Lubricant Safety: pH Balance & Osmolality Data Guide

What if a product that’s meant to bring extra comfort to sex, actually hurts your intimate tissues?! Sadly, many personal lubricants’ ingredients both disrupt vaginal flora and correlate with anal tearing and infection risk. In contrast, the best 💦 lubricants are pH balanced (to either the vagina or the butt); & iso-osmotic, meaning they don’t demolish your vaginal / anal cell structures (which protect against bad bacteria & viruses!). After I endured a painful 😧 vaginal infection this year, I’d had enough—it was time to find the whole truth about lubricant safety.

I took scientific measurements on 45 commercial lubricants, so you don’t have to buy expensive lab equipment! Skip ahead for the quick recap. Water-based lubricants require care to choose a safe, balanced option. Meanwhile, silicone and oil-based lubes don’t have either pH or osmolality: But do carry other potential issues.

This was just a small piece of the chaos of scattered lubes & equipment.

This balanced sex lubricant guide will recap the pros & cons of water-based, hybrid, silicone, and oil-based lubricants. I’ll explain, “What is ‘osmolality,’ and why does lubricant pH matter?,” then I’ll give my independent pH and osmolality ratings for the aqueous lubes, talk about coconut oil safety, and how to choose an anal lubricant too!

Safest Sex Lubricants, by Type

After months of in-depth research and scientific testing, I recommend the following lubricants as the best way to safeguard your vaginal microbiome or your rectum. It’s not all bad news, either: Good lube (1) safeguards your tissues against the friction of sex, especially large or fast penetration; and (2) makes sex toys feel much more cushy. See my list of medical studies for a detailed dive. Note: The vagina and the rectum have different healthy pH levels, so it’s impossible to find a water-based lube that’s pH matched to both holes at once. See these icons below to mean: 🌺=vulva & vagina-friendly, 🍑for anal use, & 🍆for the penis by itself:

  • 🌺Best water-based lubricant for vag: Almost Naked (thicker aloe base; vanilla scent) or BioNude (unscented) by Good Clean Love
  • 🌺Best water-based in most sex toy stores: Sliquid H2O (not Sliquid Sassy)
  • 🌺Best hybrid lubricant (for vaginal use): Good Clean Love Hybrid
  • 🍑Safest anal lubricants: Pure oil-based like Coconu or coconut oil; or silicone if silicone toys aren’t being used.1
  • 🤝Best for partnered sex or w/ condoms: Wicked Ultra, only 2 silicone ingredients.
  • 🍆Best for stroking & penis play: Coconu feels great, very safe; & isn’t as drippy as coconut oil.
  • 🛑Avoid at all costs: Anything by Astroglide. Parabens, a bactericide that kills good bacteria, lye, and a preservative that makes HIV replicate faster? Astroglide lubes still use all those ingredients.
Safe water based lubricants, thickness
Safe water-based lubricants: all in a range of ≈150 to 300 mOsm/kg, yet with different consistencies. Skip ahead here for a detailed comparison.

There are four types of lubricants, with these pros & cons:

  • Water-based lubricants:
    • ✅Can feel the most “natural,” imitating natural wetness.
    • ✅Easiest to clean up.
    • Shop carefully: These lubes require preservatives and thickeners; the wrong ingredients can damage your protective cell barriers and/or disrupt pH.
    • ⭕Rarely pH-balanced for anal play.
  • Hybrid lubricants:
    • ✅Added silicone makes a hybrid’s water base last longer.
    • ✅It sticks to toys better, and is great for high-texture sex toys like fantasy dildos.
    • ✅Easier cleanup than oil-based and silicone lubes, and doesn’t stain sheets.
    • ✅Won’t affect silicone toys.
    • ❌Also has the same issues with preservatives, etc. that can be disruptive.
    • ⭕Also usually pH-balanced for vaginas, not for anal sex.
  • Oil-based lubricants:
    • ✅The longest-lasting slickness.
    • ✅Great for anal stretching & jerking off: or any high-friction play.
    • ❌Can stain sheets. (Put down a towel or waterproof blanket.)
    • ❌Don’t use with latex or polyisoprene condoms.
    • ❓No 100% consensus that coconut oil is totally safe for vaginal use.
  • Silicone lubricants:
    • ✅Also quite long-lasting, and less greasy than oil.
    • ✅Has no pH, to not disrupt either the anal or vaginal microbiome.
    • ✅Safe with all condoms.
    • ⭕May harm some silicone sex toys.
    • ❓May take longer for the vagina to self-clean this lube out, so don’t apply large amounts vaginally.

