You’ve seen the TV commercials featuring couples whose sex lives go from ho-hum to instantly reignited simply by using a certain brand of personal massage gels. But you might be surprised to know that there are some pretty sketchy ingredients lurking in some of these products. Among the common additives in many intimacy products sold in drug stores: glycerin, an emollient that is toxic to sperm and can promote yeast infections; chlorhexidine digluconate, an antiseptic often added to mouthwashes to kill plaque that is toxic if ingested; methylparaben, a preservative known to be estrogenic (i.e., mimic estrogens in the body) and associated with the proliferation of breast cancer cells in a lab; and sodium hydroxide, a preservative that can cause irritation to the skin and eyes.
Suddenly, something spontaneous and enjoyable harbors risks you never imagined, from causing dryness or redness to delicate tissues to potentially throwing hormones out of whack when parabens are absorbed through the skin. “Because of the way in which personal lubricants are used—in intimate places and in the heat of the moment—and because most of these ingredients are preservatives such as hydroxide (also known as lye or caustic soda), they can be irritating to mucous membranes,” says Pat Thomas, author of What’s in This Stuff? The Essential Guide to What’s in Really in the Products You Buy. “Some, like parabens, are not only irritating, they are estrogenic.”
And for couples trying to conceive, be aware of reduced fertility risks associated with mainstream lubricants. “A common misconception is that if a lubricant does not contain a spermicide or if it’s water-soluble, it will not impair sperm function,” says Thomas. “However, both glycerin and propylene glycol cause irreversible damage to sperm and a loss in motility.”
Fortunately, alternatives are available that use natural emollients and are free of toxins and chemical irritants.
Look for brands with aloe, vitamin E, and natural humectants sold in natural product stores.
Ann Nixis the editor of Amazing Wellness.
An Indiana University study of 2,453 women ages 18-68 found that lubricant use contributed to higher ratings of pleasurable and satisfying sex.
GOOD BUYS …
DREAMBRANDS The Natural Premium Personal Lubricant gets its silky feel from carrageenan, a natural substance from seaweed.
GOOD CLEAN LOVE Almost Naked Personal Lubricant is GLYCERIN- AND PARABEN-FREE.
SEVEN oaks ranch Aloe Cadabra Personal Lubricant features organic aloe and vitamin E.