The Truth About Organic Lubes
I tried a bunch and one was way better than the rest.
For a generation this conscientious about what we're consuming, it's no surprise that some of us are getting just as careful about what we put in, on, and around our genitals. Natural lubricants with organic ingredients flood the market now, promising better experiences: no damaging chemicals, no parabens or irritating artificial fragrances and dyes, as well as ingredients that will not only maintain your natural pH, but may even benefit you in some way. Some lubes are jumping even further on the "green" trend train by including cannabis-related compounds in their lubricants, claiming multiple benefits. But do we actually need a healthier, greener way of lubing up, or are all these promises just a slick (har har) way of getting people to spend more?
There are two criteria when it comes to lubes, says Lauren Streicher, associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University's medical school and the medical director of the Center for Sexual Health: 1) Do they work (i.e., are they slippery enough and do they last long enough)? and 2) Are they non-irritating? Beyond that is personal preference, she says. But in her experience, it's the silicone-based lubes that provide the best bang for your buck (literally).
"Silicone lube is really the Porsche of lubes, if you will," Streicher says, noting that in general they don't require lots of additives, they don't cause infections, they last a long time, and they're very slippery. I can attest to this. My own experience with silicone lube is that while there may not be anything particularly exciting about it, it certainly gets the job done. Water-based lubes are usually stickier and tend to have more additives. Streicher also says that there are some additives in various lubricants—petroleum and glycerin to name a couple—that have been shown to have negative effects on vaginal health.
While natural lubes tend to not include those ingredients, Streicher, who wrote Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever, says that the push towards "natural" and "organic" lubes is largely clever marketing more than anything else. "People see the word 'organic' and they think it's good for their vagina, but nothing could be sillier. Arsenic is organic and natural but it doesn't mean it's good for you. The idea that just because something is organic means that it is better or safer—it's marketing, not science."
The branding is incredibly strong, though, and some people do have reason to go for such a thing. "One popular product is Wet Organics, which is aloe-based and meets with approval from my vegan patients," says Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine and author of A Woman's Guide to Sexual Health. She says that while most of the lubricants available in this country are safe, she understands why patients may be tempted to try a brand that markets itself under the all natural, organic umbrella.
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If silicone is the standard when it comes to lubricants, it suggests that there must be something extra exciting, extra beneficial to these non-silicone, all-natural ones—even if it's 95 percent marketing hype. I decided to find out. I received all-natural lubricants and orgasm-enhancers from four different companies and then recruited the closest willing man (conveniently enough, my husband) to test them all out.
First, a pro tip: Because organic and natural lubes and lubricating sprays are being made with all sorts of food products, make sure that neither you or your partner are allergic to any of them. It would be a bummer if you were having the O of your life while your partner began having trouble breathing because of a cinnamon allergy. Also, double check to make sure your lube is ok to be used with latex condoms, because an unanticipated pregnancy or STI would definitely cancel out any of the benefits these lubes produce .
Sustain Natural Organic Personal Lubricant ($13)
Sustain's natural lubricant is straight-up quality lube. There is nothing fancy or special about it (no enhancements, bells and whistles, or ingredients that intentionally make your parts tingle), but if you're looking for a simple lube that isn't silicone based and that's potentially less irritating than a petroleum or glycerin-based one, this is it. It dries smooth with little tackiness, and the lavender-scented one (I tried both that and the unscented one) has a pleasant, mild smell—nothing overpowering. Per the label, it's 95 percent organic, includes aloe as the main ingredient, and is free of petroleum, silicone, parabens and glycerin.
Good Clean Love CBD Caragold Premium Lubricant ($20)
Good Clean Love seems to be capitalizing not only on the organic trend in lubricants, but on the inclusion of cannabis—a staple of "natural wellness"—in these products as well. Their Caragold lube contains CBD, a non-psychoactive (and legal) cannabis compound that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. After all the sensationalized headlines about getting your vag high from cannabis-infused lubes, I went in with a healthy amount of skepticism, and kept snacks on hand in case the munchies hit midway through.