Read why Amazon-bought lubes may be unsafe here. I’d like to give a huge thanks to Peepshow Toys🎉 for donating most of the lubricants tested: For science!!!

Lubricant pH & Osmolality – Why Do We Care?

The vagina and rectum both have their own natural balance: they’re separate microbiomes, mini “ecosystems” within the human body. And the vast majority of commercial lubes are not correctly formulated to match one or both of: pH and osmolality, for either the vagina or the rectum/anal canal. Generally, glycerin in lube, propylene glycol in lube, and propanediol in lube aren’t optimal.

Hybrid and water-based lubricants can hurt your body when:

  • They force your tissues to push out water.2 This happens with high osmolality (hyperosmolal / hyperosmotic) lubricants. These concentrated lubes separate or “slough off” the protective epithelial barriers, “caus[ing] the cells to shrink and shrivel.”3 Studies link hyperosmolal lubricant use to greater risk of sexually transmitted infection. This is true for both vaginal and colorectal (anal) tissues.
  • Unbalanced pH. Vaginal lubricants especially should be pH balanced, between 3.8 to 4.5 pH (acidic). Keeping within this acid pH level helps the vagina protect itself from harmful outside microbes. In contrast, high pH is tied to bacterial vaginosis (infection of the vagina).

Imagine it like this: The 4 layers of the vaginal epithelium (protective skin barrier) are made of different substances: sticks, straw, and bricks.4 But, the Big Bad Wolf coming to knock down these building materials is actually a force of wind and water too: a hurricane, if you will.

Balanced lubricant guide - osmolality graphic
Once the sticks & straw get blown away, your brick house is exposed.

The more hyperosmolal a lubricant is, the higher the “wind speed” produced by this aqueous assault. As a range of studies have shown,5 deeper-tissue damage correlates strongly with high osmolality. And also see Fuchs et al.’s info6 on how high-osmolal lubes hurt during anal application:

Caption quote: “…Colonic mucosal biopsy samples showing varying degrees of epithelial disruption. A, Normal colonic mucosa with an intact epithelial layer… B, Epithelial “lifting” with mucin-depleted cells… C, Missing entire epithelial layer, with complete exposure of underlying Lp and only deep colonic crypts (Ccs) remaining ([from] hyperosmolar gel).”

Now, while I think “colonic crypts” would be a great goth-metal band name, I wouldn’t want those exposed inside my body!

So how do we avoid harmful lube effects? Let’s look at lubricant safety guidelines the World Health Organization released a decade ago, in re optimal lube pH and osmolality for water-based lubes:

  • “Ideally, the osmolality of a personal lubricant should not exceed 380 mOsm/Kg to minimize any risk of epithelial damage. Given that most commercial lubricants significantly exceed this value,… it is therefore recommended on an interim basis that [sexual health] procurement agencies should source lubricants with osmolalities of not greater than 1200 mOm/kg.”
  • “The pH of the healthy vagina is normally in the range 3.8–4.5. The pH of the rectum is closer to neutral (pH 7). High vaginal pH can lead to an increase in the risk of bacterial vaginosis. High pH is also more supportive of HIV survival. Ideally therefore a vaginal lubricant should have a pH of about 4.5 and a rectal lubricant of about 5.5 to 7. It is unfortunate that these optimum requirements cannot be bridged in a single lubricant.”

It’s a problem because for decades, water-based personal lubes have been based on hyper (high)-concentration ingredients. As my test results below show, 98% of the time it’s bad news when any of the following 3 chemicals is a main lubricant ingredient:

  • Glycerin or glycerol, a sugar alcohol.
  • Propylene glycol (1,2-propanediol).
  • Propanediol (1,3-propanediol), propylene glycol’s close relative. (Both have two alcohol groups in their chemical structures.)

So why are problematic lubes still sold?! Well, lubricant safety is a science that’s boomed over the last 20 years. In the past, the FDA has required lube toxicity testing on rabbit and/or guinea pig vaginas, which are very different from human ones; while safety trials on real-live human beings may be regarded as unethical. Plus, “hyperosmolal lubricants cause little or no obvious pain or discomfort to most users. But they cause marked toxicity to the human colorectal epithelium,… increase susceptibility to genital herpes (HSV) infections… and they cause obvious toxic effects in the slug mucosal model.”7

Scientists who discuss lubricant safety point to the case of nonoxynol-9: a spermicide allowed in lubricants for almost 50 years until researchers realized that frequent nonoxynol-9 users were twice as likely to acquire HIV.8 Yikes!!!

