Hiding inauspiciously under the “Bath & Body” menu of Thrive Market is a little option called Sexual Health. Yes, it’s exactly what one would imagine. All-natural condoms and lubricants, check.
After all, why should choosing all-natural products for your sexual life be any different than opting for preservative-free, non-chemical cosmetics and green cleaning products?
But just how necessary is it to go full-on organic with personal hygiene? After all, even mainstream lubricant is formulated specifically for a very sensitive area of the body, so it shouldn’t be too harsh, right?
“Everyone is different, and what works great for some people can cause irritation or even an allergic reaction in other people,” explains Dr. Vanessa Cullins, the Vice President of external medical affairs for Planned Parenthood. “Unfortunately, you won’t know how a personal lubricant affects you or your partner until you try it out.”
Personal lubricants fall into three different formulations: water-based, oil-based, and silicone-based. For those with sensitive skin, the additives in some silicone- or water-based lubricants can potentially be allergenic. And an allergic reaction down there is exactly what most people probably want to avoid.
To absolutely ensure that your lubricant of choice doesn’t contain parabens, glycerins, or other chemicals that can evoke a nasty allergic reaction, try something a little more pure and natural. According to Dr. Cullins: “If you can cook with it, you can try it as lube!” Yup, that includes butter.
But if what you spread on toast doesn’t exactly sound like the sexiest thing to bring into the bedroom, Dr. Cullins suggests trying other natural oils that you might already have around the house. Olive oil, apricot seed oil, and coconut oil can all work well, but start with a small amount while first experimenting with them to make sure that they’re comfortable and don’t irritate skin.
According to Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, the Dean of Obstetrics at Columbia University, natural oils are ok to use for those that need a more viscous, longer lasting lubricant, "but they are also more difficult to remove and may hang around longer. This causes some women to become more susceptible to bacterial and yeast infections."
If you’re trying natural oils with a partner for the first time, don’t go too crazy or use abrasive soaps to clean up after. Let your body do its job and naturally cleanse itself. It might take a little longer, but using harsh soaps can mess with the natural pH of your body and actually cause bacterial infections.
A word to the wise: Those who are using latex contraceptives like condoms or diaphragms need to avoid oil-based lubricants or natural oils. Oil will degrade the latex, which can cause tearing and ripping. Instead, try a natural water-based lubricant if chemicals and additives are a worry.
Sure, lube can be a little bit awkward, but it doesn't have to be uncomfortable. With all the options out there, every sexually active adult is bound to find something that works for them, whether it's an aloe vera formula or the jar of coconut oil sitting in your cabinet!
Illustration by Carey Reisz