Lube Ingredients to Avoid – Sensual Intelligence

Lube Ingredients to Avoid

It is pretty typical to find sample packs of lube and free condoms at any local sexual health centre across Canada. Both curious by nature and also since we’re in the biz and all, we had to check out the quality of what was being handed out! Wow.. were we ever shocked to see the listed ingredients on the packets of lube!

One lube company in particular that we found at more than one clinic shamelessly promotes their product on the packet itself by calling it the “safer-sex lube”. They claim that condom sex without lube = breakage. Fair enough - if that’s your definition of safe sex. However, it is definitely not ours. In this day and age, we believe there is no excuse for using such ingredients (ie.: parabens, endocrine disruptors) in any product. There is tons of research to prove that it’s time to switch away from your old “drugstore brand”.

Here are some commonly found ingredients to watch out for :

ALL PARABENS (methyl- , butyl- , ethyl- , propyl-)

“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 (but not limited to) women’s reproductive organs and tissues such as breasts and ovaries. Parabens act as environmental estrogens, substances that mimic estrogen hormones and wreak havoc on women’s hormonal balance. In studies on breast cancer patients, parabens were found in the samples of breast tumors… Applied to the skin and absorbed into the body, parabens in cosmetics (or in this scenario, personal lubricant) bypass the liver and metabolic process and enter the blood stream and body organs intact. It has been estimated that women are exposed to 50 mg per day of parabens from cosmetics. It is also important to note that in Canada, the use of parabens in products is not regulated (unlike in Europe!)

DEA or Diethanolamine

“DEA can react with other ingredients in cosmetic formulations to form carcinogens!  Exposure to high doses of these chemicals has been shown to cause liver cancers and precancerous changes in skin and thyroid.” Now, please remind us why you would want to slather that on before sexy times?!?

-U.S. National Toxicological Program. "NTP Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of Lauric Acid Diethanolamine Condensate (CAS NO. 120-40-1) in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice (Dermal Studies)." Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser. 480 (Jul 1999):1-200.
iii S. National Toxicological Program. "Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of coconut oil acid diethanolamine condensate (CAS No. 68603-42-9) in F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice (dermal studies)." Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser. 479 (Jan 2001):5-226.

GLYCERINE or Glycerol

These are sugar-based and have been linked to yeast infections in women who are prone to them (yucky!). They may also cause damage to mucus membranes.

PETROCHEMICALS (Mineral Oil, Liquidum Paraffinum, Petrolatum also known as petroleum jelly)

These are definitely not eco-sexy! Not only are they based from a non-renewable energy source but they also coat the skin halting the vagina’s ability to “flush” itself, increasing the chance of bacterial or other infections. It can take the vagina up to 3-5 days to break down and get rid of oils. “A petroleum product, petrolatum can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Studies suggest that exposure to PAHs — including skin contact over extended periods of time — is associated with cancer.  On this basis, the European Union classifies petrolatum a carcinogen  and restricts its use in cosmetics. PAHs in petrolatum can also cause skin irritation and allergies.” Not very body-safe at all! –


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. Why would you want that in your lube?! –


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). Scary stuff! –


This is a sneaky one. Fragrance has a toxicity level of 8 out of 10 (extremely high) in the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database.  Synthetic fragrances are a toxic mixture of phthalates and poisonous chemicals.  What poisonous chemicals go into an individual fragrance can vary as there are no regulations for companies to list the chemical soup of what they put in fragrance due to patents. “The word “fragrance” or “parfum” 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.” Also noteworthy: do not be fooled by the word “natural” in front of fragrance. It could be anything from an herbal extract to horse urine.—


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