Water-based lubricants for pH balance and osmolality testing pr
It was a lot of lubes, y’all, and it FELT like more than 45 given all the repeat testing!

Complete pH & Osmolality Ratings

This list applies to water-based lubricants mainly, with some hybrid (water-based + silicone) lubricants appearing too. Silicone lubricants and oil-based lubricants don’t pose pH balance or concentration safety issues, and they don’t usually contain harmful additives like the parabens some water-based lubes still use. (Read more on the downside of silicone lube here & oil+condom incompatibility here.)

Safe, Balanced Lubes vs. High Concentration Ones!
LubricantOsmolality (mOsm/kg)pH Level
Ideal Results:≈150–450 ✅;
Under 50 😐;
1,200+ is damaging.
3.8–4.5 for vag;
≈6–7 for butt.

Safe for vag/vulva⬇️

Almost Naked by Good Clean Love2824.5
BioNude by Good Clean Love2764.4
Liquid by Good Clean Love2704.4
Hybrid by Good Clean Love3674.2
Ah Yes! WB1694.4
Aloe Cadabra1644.4
Sliquid H2O1444.2
Please GEL by Good Vibes (Good Vibrations)1284.5

Vag moisturizers⬇️

Restore by Good Clean Love2684.1
Ah Yes! VM2754.0

A lil too watery, but might be OK for vag.⬇️

Sliquid Sea934.1
Sliquid Organics Natural944.4

High Osmo., but Not *Really* High⬇️

Sliquid Silk hybrid6864.4
Sliquid Sassy7634.5
Trojan H2O Closer5886.0 🍑

Over max. limit by World Health Org.⬇️❌

Please Cream (hybrid) by Good Vibes (Good Vibrations)12484.7
KY Jelly Classic12584.0
Simply Aqua by Wicked17614.9
Durex Massage & Play, 2 in 1 with ALOE18134.0
LubeLife≈2,2254.0
Shibari Ultrasmooth Lubricant≈23153.9
Sutil Luxe Glide≈23354.3
Walgreens Lubricating Jelly≈23685.1

Extra high-osmo.⬇️❌

Jo Agape❌ = over 2,5004.0
Lola Personal Lubricant❌ = over 2,5004.2
Sensuva Hybrid❌ = over 2,5004.2
Durex Massage & Play, 2 in 1 with Ylang-Ylang❌ = over 2,5004.3
Toy Wonder by Cake❌ = over 2,5004.4
Mojo Water-Based Glide with Peruvian Ginseng by Intimate Earth❌ = over 2,5004.5
We-Vibe Lube by Pjur❌ = over 2,5004.5
Simply Aqua Jelle by Wicked❌ = over 2,5004.7
Simply Hybrid Jelle by Wicked❌ = over 2,5004.9
Simply Hybrid by Wicked❌ = over 2,5005.0
Intimate Earth Hydra❌ = over 2,5005.0
Equate Personal Lubricant by Walmart❌ = over 2,5005.0
"Shibari Aloe"
"Aloe-Based Lubricant"
❌ = over 2,5005.0
Jo Gelato
Flavored lubricant
❌ = over 2,5005.8
Pjur Med Repair Glide❌ = over 2,5006.0
Jo Classic Hybrid❌ = over 2,5006.6

Hazardous ingredients⬇️🛑

Astroglide Gel
(w/ bactericide, parabens, and lye)
❌ = over 2,5004.4
Astroglide Glycerin & Paraben Free Liquid❌ = over 2,5004.4
Astroglide Water-Based Liquid❌ = over 2,5004.5
Aqua Lube from Planned Parenthood
(w/ Paraben)
❌ = over 2,5004.2
Gun Oil H2O❌ = over 2,5005.9
ID Glide❌ = over 2,5005.4
Jo H2O❌ = over 2,5006.5
Wicked Aqua Sensitive❌ = over 2,5005.1

Other

Slippery Stuff21 (quite low)Not measurable—so sticky, it's like trying to test a silicone lube

Hit the arrows on the right side, or [2] or [3], to see all the unbalanced lubricant options. Or, see this note for a full list of lubes included.9

Find a full list of each lube’s ingredients, and discussion of problem ingredients, in this post.

