What’s Really in Your Lube? 7 Harmful Ingredients to Avoid

Last month we shared some of our top tips for choosing the right lubricant. While it’s one thing to know you should avoid common potentially irritating and harmful ingredients like parabens, glycerine and sugars; actually making sense of a lube’s ingredient list can feel like you’re trying to decode hieroglyphics.

Healthy bodies start with natural, healthy ingredients. Unfortunately though, a lot of so-called “natural,” “organic” and “women friendly” lubes that advertise themselves as glycerine and paraben free still contain some potentially very unhealthy chemicals.

To help make things a bit easier for you, we’ve put together a list of these commonly chemicals and why you should avoid them.

We’re proud that none of our products contain these ingredients.

1. Phenoxyethanol

An oily substance made from organic chemicals which is often used as a preservative or to add fragrance to a lubricant.

Why you should avoid it:

At high concentrations, Phenoxyethanol can be harmful if absorbed through your skin, cause reproductive damage, and according to the FDA, depress the central nervous system in newborns. The breakdown of Phenoxyethanol in your body releases phenol, which can adversely affect your immune system. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research organization, lists Phenoxyethanol as a moderate hazard, with possible links to toxicity and skin irritation. Although it’s found in very low concentrations in some sexual lubricants, you’d do best to keep away from it—especially when many products without it are available.

2. Propylene Glycol -

Propylene Glycol is petroleum based and generally used as a way to prevent water or fluids from freezing. It’s commonly found in cosmetics as a humectant and preservative.  Another common use is in the medical industry where it’s used as a delivery agent, meaning it delivers drugs to your bloodstream.

Why you should avoid it:

When it comes to your personal care products, it’s best to avoid any petroleum based ingredients, like 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.

*Please note: Our Hathor Lubricant Pure is made with a bio-based Vegetable Propylene Glycol. Kosher (USP grade edible), it’s a  renewable alternative to petroleum based products. Made from100% Bio-based renewable carbon content from plant crops. It is a natural moisturizer or humectant (holds moisture to the skin) - without any harmful side effects!

3. Dimethicone and Cyclomethicone

Silicone oils that are added to personal care products to give a smooth, lotion-like feel. You’ll also find these ingredients in some silicone based lubricants.

Why you should avoid it:

While silicone lubricant isn’t unsafe on it’s own, the jury is still out on the safety of Dimethicone and Cyclomethicone as ingredients.  Like petroleum-based products, they coat your skin, affecting its normal functions and permeability. Because of this, there’s always the chance that bacteria can get trapped beneath the coating, leading to irritation and an upset in your body’s pH levels. Other similar ingredients to watch out for: highly polymerized Methyl Polysilozane,  Dimethiconol, Methyl Polysiloxane, Mirasil DM 20, and Viscasil 5M. While the FDA has approved these ingredients, if you’re very sensitive you might want to look for intimate care products that do not contain them.  

In addition, silicone oils are non-biodegradable chemicals. This simply isn’t acceptable to us.  

4. Chlorhexidine -

An antibacterial used as an antiseptic and is commonly found in some multipurpose lubricants.

Why you should avoid it:

When you read “anti-bacterial” you usually think: “yay!” But, unfortunately this is not the case here. Chlorhexidine also kills off the good bacteria found in the vagina, which is why this ingredient can trigger irritation and toxic effects for some women.

5. Quaternium-15 or Polyquaternium 15

A quaternary ammonium salt used as a surfactant and preservative in many cosmetics and industrial substances. It is also a formaldehyde-releasing preservative.

Why you should avoid it:  

Formaldehyde is often the culprit of skin irritation and allergic reactions. Yet, Quaternium-15 or Polyquaternium 15 can be commonly found in conditioners, hair styling products, creams, lotions, cleansers, shaving products, eye drops contact solutions, household cleaning products - and yes, personal lubricants.

6. Nonoxynol-9

Nonoxynol-9 (often abbreviated as N-9) is a spermicide that's found in some lubricants, condoms and sex toy cleaners.

Why you should avoid it:

It was once thought that Nonoxynol-9 helped kill the HIV virus in clinical tests. However, a recent study claims that Nonoxynol-9 actually doesn't protect women against HIV. Nonoxynol-9 has been shown to cause abrasions, lesions, and micro tears in the vagina. It also strips away the rectal lining in the anus. As a result, in both cases, using Nonoxynol-9 can increase the chance of contracting an STD or getting an infection.

Looking for more natural lubricant tips? Make sure you check out our recent feature on Find Your Pleasure.