When it comes to cannabis, Streicher says that while there are a lot of anecdotal reports to back up these claims, scientific evidence is a bit harder to come by. "We know that cannabis has physiological effects, but at this point, we have no scientific evidence" as to how it will affect you or your nether regions. While she feels generally positive about cannabis having healing properties, she says that until the science is there to back it up, it's simply just another trendy marketing technique.
In addition to the organic CBD oil, the scentless Caragold lube includes organic aloe and carrageenan (which is made from algae or seaweed) as its slickening agents. As a lube, it does alright. It worked to make things slippery, but after a while, it got a bit tacky to the touch, which wasn't ideal. And I didn't get any extra benefits from it, far as I could tell—at least none that appeared while using it. To be fair, this lube is not marketed as an orgasm booster, though the wording is a bit vague as to what you are supposed to be gaining from it beyond wetting things up a bit temporarily.
Sliquid Stimulating O Gel & Soul Coconut Oil Moisturizer ($18 / $12)
The Stimulating O Gel is a "naturally derived clitoral stimulating gel" that is "designed to increase your pleasure and sensitivity." Most of the ingredients are labeled organic, including aloe, peppermint oil and menthol—the latter of which help create a tingly sensation. Streicher suggests a bit of caution with ingredients like these, particularly as some people can become irritated by them. "Are you kidding?" she asks me. "Are you going to put cayenne pepper and menthol peppermint on your clit and then be shocked when it burns?" Despite the warning, I bravely forged ahead.
It took a while (and some stimulation) before I felt anything extra. But once it kicked in, it was definitely enjoyable, and thankfully, non-irritating. It wasn't was as powerful as others I've tried, but it certainly got the job done. We used it in conjunction with the Soul Coconut Oil Moisturizer, which is an effective coconut-oil-based lubricant with no smell or taste (the O Gel had a mild but pleasant peppermint scent to it). Note that coconut oil is not compatible with condoms.
O Gel seems like it would be great for somebody who has the time and patience for a relaxing, drawn-out sex session. As a frequently exhausted parent who enjoys a solid quickie, it wasn't fast-acting enough for me, but I can definitely see myself using it on the rare occasions where sleep and childcare (and the dog somehow being someplace else) all converge for a more marathon bone session.
Foria Awaken ($48)
Ding ding ding. We have a winner. The Foria brand has made its splash (heh) by being one of the first companies to use cannabis in their lubricant products. While its THC-laced products are only available to members in California, they've recently released a similar product that can be purchased and shipped worldwide. Awaken is a spray that contains hemp (which is legal) but no THC (the active ingredient in cannabis that gives you a high but is still not federally legal).
First of all, this spray is not just tolerable, it's delicious. It smells and tastes like Girl Scout Thin Mints. It helps that the ingredients are all organic herbs and spices found more often in cookie recipes than lube (peppermint, cacao, vanilla, cardamom oils). Liquid coconut oil helps keeps things slippery as well—but careful, like Soul Coconut Moisturizer above, it's not compatible with condoms. And as per Streicher's warning about putting various spices in your cooch, Foria actually notes on their site that some of their potent ingredients—whether organic or not—can be irritating to folks with sensitive skin, especially if there's something unusual—yeast infections, razor burn, or STIs—going on down there.
Awaken has a quick onset, and only minutes after being sprayed, I could feel things begin to, well, awaken. My clitoris definitely started tingling, and every usual sensation I get with regular orgasms seemed amplified somehow. I became much more sensitive to the touch, and noticed some increased blood flow in the region, which certainly helped when it came to experiencing just more of all the euphoric physical sensations of sex. We used the spray on my husband as well, just to see if he got any benefit, but he said it didn't really do much for him. At the same time, it may not have been left on long enough, because well, it tastes like cookies.
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