Juice it up, but make it natural!

In the United States alone, women spend well over $2 billion per year on feminine hygiene products including tampons, pads, feminine washes, sprays, powders, and personal wipes. But until recently, scant research existed on how chemicals in these products may affect women’s health. This fact disturbs me greatly…

One of the reasons there is a billion dollar business is that there are a plethora of products that do not serve women’s vaginal health and I’d personally like wiped from the shelves of drugstores completely. After being a women’s health care provider for over 10 years, I can attest to the overuse, and damage these products do. More research has emerged on the chemical stew we are living in, and let me say—it’s not pretty! So, let’s start with what we have touching our skin and being absorbed internally, specifically lubricants for sex.

Why do you need a natural lubricant?

I’ll just start with listing some of the ingredients in some common over the counter lubricants…. glycerin, hydroxyethylcellulose, chlorhexidine gluconate, gluconolactone, methylparaben, and sodium hydroxide. Some of these preservatives and ingredients such as parabens—can interfere with your hormonal system and have been cited by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to be “linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation.” Ingredients such as chlorhexidine gluconate,” an antibacterial, may kill off the healthy bacteria in vagina, which can lead to yeast and bacterial infections.

I spend a lot of time talking about sex with women, as a women’s health care provider, and with friends (who know I’m a health care provider). I see women from the teen years through their 70’s in my office and I’ve learned that often I need to bring up the topic of sex at visits, especially topics such as vaginal dryness, lubricants, and the like.

I ask women about sex and comfort during sex as part of our visit, and reassure women that sometimes lubricants are the missing link to their sexual experience. It is not unusual to use one and it doesn’t mean something is wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I scribble the names of lubricants on my sticky notes to give to patients on a daily basis.

OK, so let’s talk about it! When do you need a lubricant? Well, at least some times in your life, or on a monthly or weekly or daily (go you!) basis.

Here are some examples of these times:

–at certain points in your monthly cycle –often right before or after your menstrual cycle

–during breastfeeding

–during the years immediately before or after menopause

–with condom use (one of the most frequent reasons for condom breakage is lack of lubrication)

–using oral contraceptives

Why at these times—it has to do a lot with individual variation and also due to fluctuating estrogen levels. Estrogen is the “juicy” hormone that stimulates the lubricating glands to keep producing the wonderful moistness we expect and also affects the thickness of the vaginal walls and tissue elasticity.

Lubricants to avoid are those that cause “warming” or “cooling” sensations. These can include oils of peppermint, menthol, cinnamon which can be truly irritating to the sensitive skin and cause inflammation.

One option I recommend is coconut oil. The solid white oil has gained a lot of press recently for numerous health benefits. It is a great lubricant, moistens dry tissue and is anti-fungal as well. It melts as you rub it in your hands, and smells divine. You’ll want to purchase pure coconut oil, I prefer cold pressed organic coconut oil. A little goes a long way, so it ends up being cost effective. If you haven’t tried it before on your skin, rub a small amount on your inner arm and observe for any reactions on your skin (P.S. have your partner try this too!). The only precaution is using it along with latex condoms—oil breaks down the latex, so only use with a polyurethane condom, or use a water-based lubricant instead.

There are many natural lubricants on the market now. In fact, I investigated one, called Sliquid, and received free samples as a health care provider. It was a fun day to open up a box of natural and organic lubricants! Another company I know of is Good Clean Love.

Well, there you have it….the reasons why I recommend natural lubricants and some suggestions for when to use, and what to use. Oh, and just a note, vaginal lubrication and moistness can increase naturally with increased frequency of sex and orgasm!

 

References:

–Wendee, Nicole. 2014: A Question for Women’s Health: Chemicals in Feminine Hygiene Products and Personal Lubricants. Retrieved from http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/122-a70/.

–http://www.safecosmetics.org/