The Science Of Lubricants

Science behind body lubricants and their role in humans sexual life:

The Science of Lubricants & their mechanism:

We’ve broken down some basic scientific concepts and vocabulary as they apply to personal lubricants so you can better understand what’s going on in your lube and on your body.

Osmolality – the measure of dissolved particles per unit of water in a solution or serum (sometimes referred to as the concentration). The osmolality of a lubricant is important because the epithelial skin layer or the body’s natural mucus is constantly trying to maintain homeostasis, or an equilibrium of osmolality.

  • Water moves freely back and forth across cell membranes in response to the osmotic pressure being exerted by the molecules of extracellular fluids (lube) on the cell’s intracellular fluid
  • Osmolality is measured in milliosmoles per kilogram of solvent, labeled as mOsm/kg
  • If a lubricant has a higher osmolality than the cells of the body it’s called hyper-osmotic, causing the body’s cells to push out water in an effort to dilute the lubricant, sometimes leading to cell death via dehydration1
  • Hyper-osmotic lubes can irritate the skin, and causes the epithelial layer of skin to slough off 2, dehydrate mucus, and leave a mucous membrane more susceptible to bacterial infections or STI contraction3
  • If a lubricant has a lower osmolality than the cells of the body it’s called hypo-osmotic, and causes the cells of the body to pull water out of the lubricant. This is what happens with lotions on the skin covering most of the body
  • A perfect lubricant would be iso-osmotic, meaning it would have equal osmotic pressure, or its cells would have the same hydration levels as the cells of the body
  • Iso-osmotic lubricant to most of the body’s secretion would have an osmolity of approximately 285-295 mOsm/kg4
  • Average Osmolality of:
    • Tap Water~ 3 mOsm/kg 5
    • Slippery Stuff® Liquid ~ 26 mOsm/kg 5
    • Sliquid® Organics ~ 106 mOsm/kg 5
    • Vaginal mucus ~ 260-290 mOsm/kg 6
    • Colon Lining ~ 920 mOsm/kg2
    • Human Blood ~ 285-295 mOsm/kg
    • Human Semen ~ 260-380 mOsm/kg 6
    • Good Clean Love™ ~ 269 mOsm/kg 5
    • K-Y® Jelly ~ 2424 mOsm/kg 5
    • ID Glide® ~ 3429 mOsm/kg 5
    • Astroglide® ~ 6113 mOsm/kg 5
    • K-Y® Warming Jelly ~ 10,300 mOsm/kg 6

    Endocrine disruptors – chemicals that interfere with the natural function and balance of the endocrine system.
    the endocrine system consists of glands, hormones, and hormone receptors which regulate a variety of vital bodily functions
    Xenoestrogens – chemicals that mimic estrogen, side effects caused by xenoestrogens are called oestrogenic effects.
    oestrogenic effects can include sexual development problems such as feminizing of male bodies or masculinizing effects on female bodies, and changes in gene expression
    parabens are considered xenoestrogens and have weak oestrogenic effects
    pH – is the measure of a liquid’s basicity or acidity on a scale from 0-14, 0 being most acidic and 14 being most basic.
    generally healthy bodies regulate pH naturally with a particular balance of yeasts, fungi, and bacteria combined with body secretions
    may become imbalanced when a foreign substance (like lube, douches, or enemas) disrupts the levels of bacteria or fungi
    imbalances in vaginal pH can lead to BV and yeast infection, or serve as a warning sign or symptom of a more serious health issue7
    vaginal and cervical pH levels naturally fluctuate with the menstrual cycle and are affected by estrogen levels, as well as playing an important role in fertility and conception
    Average pH levels:
    Vaginal pH – 3.8-4.6 (pH can range up to 5.5 without necessarily being unhealthy)
    During pregnancy: 4.0-4.5
    Post menopausal: 4.5-7.5
    Semen: 7.1 – 8.0
    Rectal Fluid: 7.0 – 8.0
    Urine: 4.6-8.0
    Astroglide®: 4.0
    Good Clean Love™: 4.8
    ID Glide®: 5.2
    Slippery Stuff ®Liquid: 6.8
    Sliquid® Organics: 6.8
    Humectants – substances added to lubricants to keep them moist and to slow evaporation of water, preventing the skin from cooling.
    sometimes affect the consistency of a lubricant and can increase viscosity
    act as preservatives in lubricants or cosmetics
    common humectants are propylene glycol, glycerol/glycerin(e), urea, or lactic acid
    natural/Organic humectant alternatives are honey, shea butter and jojoba oil
    Surfactants – chemical compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid.
    used to keep lubricant ingredients from separating or from evaporating, which creates a cooling sensation on the skin
    Petrochemicals – chemicals derived from petroleum, or crude oil.
    many lubricant ingredients are petrochemicals, such as propylene glycol (a.k.a. propanediol), benzene, benzoic acid, and some surfactants
    often indicators of hyper-osmotic lubricants8, which can dehydrate mucus and cause skin irritation5 which leaves a mucous membrane more vulnerable to BV or STIs2
    Microbicides – substances that kill or reduce the infectivity of viruses or bacteria added to lubricants as preservatives or spermicides.
    common microbicides found in lubricants are nonoxynol-9, carrageenan, cellulose sulfate, chlorhexidine gluconate, and sodium dodecyl sulfate
    some alcohols, surfactants, phenols, and acids can also act as microbicides in lubricants
    can cause skin irritation and epithelial cell death3
    with regular use certain microbicides that kill lactobacilli can lead to BV or vaginal yeast infection, as well as leave mucous membranes more vulnerable to infections1,6,8