All lubricants were either: (1) donated by the body-safe retailer Peepshow Toys; (2) purchased by myself; (3) donated by an awesome friend of mine: thanks, K.! (Planned Parenthood lube, Jo lubes, and the We-Vibe Pjur sample pack I’ve always thrown away in the past); or (4) (for Good Clean Love Hybrid & Liquid only) sent to me by Good Clean Love. And I, Phallophile (a.k.a. Felicity), purchased an Advanced Instruments 3320 scientific-grade osmometer, sampler tips for said osmometer,10 an electronic pH tester kit, and other pH test strips because I believe we have the right to know exactly what we are putting in our bodies. You shouldn’t have to pay $1,000 to know whether your sex lube is safe.

If you’d like to support my research, please donate to Phallophile Reviews on Ko-Fi, as I’d be happy to add other lubricants people are curious about. Lubricant osmolality tests were rerun 3 to 5 times for lubes with strange results, like Sliquid Sassy being higher than expected, Trojan’s glycerin lube being lower than expected, and Slippery Stuff slippery-ing all over the sampler tip.

VAGINAL & VULVA LUBES: Top Choices

Good Clean Love Lubes Compared

Good Clean Love (GCL) has 4 lubricants now, and all are iso-osmotic, balanced to match vaginal fluid concentrations; and pH-balanced for vaginas—but each one is a lil different in consistency. All GCL lubes include lactic acid, which is naturally found in vaginas dominated by healthy Lactobacillus bacteria; whereas the citric acid found in other water-based lubes is not a normal part of the vaginal microbiome.

  • Almost Naked is the original, and the most-studied for safety. It’s an organic aloe vera base that’s thicker. It includes vanilla scent, which you might either love (my partner does), or be put off by. It does feel more “gel-like,” and is very padded when you start moving a toy. I prefer this one because it has less ingredients.
  • BioNude is a more synthetic formula, based on plant cellulose. It’s a little thinner, more in line with “normal” lubes, and has a couple other plant ingredients like carrageenan (originally derived from seaweed) and carob.
  • Liquid does have propanediol as its 4th ingredient, but remains in a safe osmotic range. It feels very similar to BioNude, but with slightly more longevity; coats toys well. Vs. BioNude, Liquid adds hyaluronic acid, which human skin tissue contains naturally; this synthetic version is here for more slickness.
  • Hybrid is a silky water+silicone blend, that I would recommend on veiny or heavy-texture silicone sex toys. This creamy water+silicone blend manages to include (less than 1%) of both propanediol and glycerin, yet maintains an osmolality of 367 mOsm/kg vs. Sliquid Silk’s 686. (GCL Hybrid is 87% less concentrated.) If you are uber-sensitive to glycerin, you might still opt for Silk.
Good clean Love Almost Naked aloe vera lubricant vs. Good clean Love BioNude thickness
GCL Almost Naked, left, drips more slowly; while BioNude drips faster and spreads most easily.

Sliquid H2O: Better-Balanced Than Sliquid Sassy

Sliquid H2O is the closest match to natural water balance, among all Sliquid water-based (and hybrid) lubricants. This means Sliquid H2O is the safest option you’ll hopefully find when purchasing sex toys, since most shops carry Sliquid.

Sliquid H2O vs. Sliquid Sassy safety pr
Sliquid drips lots faster, while Sassy has a thicker viscosity.

I tested Sliquid H2O and Sliquid Sassy several times each, and H2O’s osmolality remained in the 100–150 range, while Sassy scored at 763 mOsm/kg: That means Sassy’s over 5 times as concentrated as H2O even though their labels have the very same ingredients on them! Much more plant cellulose is employed to create Sliquid Sassy, clearly. Sassy comes out as more of a gel, vs. H2O’s more watery consistency.

Wicked Ultra: For Penetrative Sex

I like Wicked Ultra a lot because it’s so simple: It’s got two forms of dimethicone, a silicone oil that’s also safely used to soften body-safe silicone sex toys. Put it on your favorite penis, and ride away. Silicone lube is so long-lasting, it’s used on almost all condoms to avoid tearing.

bEST LUBRICANT FOR SEX - SILICONE
Slick it up!

Silicone lube doesn’t disrupt cell structures because it doesn’t mess with water balance, and doesn’t have pH either! Folks who’re prone to yeast infection, etc. are likely to find silicone lubricant slick and non-irritating. Silicone lube applies like an oil: Only use a little, and it’ll still last longer than twice as much water-based lubricant.

The only issue with silicone lubricant: It’s tough to clean off 100% silicone sex toys (lots of scrubbing 🧼🤲), and in the case of some silicone-coated vibrators, it can alter the surface of the material or void the warranty; details here.

