Seven Ingredients to Avoid in Your Sexual Lubricants

Dr. Laurie Steelsmith & Alex Steelsmith

Sexual lubricants can be a vital accessory in a couple’s bedroom. By moistening a woman’s sensitive tissues, simulating and augmenting her body’s natural lubrication, they promote relatively friction-free, more comfortable sex. Even if vaginal dryness isn’t an issue, they can enhance pleasure for both partners, making sex appreciably more enjoyable.

Not all sexual lubricants, however, are created equally. A surprising number–including even some purported to be more or less natural–include synthetic or toxic compounds that could cause unpleasant reactions or pose health risks. In fact, some contain chemical ingredients that were originally designed for use in oven cleaners or on automobiles.

Read the label ­- just as carefully
as you do with food products

It’s essential to know the differences between sexual lubricants that are truly natural and healthy, and those that may claim to be but aren’t. The delicate tissue of your vagina can readily absorb chemical compounds, so you need to inspect the ingredient lists of your lubricants with the same vigilance you use for the foods you eat.

A few simple tips can help you steer clear of the wrong sexual lubricants. First, avoid any product if you ever experience discomfort or an allergic reaction from using it. Second, if you don’t recognize the chemical name of an ingredient, do a quick check in the “Skin Deep” database of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) at This may tell you if the ingredient is hazardous and has unhealthy properties.

For starters, here’s a short list of some chemicals and ingredients to avoid in your sexual lubricant:

1. Petroleum or petroleum-based ingredients. These can coat your skin and interfere with its normal functions and permeability. They may also contain impurities with possible links to various health conditions, including cancer. Petroleum-based ingredients can be found in many common multipurpose lubricants, such as petroleum jelly.

2. Parabens. These synthetic preservatives, which can mimic the effects of estrogen in your tissues, may have links to higher risk of breast cancer.

3. Phenoxyethanol. According to the EWG, this chemical is moderately hazardous, with possible links to skin irritation and toxicity. High concentrations have been associated with reproductive damage, depressed immunity, and reduced nervous system function in newborns.

4. Silicone-based ingredients. These may have toxic effects, and may also coat your skin, affecting its normal functioning much as petroleum-based ingredients do. Package labels may use a variety of names for silicone-based compounds, such as methyl polysiloxane and dimethicone, to name a few.

5. Propylene glycol. This potentially toxic ingredient may cause some women to experience tissue irritation. Propylene glycol is found in some frequently used over-the-counter lubricants–as well as some types of antifreeze.

6. Glycerin. A form of sugar, glycerine may increase incidence of candida, which can result in vaginal yeast infections in women susceptible to them.

7. Chlorhexidine. Commonly found in some multipurpose lubricants, this ingredient can trigger irritation and toxic effects for some women.

Avoiding these and other unhealthy ingredients, and using completely natural, wholesome lubricants can make a big difference in your sex life–even if you’ve used synthetic products without noticing unpleasant symptoms.

What lubricants are free of unhealthy ingredients? At the top of the list in our book Great Sex, Naturally is Aloe Cadabra. This lovely lubricant has a “slippery,” sleek quality that’s as magical as its name implies. It’s completely natural, water-based (which makes it latex-friendly), made of 95 percent organic aloe vera gel, and enriched with vitamin E oil and other healthy ingredients. It not only facilitates pleasurable sex, but if used often, can help keep your vaginal and vulvar tissue well nourished, moisturized, and healthy.

Aloe Cadabra is available in a variety of blends, all free of harsh chemicals: Natural Aloe, French Lavender, Tahitian Vanilla, Piña Colada Flavor, and Peppermint Tingle. You can find it at CVS and select Whole Foods and Walgreens ), or you can purchase it directly at

Alex & Dr. Laurie Steelsmith

Dr. Laurie Steelsmith is a licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist, and coauthor of the critically acclaimed books Great Sex, Naturally and Natural Choices for Women’s Health. A leading spokesperson on the topic of natural medicine, she has appeared on CNN’s HealthWatch, and numerous other television and radio programs. She is frequently quoted in popular publications, and has presented hundreds of public lectures and seminars in the United States and abroad. A graduate of Bastyr University, Dr. Steelsmith has had a private practice in Honolulu since 1993. For more information, visit:

Alex Steelsmith coauthored the critically acclaimed books Great Sex, Naturally and Natural Choices for Women’s Health. He is also the author or coauthor of more than 200 articles on health-related topics that have appeared in The Honolulu Advertiser, Nature & Health magazine, Healthy Living Today, Vision Magazine, Hawaii Health Guide, and many other publications. A fine artist as well as a writer, Alex also illustrated Great Sex, Naturally and Natural Choices for Women’s Health as well as a number of his articles. To learn more, visit

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