Can Lubricants Increase Your Risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections?


Dr. Laurie Steelsmith Naturopathic Physician, Licensed Acupuncturist and author of Great Sex, Naturally

New evidence suggests that many personal lubricants may have the potential to damage your sensitive tissues and increase your risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), even HIV.

It turns out that most lubricants have high osmolality ratings…meaning they’re packed with more sugars and salts than are found naturally in our own bodies.

Shrivels up your cells “like little raisins”

Instead of moisturizing your skin, high-osmolality lubricants can actually make it drier. When that happens, says the University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Charlene Dezzutti, “the cells shrivel up to the point that they look like little raisins under a microscope.”1

That can cause chafing and weaken your body’s defenses against bacterial and yeast infections, and STIs like herpes, chlamydia, human papilloma virus, and HIV. But before you toss out your lubricants, let me tell you what I advise my sexually active patients:

Don’t stop using personal lubricants altogether,
but be choosy.

The right lubricants can help protect your sensitive tissues and make them less vulnerable to damage, infections, and disease. And, for many people, they’ll make sex more comfortable and pleasurable.

In my book, Great Sex Naturally; Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine, I describe some lubricants that meet these criteria.

At the top of the list is Aloe Cadabra, the first personal lubricant certified to strict new NSF organic standards. As its name suggests, it’s made of 95% organic, natural aloe vera–the same soothing ingredient found in many premium skin lotions. Aloe Cadabra has an outstanding osmolality rating of just 172 mOsm/kg–close to the vagina’s natural osmolality of 260 – 290 mOsm/kg.

How do conventional personal lubricants compare?

osmolality-chartSOURCES: The World Health Organization, Pacific Bio Labs, and U.S. National Institutes of Health

Until conventional lubricant companies reformulate products in a way that reduces their osmolality ratings, here’s what I suggest:

AC.Natural.scents_RGB_cropped1. Stick with natural, organic lubricants like Aloe Cadabra. Besides having a low osmolality rating, it’s also pH balanced to your body, and contains no parabens, glycerins, or other risky chemicals. You can find Aloe Cadabra at CVS and many other stores where conventional lubricants are sold. You can also get it online. (Click here to see how you can qualify for free shipping.)

2. Share this news with your partner, friends, and loved ones. Let them know that ingredients in many personal lubricants on the market may increase their risk of STIs, and that there are wonderful alternatives that can support the integrity of their delicate genital tissues. Tell them that by choosing the right products they can maintain their sexual wellness.

1. Wolf, Lauren K. “Studies Raise Questions About Safety Of Personal Lubricants” Chemical & Engineering News, Volume 90 Issue 50 pp. 46-47, December 10, 2012
2. World Health Organization, “Use and procurement of additional lubricants for male and female condoms” report, Geneva, Switzerland, 2012
3. Begay O, Jean-Pierre N, Abraham CJ, et al. “Identification of personal lubricants that can cause rectal epithelial cell amage and enhance HIV Type 1 replication in vitro”. AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, 2011, 27(9):1019-1024

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