Aloe Cadabra

Aloe Cadabra is a lovely, thick aloe product with vitamin E. It does tend to glob up more as you move toys around, so reapplication is encouraged. However, it’s more expensive for a 2.5-ounce tube than you’d pay for a 4-ouncer of GCL Almost Naked, and Aloe Cadabra seems to absorb faster.

ANAL LUBES: Top Choices

So slicker is definitely better for anal play, especially when it includes thrusting. The rectum may be even tighter (than the vagina), so you want to pad the tissues to avoid “micro-tears”—tiny cuts to the tissues inside your asshole, ouch!

For serious anal, non-water-based options tend to be more popular, since (1) water-based will dry out faster and (2) water-based lubes usually are acidic, so they don’t match the rectum’s pH and might sting if you’re sensitive. So that leaves us with these thick anal lubricants:

  • Oil-based lube is best for long-term butt plug wear. And popular with silicone sex toys overall, since it won’t affect silicone. Very, very slick, so it’s ideal for stretching, minimizing friction during pegging, and more. Top picks: Coconu for easier, less-messy application; or virgin coconut oil from the grocery store for lots of slide for cheap.
  • Silicone lubricant makes sense for penis-in-anus sex; for non-silicone toys like the Pure Wand, an intense prostate tool; and for any anal sex involving condom use. Silicone lube is oily in a good way, moisturing, and a little goes a long way. Top pick: Wicked Ultra, 2 silicone ingredients, real smooth.

Coconu Oil-Based: Anal & Stroking Lube

Coconu advantages over coconut oil:

  • Squeezes on, doesn’t drip on. You don’t need to dig out a spoon to apply Coconu, like you need a clean spoon to dip into a jar of coconut oil kept at room temp. This makes Coconu faster “in the heat of the moment.”
  • I thought it was a little easier to clean up, too. Coconut oil can get into toy cracks and such, but we used it on my bf’s new rumbly butt plug recently, and he washed the Coconu right off, no streaks or anything left behind. I didn’t expect that!
Best lubricant for anal sex 1 - Coconu oil-based
Coconu is sunflower oil, coconut oil, shea butter, and more. It drizzles, instead of dripping like liquid coco. oil.

So my boyfriend definitely likes Coconu’s feel better than coconut oil. He thinks Coconu feels “silky” on the skin, even after he washed his hands; vs. coconut oil having “a gummy feeling after a while.” I found that the Coconu lasted well for a short but hard stroking session; and then after we moved on to me, it needed a small additional squeeze-dollop for him to continue the slick-stroking later. (We also tried an oil blend by Ah Yes!, with less enthusiastic feedback!)

Oil-Based Lubricants Cleanup

Oil is popular because it lasts… which also means it sticks around more when you’re washing a toy off: Though I’ve found silicone lube on silicone toys the worst to clean up, coconut oil is a close second. (If you have bedsheets you’re fond of, also definitely put down a towel or waterproof blanket when applying coconut oil via spoon.) Do wash your coconut-oiled-up toys really well after you’re done with them, scrub with soap and water for several minutes! Coconut oil’s lipids really stick. Leading to potential storage issues: If a silicone toy was used with coconut oil (but some oil remains on the surface), and then the toy is stored in a warm storage locker, which then cools to freezing temps, a chrystalline structure can form on the silicone. People who use coconut oil on their toys, clean them, and then put them in a storage locker for months will then find this white stuff on the toys and be like, “What is this? I thought silicone didn’t mold???” (Because they interpret the coconut crystals as a strange fungus of some sort.) Nope, just wash it better!

