Keeping Toxic Ingredients Out of Your Lube: A Tribute to Horst Rechelbacher

Horst Rechelbacher put 'natural' and 'healthy' in the beauty product equation.

Horst Rechelbacher put ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’ in the beauty product equation.

Horst Rechelbacher’s world-transformative mission began before he was old enough to legally drive. He was 14 when an apprenticeship in the beauty industry paired with his charisma and creativity propelled him to the top of the hair styling competition circuit. He went on to start his own salon and product lines, including Aveda. What began as a batch of clove shampoo he concocted in his Minneapolis kitchen sink at a time when organics were considered a frivolous fad, evolved into what remains one of the world’s most esteemed beauty product lines.

In addition to creating his own organic hair and skin products, Rechelbacher championed campaigns to raise awareness of potentially cancer-causing ingredients in beauty products throughout his career. He died of complications of pancreatic cancer on Feb. 15 at age 72, but his legacy trumps on.

In recent years, numerous cosmetics and haircare makers have reformulated their products to remove toxic chemicals, such as the commonly used preservatives known as parabens. While evidence is limited regarding the link between parabens as carcinogens, according to the American Cancer Society, trace amounts of the chemicals have been found in breast cancer tumors. Because parabens have estrogen-like effects, they may also contribute to other hormonal cancers, such as ovarian. The Environmental Working Group considers parabens and other ingredients prevalent in cosmetics, such as DMDM Hydantoin, Quaternium-1, phthalates and musks, downright dangerous.

“What goes on our skin is often absorbed into our bodies, and that’s certainly the case with chemicals in personal care products.” — the Environmental Working Group

Just as cosmetics, skin and haircare products can enhance your appearance and wellness, quality personal lubricants can enhance your sex life, increasing sensual pleasure and staving off vaginal dryness and irritation–but all lubricants aren’t created equal. Proclaimed “natural lubricants” may seem safe, but many contain parabens and other potentially toxic ingredients.

Phenoxyethanol, which commonly preserves and adds fragrance to lubricants, may cause skin irritation and, in high concentrations, contribute to organ system toxicity, says the EWG. Silicone and petroleum lubricants can interfere with skin health. They may also contain impurities, which raise your risk for a variety of conditions, including cancer. If you’re prone to yeast infections, glycerine-containing lubricants may trigger flareups.

You may not feel compelled to speak up the way Rechelbacher did regarding toxic ingredients, but you can make a difference by becoming more aware of the risks and purchasing nontoxic lubricants. In doing so, you’ll not only protect you and your partner from possible health risks, but support companies that are making a deeply positive difference, like Aloe Cadabra.

4 Ways to Make Safe, Healthy Lubrication Decisions

    1. Choose organic products.
      Organic products contain natural, plant-based ingredients cultivated without the use of toxic chemicals. While research is so far limited, according to an Environtal Health Perspectives report, chemicals common in non-organic feminine hygiene products are known or suspected to contain harmful chemicals, carcinogens and allergens.
Organic lubricants

Organic lubricants help prevent toxins from disrupting sexual health.

  1. Look for health-promoting ingredients.
    If the ingredients on a personal lubricant package sound better suited to your car than your body, they probably are. Look instead for ingredients that enhance skin health, such as aloe vera and vitamin E oil, both of which promote disease-free, supple skin. Citric acid derived from fruit and vegetables is a safe and healthy preservative.
  2. Dodge the unsafe seven.
    Common, potentially harmful lubricant ingredients to avoid, according to Dr. Laurie Steelsmith and Alex Steelsmith, coauthors of Great Sex, Naturally and Natural Choices for Women’s Health, include petroleum, parabens, silicone, phenoxyethanol, propylene glycol, glycerin and chlorhexidine. If you spot any of these ingredients on a lubricant package, keep shopping. (For specifics on these ingredients, read the Steelsmiths’ article, Seven Ingredients to Avoid in Your Sexual Lubricants.)
  3. When in doubt, throw it out!
    You’d never drink expired milk, but did you know that commercial lubricants also expire? Though most varieties aren’t stamped with expiration dates, they generally last a few years, according to Carol Queen, PhD, sexologist and owner of Good Vibrations in San Francisco. She recommends purchasing products you’ll use up within a year. If you’re not sure whether your lubricant is safe or fresh enough to use, buy a new one. Your money invested.
AugustMcLaughlinAuthor August McLaughlin is an award-winning health and sexuality writer and creator of the empowering female sexuality brand Girl Boner in Los Angeles. Her work has been featured by, Healthy Aging magazine, the Nest Woman, DAME Magazine and more. As a certified nutritionist with specializations in eating disorders and sports nutrition, August has taught the importance of healthy lifestyle habits, positive body image and self-acceptance to women of all ages for over eight years. She is represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and loves connecting with readers throughout social media.

Sources: Discover Aveda

American Cancer Society: Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer Risk

Environmental Working Group: Tell Revlon and L’Oreal to Stop Using Dangerous Ingredients!

Environmental Working Group: PHENOXYETHANOL

Environtal Health Perspectives: A Question for Women’s Health: Chemicals in Feminine Hygiene Products and Personal Lubricants

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