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Toxic Lubes

October 9, 2015

We walk into an adult store and see toys and lubes of plenty.  We all think we are safe because we live in a world where if its on the self then its safe to buy… Well in Canada and the United States the sex toy and lube industry is unregulated. It is up to the consumer to self educate. I know for many sex is an embarrassing topic but its necessary to be your own advocate. A good retailer will be able to answer your questions and know their product. 




If you heed the recent research from some experts in HIV prevention, consumers may want to pay more attention to the potential harm lubricants can cause. At least that is my fair assumption.

In a recent study of popular over-the-counter and mail-order lubricants, a majority were found to be toxic to cells and tissue, possibly rendering a user more vulnerable to infection of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Salts and sugars in the lubricants can cause a cell’s internal chemistry to be thrown off, killing the lining of the anus or vagina.


Yes, HIV researchers are testing lubes and their effects on the body. It is so important to know what you are coming in to contact with after all these toys and lubes are meant to be used in very personal areas. There are so many chemicals and things are being manufactured in countries without controls that we have no idea what is entering the body. 


”When you get rid of your first line of defence, you are opening yourself up for opportunities for infection from other pathogens,” explains Charlene Dezzutti, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh who works with HIV prevention and led the research, presented in late May at the 2010 International Microbicides Conference in Pittsburgh.


An unrelated study by a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles found that those who used lubricants were three times more likely to have rectal STDs.


While any research linking choice of lubricants and anal sex to increased HIV-infection rates is certain to grab the attention of sexually active gay men, a closer look diffuses the news.


Despite the two studies’ findings, other local public-health experts say lubricant selection and use for safety is second to condom use for protection against STDs.”


My question is then, If there are studies being made and consumers have to self educate, why are lubes not subject to the same regulations as any other consumable on our shelves? 


The answer: Self preservation. Ask yourself, “Is it more important to keep me safe? Or is it more important to let your fears take over?” Once your logic kicks in, you’ll understand the necessity. We are only gifted with one body in this life. Its so important to love and care for it. You would ask your doctor about medications that enter your body. Why not lube? It enters your body and is absorbed.

While lubricants are designed to make sex more comfortable, their effect on disease went virtually unstudied until recently. In Dezzutti’s research, workers tested the effect of the six products on different cell types, rectal and cervical tissue, and bacteria.


The popular PRE lube served as the study’s control sample, as it has roughly the same concentration of dissolved particles – sugars and salts – as the cells themselves. When a lubricant has too high a concentration of sugars and salts, cells in the area eject water to correct the imbalance. Then, Dezzutti explains, those cells become dry, wither and die.


Astroglide, a water-based and therefore condom-compatible lubricant, was found to be the most toxic of the lubes studied to cells and tissues. KY Jelly was also highly toxic to “good” bacteria in rectal tissue. The team found Elbow Grease and ID Glide had intermediate effects in terms of toxicity. Dezzutti and coworkers found PRE and Wet Platinum to be the safest — a fact touted by Wet’s CEO.


So what should you be aware of? I found a blogger that makes it easy to understand. She broke down the bad for you chemicals so we all can understand them.


Sixty percent of all chemicals we put on our skin ends up in the blood stream and lubricants may be absorbed through the mucus membranes of the vagina and anus even more so because there is no barrier for protection.  Many personal lubricants and sensual products contain hazardous chemicals that create chemical body burden which is responsible for numerous health ailments.


In my search for the perfect lubricant for women, I have reviewed over 50 different types of personal lubricants, many of which that are marketed for women, as “natural” and body-safe.  However, during my research I found various toxics chemicals in lubricants including parabens and glycerins or sugars.


Parabens- Parabens (including Methylparabens and Propylparabens) are a group of chemicals used as preservatives in the cosmetics and are used for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties.  Studies have found that parabens can be absorbed through the skin and can mimic the hormone estrogens, which has been linked to breast cancer. Grapefruit seed extract (although natural, also called Citrus seed extract and Citrus grandis) is a paraben and should be avoided as it has known to be an irritant in low concentrations.  “Parabens are rapidly absorbed by the skin, metabolized, but not always readily excreted. The major metabolites of parabens have shown to accumulate in human body, especially in tissue of women’s reproductive organs such as breasts and ovaries. This happens because parabens act as environmental estrogens, substances that mimic estrogens hormones and break havoc on women’s hormonal balance. In studies on breast cancer patients, parabens were found in samples of breast tumours…”


—The Green Beauty Guide


DEA- Diethanolamine is a chemical wetting agent in cosmetics that helps keep a creamy consistency in lotions and creams. DEA can react with other ingredients in cosmetic formulations to form carcinogens that are readily absorbed through the skin and have been linked with various types of cancer.


Glycerine- Glycerine (a close relation to glucose or sugar, also called Glycerine or Glycerol) is used as a sweetener and preservative in cosmetics and has been linked to yeast infections in women who are prone to them and they can also damage mucus membranes.


Menthol- Synthetic menthol as well as natural Peppermint Oil can be irritating and drying to a woman’s genitals and damages mucus membranes.


Petrochemicals- Petrochemicals in oil-based products such as Mineral Oil (Liquidum Paraffinum) and Petrolatum (petroleum jelly), coat the skin halting the vagina’s ability to “flush” itself, leaving you open to bacterial or other infections.  It can take the vagina 3-5 days to break down and get rid of oils, so oil-based lubes should not be used for vaginal or anal sex and are only recommended as male masturbatory aids.  They are also linked to cancer or other significant health problems.  Petrochemicals have been restricted in cosmetic manufacturing; however oil-based lubricants are made with petrochemicals.


Propylene Glycol- Found in brake fluid, anti-freeze, and paint solvents, Propylene Glycol is used as a solvent in many pharmaceuticals, and is used as a humectant food additive, emulsification agent, and moisturizer in cosmetics.  The oral toxicity of propylene glycol is low, but large quantities can cause perceptible health damage in humans and is an irritant to the eyes and skin.


Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) – PEG is used as a thickener and is the basis of many skin creams, as cetomacrogol, and sexual lubricants, frequently combined with glycerin. It strips the skin’s natural moisture, is an eye and skin irritant, a possible carcinogen and can produce severe acidosis, central nervous system damage and congestion.


Nonoxynol-9- Nonoxynol-9 is an abrasive detergent and was developed as a spermicide used in condoms, lubricants and sex toy cleaners.  It was also shown to help kill the AIDs virus in clinical tests (in test tubes).  However, it has been found to leave abrasions and lesions in the vagina and to strip away the protective rectal lining in the anus, both of which could potentially increase chances of get AIDs, STDs and skin irritations, leading to infections.


Methylisothiazolinone – Methylisothiazolinone is a widely-used preservative and has been associated with allergic reactions. Lab studies on the brain cells of mammals also suggest that methylisothiazolinone may be a neurotoxin (which damages the nervous system, ie: brain).


Fragrance – Fragrance has a toxicity level of 8 out of 10 (extremely high) in the Cosmetic Database.  Synthetic fragrances are a toxic mixture of “evil phthalates” (you thought these were just in cheap jelly sex toys, right?) and “poisonous chemicals”.  Just what poisonous chemicals go into an individual fragrance can vary, as companies do not need to list what they put into a fragrance due to patents. “The word “fragrance” or “perfume” on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.”


In closing, buyer beware and find a store that advocates on your behalf. Find a retailer that will share this knowledge. They are the ones that you will trust and go back to. The store may not be big but if the employees know about toxic lubes and toys, is a good bet you have found a great store.


Never be afraid to ask questions, its your body and your health. Stand up for you. A great retailer will stand beside you.


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