More Lubricant Safety Notes 🛑

  • Don’t buy your lubes off Amazon. Case in point: I bought two bottles of Sliquid Sea this year off Amazon, for the fast delivery. I thought, “I definitely wouldn’t buy sex toys off Amazon, but the lubes might be OK….” And, NOPE. The concentrations of these Amazon-bought lubricants were vastly different than the one I received from an authorized distributor (thanks, Peepshow Toys!). The Sliquid Sea distributor lube tested at 93 mOsm/kg, like Sliquid Organics Natural lube and close to Sliquid H2O; while the Amazon bottles tested at 54 and 765 mOsm/kg, respectively. What a difference! I threw those two Amazon bottles away after I saw how extra-concentrated one of them was; the storage conditions must be really bad.
  • “Natural ingredients” doesn’t necessarily mean “better.” Watch out for BS marketing here: Companies who want you to assume their high-concentration lubes are healthy because of “plant derived glycerin,” “botanical source[s],” “all natural,” or “with aloe” when aloe is waaaay down the ingredients list, etc. Now, organic aloe-vera gel is an awesome, safe lubricant base.11 But beyond that, there’s no reason to include a laundry list of plant extracts in a sex lube. Why? Because the vagina didn’t evolve to absorb an array of plant stuffs:12 Instead, it’s the mouth + digestive tract’s job to take in good, healthy produce and grains.
  • Not all Sliquid lubes are correctly concentrated (iso-osmotic). Sliquid has traditionally been *the* go-to lubricant brand recommended by sex toy reviewers, for its presumed safety. But in fact, no Sliquid lubes are iso-osmotic, though Sliquid H2O is the best choice: hypo-osmotic to a degree that’s unlikely to cause problems. But, having learned Sliquid Sassy is twice as concentrated as vaginal fluid, I will not be using Sassy again. (I will, however, be using my Pillow Talk Sassy, my favorite vibrator!)
  • For vaginal lubricants: Don’t trust the label “pH balanced” on a lube box unless it includes an actual pH number. Since the vagina and the rectum have very different pH levels,13 the term “pH balanced” can either mean (1) balanced for vaginal use, i.e., 4.0 to 4.5 pH; or (2) an average of vaginal and rectal pH, so 5.5 pH [=(4.0 vag pH + 7.0 rectal pH) ÷ 2]. The latter pH number, 5.5, is the level that begins to indicate a potential bacterial infection (BV) in the vagina. Optimally, a vaginal lubricant should be 4.5 pH at most.
  • Of course, how much you use matters. If you’re shooting large amounts of hyperosmolal lube inside of yourself, like via an ejaculating dildo, you’ll be more likely to experiencing damaging effects than if you lightly coat the outside of a vibrator. Everything is harmful in excess, even drinking water!

Is Coconut Oil Safe for Vaginal Use?

As a best practice, I can recommend (virgin) coconut oil for anal play, but I will not use it vaginally. The literature is inconclusive about whether the lipids (fats) from coconut oil can be easily cleaned out by the vagina; and whether coconut oil’s antimicrobial properties affect the vaginal microbiome either negatively or positively when used regularly as a sex lube.14

We just don’t know on a wide scale if coconut oil will mess up vaginal health—and, as always, some people will be more susceptible to infections (bacterial pathogens [as in BV], urinary tract infection, yeast, etc.) than other people. Anecdotal reports will definitely have some people with vaginas, even ones prone to yeast infection, who don’t feel bothered by coconut oil. So, you may choose to use coconut oil vaginally, based on your risk-aversity level. Coconut oil as a lubricant is safer than vaseline and petroleum oils, at least!


NOTES

First, I’d like to apologize for all the times I promoted Sliquid Sassy, and then Wicked Simply lubricants, over the past 5 years—assuming, because of their “natural” labeling and lack of glycerin, that they’d be very safe.

