Intimate lubes can be a great addition to enhance partner or solo sex experiences. The added wetness can reduce friction or discomfort, increase glide and help increase arousal and pleasure.Who doesn’t want a smoother touch, a more sensual experience, and better orgasms?
However, just like the quality of beauty products we choose to use on our skin is important, the quality of the intimate lubes we use are even more important since the vagina is one of the most absorbent parts of the body and is a more delicate and complex environment to consider.
Caring for your vaginal health
Did you know that the skin on the rest of our bodies has a protective layer that the vagina and vulva don’t? The vaginal and vulvar epithelium are fragile tissues and highly absorbent. Any medication or chemical absorbed through the vaginal mucosa can reach the blood ten times faster than those ingested orally. This, amongst other things, make it crucial to review labels of the self-care products you use so you can make wise decisions to maintain a healthy, pH balanced vaginal environment.
Today, you can find an array of intimate lubes, but not all of them are entirely safe for the body. Some lubes contain ingredients that can cause irritation to the vagina, create an imbalance in pH levels (which can promote dryness) or even burn.
What is pH?
pH is a measuring scale of the acidity or alkalinity of a water-based environment that goes from zero to 14. A normal vaginal pH should be acidic, typically with a pH in the range of 3.8 to 4.5. Rectal pH is neutral, while semen pH is slightly alkaline, ranking at pH 7.0-8.5.
What is the ideal vaginal pH?
An acidic environment around pH 4 keeps your vagina healthy by killing microbes. This level of healthy acidity also helps prevent sexually transmitted infections. A good and naturally occurring bacteria known as lactobacillus helps protect your vagina’s natural balance. Lactobacillus helps your body to produce sufficient amounts of lactic acid to keep the pH low.
If there’s a reduction of the lactobacillus population, your vagina’s pH can increase to 7 or higher, where you then risk the growth of unwanted bacteria and yeast, which can result in Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), Vulvovaginitis, UTI’s, or Thrush. Simply put, a healthy vagina is lactobacillus-dominant. Learn more about Keeping Your Vaginal pH Balanced.
What causes an unbalanced vaginal pH?
Now that you understand a bit about the science, it’s important to understand what can cause your vagina’s pH to get out of balance. While there’s many factors, here are some of the top causes:
- Lube that is not pH balanced for the vaginal environment
- Medications like antibiotics
- Semen (can neutralizes vaginal acidity)
- Vaginal douches (can encourage growth of harmful bacteria)
- Menstruation (blood resting in tampons/pads can affect pH)
Three main base formulations for sex lubricants are: water, silicone and oil. Each has different benefits and considerations in what’s safest for your vaginal pH and health:
Water-based lubricants are the most widely available and commonly used lubricant. They rehydrate tissue, are latex condom and sex toy compatible and can be formulated to maintain a healthypH balance for the delicate vaginal environment. Some are enhanced with ingredients like vitamin E, aloe or sodium hyaluronate (super-humectant) or exclude potentially harmful ingredients such as paraben or glycerin. Water-based lubes mimic the silky texture of your natural wetness, absorb naturally into the mucosal membranes of the skin and are the safest for a healthy vaginal pH.
Silicone based lubricants are available in various viscosities and made with a variety of different silicones such as dimethicone, dimethiconol and cyclomethicone. Silicone lube offers a slick glide and is popular for its longevity, especially when engaging in anal sex. But it does have some drawbacks. Due to silicone’s larger molecules, it does not readily absorb into the skin, often requiring post clean up and can leave an undesirable residue or stains on sheets. Silicone lube is condom compatible, but not compatible with silicone sex toys as it can degrade the material.
Natural based oil lubricants like avocado, coconut, vegetable, and olive oils can feel luscious on the skin and can be great forsensual body massage and sexual intimacy. While many people enjoy using oil based lubes and have no issues, others have to steer clear as they can alter the vaginal pH level and trap unwanted bacteria in the vagina, leaving you at risk for developing bacterial or yeast infections. Oil based lubes are not latex condom compatible–oil breaks down latex which can cause potential tears and leakages.
Ingredients to avoid in an intimate lubricant
With the delicacy of the vaginal environment and importance of keeping a healthy pH, it’s important to carefully examine the ingredient list of any lube you use. Here are some key ingredients you may want to avoid:
Parabens: Parabens are a group of chemicals that prevent the growth of mold, bacteria and yeasts. They are often added to cosmetics and personal care products to increase shelf-life and stability. Some studies have associated parabens with the development of breast cancer as they mimic estrogen in the body and can influence abnormal cell growth.
Glycerin: Commonly used in lubes because of its ability to increase longevity and glide, this sugar alcohol polyol compound can cause vaginal pH imbalance, aggravate the vulvar and vaginal skin, cause yeast infections, irritation and vaginal dryness in some women.
Nonoxynol-9 (spermicides): Spermicides can increase the risk of recurrent cystitis and yeast infections.
Fragrance:These compounds can irritate the vaginal environment and disrupt its pH balance, making you more susceptible to infections.
GoLove Intimate CBD Serum for healthy vulvar skin
GoLove Intimate CBD Serum is a water-based intimate skin care moisturizer that’s carefully formulated to match the natural pH of a woman’s vaginal environment. It’s perfect to slather on the labia and perineal skin to reduce chafing and the addition of hyaluronic serum contributes to GoLove’s long-lasting effects. It’s dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic and is a unique blend of body-safe ingredients, natural soothers, moisturizers and skin-nourishing, hydrating hyaluronic serum.
Created by sexologist and author Dr. Sadie Allison and CBD scientist John Renko, B.S.E., GoLove is a research-based, lab-certified and contains 200mg of therapeutic, USA-grown Organic Cannabidiol (CBD).