Choosing the right lubrication is like choosing an ideal mate. While Mr./Ms. Right brings out your best, complimenting your wants and needs and taking your bedroom life from blasé to blissful, Mr./Ms. Wrong can do the opposite, making your sex life and body uncomfortable, leaving you wondering, “What was I thinking?”
As with love, the decisions aren’t always easy to sort out. Americans currently spend about $219 million on lubricants, according to recent SymphonyIRI Group research, and their demands have been met with countless product choices.
“There are plenty of lubricating products to consider, but not all are created equal,” writes Laura Berman, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of OB/GYN and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University and director of the Berman Center in Chicago. The lubricant you choose can influence everything from your sensory experiences in the bedroom to your overall health. Next time you make a purchase, consider the following factors.
The Proper Chemistry: Your Vaginal pH
Maintaining normal vaginal acidity, or a pH of 3.5 to 4.5, reflects a positive balance of health-promoting bacteria, says Lauren Streicher MD, an assistant clinical professor of OB/GYN at Northwestern University and expert for the Dr. Oz Show. It also indicates a lack of harmful bacteria responsible for vaginal inflammation, pungent odors, irritation and infections. While the body tends to maintain healthy acidity levels on its own, lifestyle factors can influence your vaginal pH, including lubricant use.
“Any vaginal infusion of water or other fluids can affect vaginal pH,” says Streicher. “Fragrances and perfumes can also irritate the vagina.”
In other words, going overboard on lubrication or using chemical-laden varieties can pose harm. Particularly if you’re prone to skin irritation or yeast infections, choose an all-natural product rich in skin-enhancing ingredients, such as aloe vera. A study published in the Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan in 2008 showed that aloe safely and effectively reduced genital skin inflammation in women with chronic symptoms. Because aloe has a lower pH than water, using a water-based product containing aloe can help keep your vaginal levels in healthy check. 
It’s Not You, It’s Me! Water, Silicone and Oil
Your personal preferences play a significant role in whether you stick with your lubricant or break up.
If you prefer a silky texture and more play than cleanup, choose a water-based lubricant. The moisture may not last as other varieties, but with proper use and plentiful foreplay, your body will take over, creating its own moisture. If needed, gradually reapply modest amounts.
Because they provide longer staying power in the wetness department, silicone lubricants are often used to “go deep.” They tend to be messier than water-based products, however, and may contain abrasive additives. If your skin isn’t dry or sensitive and you prefer ample wetness, use silicone lubricants in moderation.
Oil-based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly and olive oil, provide useful options if you are sensitive to additives found in chemical additives. Some people prefer their thicker texture and convenience, as they tend to be readily around the house.
A Word of Caution:
Oil and silicone lubricants could increase your risk for infections by breaking down the material in condoms and silicone-based toys.  If you’re using either, water-based lubricants are essential, says Berman.
What Lies Beneath: Other Ingredients
If a potential mate has the looks and feel of George Clooney and the emotional depth of Elmer Fudd, you’re trouble-bound. From a wellness and sustainability standpoint, lubricants’ overall ingredients matter most.
Despite being regulated by the FDA as a medical device, many lubricants still contain ingredients linked with potential health risks.  Gaining understanding of what lubricants contain allows you to control what your body is, and isn’t, exposed to.
To keep your skin soft and irritation-free, avoid products containing artificial preservatives. Common lubrication preservatives, such as parabens, sorbic acid, sorbates and benzoic acid, reports the World Health Organization, can irritate the skin.
Choose products containing ingredients you recognize, such as aloe, lavender, vitamin E oil and shea butter, rather than items that sound more suitable for your car. Examples of safe, natural preservatives include citric acid, which derives from fruit, and potassium sorbate. Choosing an organic lubricant helps ensure that only natural, health-promoting ingredients are contained. Choose products containing ingredients you recognize, such as aloe, lavender, vitamin E oil and shea butter, rather than items that sound more suitable for your car. Examples of safe, natural preservatives include citric acid, which derives from fruit, and potassium sorbate. Choosing an organic lubricant helps ensure that only natural, health-promoting ingredients are contained. A good example of an organic, natural lubricant is Aloe Cadabra, which is made from 95% organic aloe.
When In Doubt
If you’re not sure which lubricant is right for you, seek guidance from your gynecologist or experiment with quality options. Routine physical exams, communicating with your partner about your sexual wants and needs and being your own advocate when it comes to your sexual wellbeing can help ensure that your relationship with yourself and your partner remain happy ones.
1. Dr. Oz Show: When Your Vagina’s In a Plunk
2. Chemical & Engineering News: Studies Raise Questions About Safety Of Personal Lubricants
3. Vaginal Lubrication 101: Keys to Navigating this Common Menopause Symptom
4. Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan; Efficacy of Aloe Vera Gel in the Treatment of Vulval Lichen Planus
5. Aloe Vera: Nature’s Silent Healer; 2003
6. World Health Organization; Use and Procurement of Additional Lubricants for Male and Female Condoms
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