughout a woman's life. 


You’ve probably heard the old adage:

“You are what you eat.”

Well, I think that saying is incorrect.

I think it should be more like:

“You are what you eat, drink, apply topically to your skin, or insert into your body.”

There’s got to be a more holistic approach to health since there are things out there that are damaging our bodies.

Conventional sex lubes are one of those things damaging women’s bodies. 

This guide shares which ingredients to avoid (and why) so that you can be the healthiest you possible. 

Why do the lube ingredients matter?

Food ingredients matter, right?

They matter because your body digests the food you eat, which can have profound consequences (either positive or negative) on your health.

The same goes with lube ingredients, too. 

Your vagina is highly absorbent. So absorbent, in fact, that medical researchers are looking into administering drugs through the vaginal canal since the medicine will be absorbed quicker than through oral intake. 

So, whether the ingredients in your lube are good or bad, your vagina is absorbing those ingredients into your bloodstream. 

Therefore, you must be extremely careful which ingredients are in your sex lube. 

1. Glycerin

Glycerin is a sugar alcohol.

It was first used to make dynamite, actually. 

You can think of it as a kind of syrupy liquid that doesn’t really have any smell to it but tastes relatively sweet.

Why should you avoid glycerin?

Glycerin isn’t always bad. It’s often in foods you eat, whether you know it or not. 

But, SYNTHETIC glycerin is really commonly used. 

And, honestly, there has been zero research on synthetic glycerin and the potentially harmful effects when inserted into the vagina.

One thing we do know:

Too much sugar alcohol (aka glycerin) can lead to bacterial growth, potential yeast infections, and potential UTIs. 

2. Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol is an ACTIVE ingredient in antifreeze

But what is it exactly?

It’s a chemical compound that is relatively similar to glycerin. It’s basically odorless and colorless. It’s more oily than syrupy.

Why should you avoid propylene glycol?

Potential for negative neurological symptoms

Recently a study took a look at cats.

Cats that received a high dose of propylene glycol developed “decreased activity, mental depression, and moderate ataxia.” 

Sure, cats are different than humans. But, still, this is a bit concerning. 

Potential to be toxic to your liver & kidney

Recently another study took a look at rats.

And “tumors were seen in the liver and kidney of a few male rats exposed to propylene glycol.” 

Again, rats are different than humans. But, this is still very concerning.

3. Benzocaine 

Benzocaine is a local anesthetic. 

Basically, it’s a numbing medication.

Now, why on earth would you want a numbing medication in your sex lube? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of enjoying sex?

Well, for women that deal with painful sex, this is a common solution. Also, for couples who are having anal sex, this is also a common solution.

Why should you avoid benzocaine?

A recent study came out that said:

Certain lubes may also cause irritation or allergic reactions, particularly those containing benzocaine.”

So, it’s best if you avoid it.

4. Silicone

Silicones are heat-resistant, rubber-like synthetic compounds. They’re found in everything from cooking utensils to sealants to lubricants.

Why should you avoid silicone?

Really, you should try to avoid silicone in more than just your sex lube.

A study tested how much silicone was leached through nipples and bakeware into baby formula.

After 6 hours, no siloxanes (the harmful stuff) was showing up in the baby formula.

Great, right?

Well, after 72 hours there were a TON of siloxanes that were detected.

And these siloxanes are potential endocrine disrupters which have been linked to cancer.

How do you think this interacts with your highly absorbent vaginal skin? Probably not the best idea to find out. 

5. Petroleum

You deal with forms of petroleum every day.

Gasoline. Kerosine. Wax. 

And also, lubricants like petroleum jelly.

Why should you avoid petroleum?

A lot of people argue that petroleum-based products are safe. 

But, Huffington Post recently shared that some of the components removed from the oil during the refining process of lubricants like petroleum jelly can potentially be carcinogenic. 

Though generally regarded as safe, the components that are removed from the oil during the refining process of petroleum jelly are carcinogenic in some cases. 

6. Parabens

Parabens are synthetic chemicals that are found in everything from food to cosmetics, to pharmaceuticals. 

And what are they supposed to do?

Basically, they ensure a longer shelf life.

Why should you avoid parabens?

There was a study in 2004. 

The study was in the Journal of Applied Toxicology.

“The authors reported that 18 of 20 tumor samples contained small amounts of parabens.”

Now, this doesn’t mean that parabens 100% cause cancer. But, it’s not worth risking it.

7. Sodium Hydroxide

Sodium Hydroxide is used in manufacturing.

It’s a co-product of the chemical chlorine.

Why should you avoid sodium hydroxide?

After looking into Sodium Hydroxide, I got a little scared.

Everything out there says that it’s super corrosive and irritating. 

That, if you get it on your skin, eyes, or body that you should seek out medical attention right away.

The fact that there are some sex lubes out there with this ingredient in it is a shame and extremely scary. 

8. Artificial Aromas

Everything smell, whether natural or artificial, is due to chemicals.

It’s just WHERE the chemicals come from. 

Natural smells have chemicals that are derived from the plant or animal.

Artificial smells come from chemical processes using synthetic materials derived from petroleum and other products. 

Why should you avoid artificial aromas?

There hasn’t been any research on artificial aromas and how it affects the vagina.

But, we do know that synthetic fragrances can expose you to hundreds of chemicals. 

It’s really not worth the risk. 

9. Artificial Flavors

Artificial flavors are very similar to artificial aromas.

Everything that has a flavor, whether natural or artificial, does so because of the chemical compounds.

It’s just that artificial flavors get their chemical compounds from synthetic materials through potentially harmful chemical processes.

Why should you avoid artificial flavors?

Some artificial flavors are fine and others are not. 

The issue is you don’t really know with lube. The ingredients don’t share enough information.

So, be careful.

The Ingredients In Safe Lubricants are Minimal

Your sex lube doesn’t need 40 ingredients.

The safe lubricants are often the ones with minimal, intentional ingredients. 

That’s the whole reason why I created Chiavaye. 

Chiavaye has 6 ingredients - the ingredients are all-natural, vegan, organic, and chemical-free.

It’s simply:

  • Organic coconut oil
  • Almond oil
  • Vitamin E
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Sunflower seed oil
  • Evening primrose oil


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