Within the wide array of ingredients used in personal lubricants there are certain ingredients that are extremely common and are also found in many cosmetics or personal care products.
There are also types of ingredients that are almost always in lubricants. These components of lubricants often share similar qualities, so it’s helpful for consumers to understand what types of ingredients do, and also be aware of the potential for different ingredients used for the same purpose to have the same (whether that be negative or positive) effect on the body or in its functionality during sexual activity.
Tocopherols – chemical compounds that are formations of Vitamin E.
- lubricants with vitamin E additives will label these as tocopherol(s)
- some may also have anti-oxidant activity
- often derived from soy, corn, seed oils, olive oils, or whole grains, although noting what tocopherols used in any particular product are derived from is not usually disclosed on an ingredient list or packaging.
- not all types can be absorbed through the skin or metabolized by bodies
- there is some concern with contamination or possible traces of allergens from soy or gluten being present in products containing tocopherols***
Chelating Agents – additives used to soften water or bind mineral ions in lubricants.
- commonly used chelating agents in lubricants are EDTA and Citric Acid
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, preventing cooling sensations 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 lubricants, which can dehydrate mucus and cause skin irritation which leaves a mucous membrane more vulnerable to BV or STIs
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 epithilelial cell deathabusaawaa
- with regular use certain microbicides that kill lactobacilli can lead to BV or vaginal yeast overgrowth, as well as leave mucous membranes more vulnerable to infections
- carageenans are some of the least toxic most vagina friendly microbicidesalvarez
- currently microbicides are being heavily studied for their potential in preventing HIV, HPV, and other STI transmission, although because of their skin irritating properties none have proven successful and safe in practical use via lubricants