  1. In most cases. The silicone-silicone mix is debated, and may be OK with pure silicone dildos and plugs (not vibrators). Read more discussion here.
  2. In an effort to correct for the over-concentrated solution outside.
  3. Dr. Charlene S. Dezzutti, a microbiologist and virologist, quoted in Wendee Nicole, “…Chemicals in Feminine Hygiene Products and Personal Lubricants,” in Environmental Health Perspectives 122, no. 3 (2014): A70–A75.
  4. The inner layer, the basal layer, is the most “block like,” and crucial for health because it generates new cells. Latent viruses like HPV take advantage of that fact by integrating into the basal cells after the “superficial” or “apical” cell layers are broken through.
  5. See especially Fig. 2 in Ayehunie, Seyoum, et al., “Hyperosmolal vaginal lubricants markedly reduce epithelial barrier properties…,” in Toxicology Reports 5 (2018): 134–140.
  6. Figure 3 from Fuchs, Edward J., et al., “Hyperosmolar sexual lubricant causes epithelial damage in the distal colon…” in Journal of Infectious Diseases 195, no. 5 (March 2007): 703–10.
  7. Emphases added. Quotation from Ayehunie et al., “Hyperosmolal vaginal lubricants markedly reduce epithelial barrier properties…,” in Toxicology Reports 5 (2018): 134–140; this is a fantastic intro to lube safety from a very conclusive study. See my list of top science to read about lube osmolality here.
  8. See in particular Happel, Anna-Ursula, et al., “Considerations for Choosing Soluble Immune Markers to Determine Safety of Novel Vaginal Products,” in Gynecology, a section of Frontiers in Reproductive Health (May 2022), section “The Cautionary Tale of Nonoxynol-9.”
  9. Good Clean Love Almost Naked osmolality and pH; Good Clean Love BioNude lubricant osmolality and pH; Good Clean Love Liquid osmolality and pH; Good Clean Love Hybrid osmolality and pH; Yes! WB lubricant osmolality and pH; Aloe Cadabra osmolality and pH; Sliquid H2O osmolality and pH; Good Vibrations Please Gel osmolality and pH; Good Clean Love Restore moisturizer osmolality and pH; Ah Yes! VM osmolality and pH; Sliquid Sea osmolality and pH; Sliquid Organics Natural osmolality and pH; Sliquid Silk osmolality and pH; Sliquid Sassy osmolality and pH; Trojan H2O Closer osmolality and pH; Good Vibrations Please Cream lubricant osmolality and pH; KY Jelly Classic osmolality and pH; Wicked Simply Aqua osmolality and pH; Durex Massage & Play Aloe osmolality and pH; LubeLife osmolality and pH; Shibari Ultrasmooth Personal Lubricant osmolality and pH; Sutil Luxe lubricant osmolality and pH; Walgreens Lubricating Jelly osmolality and pH; Jo Agape osmolality and pH; Lola personal lubricant osmolality and pH; Sensuva Hybrid lubricant osmolality and pH; Durex Massage & Play Ylang-Ylang lubricant osmolality and pH; Cake Toy Wonder lubricant osmolality and pH; Wicked Mojo Water-based lubricant osmolality and pH; We-Vibe Lube osmolality and pH; Wicked Simply Aqua Jelle osmolality and pH; Wicked Simply Hybrid Jelle osmolality and pH; Wicked Simply Hybrid osmolality and pH; Intimate Earth Hydra osmolality and pH; Equate Personal Lubricant osmolality and pH; Shibari Aloe aloe-based lubricant osmolality and pH; Jo Gelato flavored lubricant osmolality and pH; Pjur Med Repair osmolality and pH; Jo Classic Hybrid lubricant osmolality and pH; Astroglide Gel osmolality and pH; Astroglide Water-Based Liquid osmolality and pH; Planned Parenthood Aqua Lube; Gun Oil H2O osmolality and pH; ID Glide lubricant osmolality and pH; Jo H2O osmolality and pH; Wicked Aqua Sensitive osmolality and pH; Slippery Stuff osmolality.
  10. It’s crazy how much these little pieces of plastic go for, y’all.
  11. The aloe vera should be in the lubricant’s first two or three ingredients, in that case.
  12. Indeed, the vaginal microbiome is the only human mini-ecosystem where good health correlates with less diversity.
  13. 3.8 to 4.5 pH is healthy for a not-currently-menstruating, premenopausal vagina; vs. ≈ 7 to 8 pH for the butt in most cases.
  14. At least one research study has found, “Virgin coconut oil might be used as an alternative to antibiotics” [which kill bacteria; not a great thing for healthy vaginas, where Lactobacillus bacteria dominance is critical to well-being]. Overall, as with too many gynecological topics, we don’t have wide-ranging controlled studies on actual people; so we’ll see some gynecologists firmly say to avoid coconut oil because it will disrupt vaginal flora, while others will opine that coconut oil might help with yeast infection—although there are no double-blind controlled studies showing effectiveness for coconut oil vs. the widely-accepted yeast infection prescription fluconazole.

13 thoughts on “Lubricant Safety: pH Balance & Osmolality Data Guide”

  1. Thank you for posting such a detailed and thorough study! I’m deeply disappointed about Wicked water based lubes– Simply Aqua Jelle had become my new go-to, as the thick texture is ideal for me. The reviews on the individual lubes are also hugely helpful.

    Reply
    • thank you for appreciating it!!! And I feel ya about the Wicked Simply. I was really loving the viscosity of it too, after I started using the lineup when Sliquid was having pandemic-related supply problems. Too bad!

      Reply
  2. This was an excellent and fun article to read! I am shocked with some of the lubes listed that aren’t actually good for the body. Thank you for taking the time to research and provide all this info.

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  3. Omigod I’m scared to know about Sliquid Satin now….I just discovered her….it can’t be over already. As someone who suffers from some serious lack of WAP due to meds, I looked into the Pjur Med Repair and I was infuriated by the ingredients. I’m weary of hyaluron in lube’s as well because I know when hyaluronic acid is in skincare, it functions by drawing in any moisture in the surrounding environment, so if you don’t layer an appropriate moisturizer on top it will actually start taking moisture from your skin and doing the opposite of what you wanted.

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    • Ooh, a Sliquid I missed! Satin is so unknown compared to H2O, etc., that I didn’t consider it! Curious how concentrated the plant cellulose in that one is! Will have to see about picking it up to test. (Feel free to donate a few bucks toward Satin’s cost!)

      Good for you for doing your research! It’s crazy how much we have to work to get safe products sometimes!

      Interesting about hyaluronic acid; it is a humectant, and billed as natural because it’s in lower layers of skin normally; but again, “natural” doesn’t mean “beneficial in all amounts when applied to different human bodies.” The percentage of hyaluronic acid in a lube/cream definitely matters; and now that I’m researching, it turns out that the HA particle size matters too! Added it to my “ingredients of concern” list.

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  4. I always hear such good things about Sliquid Sassy but it STINGS so bad for me! I love Sliquid Silk (it’s very multipurpose for me and my boyfriend) but may have to make the switch to one of the hybrids you recommended. Thanks for this post!

    Reply
    • Aha, interesting! Thank you for sharing. I have heard of a few Sliquid Sassy reactions; like, at some point years back on Twitter, I read where someone was thinking that the potassium sorbate in Sliquid Sassy was the problem for them. But that likely is not true for you, since both Silk and Sassy have potassium sorbate and citric acid as the preservatives.

      Silk has a little high osmolality, but probably won’t be too damaging; You might check out Good Clean Love’s Hybrid and see if it feels any better for you! Let me know your thoughts if you do!

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  5. wow thank you! any thoughts on the yes waterbased? it’s the most available where i live and also almost half the price of almost naked, but i’ve never seen a review on it…i had a bottle back then as teenager but it was reformulated since then and i’d like a proffesional’s comparison 🙂 i remember it as a bit of clotty jelly texture, like a plain aloe gel would have, not entirely smooth?

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  6. Thank you so much for doing this research! I’m gutted to hear about Sassy – it’s my current go-to because it’s not as drippy as most water-based lubes.

    Do you know if the Good Clean Love lubes are sold anywhere in the UK? I haven’t seen them anywhere and I’m not finding any obvious sources on Google. I’ve tried Yes WB and it’s ok but it’s so drippy I felt like I wasted half the bottle.

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  7. As always, well written and incredibly helpful content! I’ll be saving this information for future use! Thanks for sharing your insights with us!

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  8. Thank you for this excellent resource! In regards to footnote 12, I would like to point readers to the 2017 presentation, “Treating Vulvovaginal Atrophy/Genitourinary Syndrome of
    Menopause: Lubricants, Moisturizers, and Vaginal DHEA,” by Nick Panay. It’s the most relevant and thorough source I’ve found, and it indicates that premenopausal suggestions for osmolality and pH apply to postmenopausal vaginal use as well. But it becomes much more important when your vagina is already prone to be dry with high pH.

    I found it doing research because I am currently looking forward to young GSM due to taking testosterone – I was wondering if postmenopausal vaginal lubricant use should be higher pH than premenopausal in order to match the higher pH of postmenopausal vaginas, and the answer is no, vaginal lubricants should still be within the 3.8-4.5 range (the presentation says 3 should be the absolute rock bottom because animal studies have shown pH below 3 is unsafe for vaginal use). My understanding is that postmenopausal higher pH is part of the reason people with GSM tend to be more susceptible to infections, so it’s extra important for us to use lubes with the correct pH since our vaginas are already prone to having high pH. Just in case anyone was wondering. 🙂

    I will be bookmarking this post and sharing it every time I see someone with a vaginal lube question!

    Reply
    • Hi!! Thank you for reading! I have Edwards & Panay, “Treating…” in my top medical studies list for sure! My first comment on it was: “This literature review has great charts, and really, applies to how lubes affect vaginal tissues at any age.” The numbers they give there are especially helpful for “vaginal moisturizers,” of which I only tested a couple since my main goal for this piece was lubes. (RepHresh does pop up a lot, though, maybe I should add that.)

      Thank you for the great discussion of whether *all* people with vaginas should use a lube in that “normal” safe range, 3.8 to 4.5 pH, for premenopausal folks—that’s really good to know!

      Be well!!!

      Reply

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