Keep things clean when you're getting dirty! Find out how to avoid vibrators and lube packed with parabens, glycerin, and other toxins
You've heard about the dangers of certain chemicals, like phthalates and parabens, in your personal-care products. But many of those same compounds are also found in products you use below the belt, like lubes, condoms, and even your sex toys. And there's reason to be concerned. "The vagina is really absorptive," says Aviva Romm, M.D., a midwife and women's integrative medicine specialist. "So when you put something on it, it's not like putting something on your skin—it's like putting something in your mouth."
So what exactly is the problem? "Many conventional lubes and lubricated condoms contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as parabens and petrochemicals. These literally bind to the same receptors in our cells as estrogen, and can trigger an estrogen-like creation in the body," explains Romm. "This can contribute to a host of problems, most notably with your hormonal cycles, but also with fertility or even cancer." Sex toys made of certain types of rubber or softer plastics may also contain phthalates, another endocrine-disrupting chemicals, she adds.
Another risky ingredient found in many lubes and lubricated products is glycerin. "It changes the way the vaginal tissue absorbs water, and actually dries out the vaginal tissue by pulling water out of it," says Romm. That can cause irritation, and even worse, may increase your risk of STIs, she says. (Psst... Here's Everything Else You Need to Know About Lube.)
The good news: There are companies that are dedicated to making your sex sessions safer. No matter where you're browsing, it's a good idea to avoid toys made of soft or rubbery plastics, which are often made of chemical-laden materials. Otherwise, here are four clean places to start.
1. Sustain. Romm helps promote this company that makes condoms, lubricants, and "post-play" wipes all made without parabens or glycerin. (The lubricated condoms do contain silicone, a petroleum product—because that's the only type the FDA allows to be used on condoms.) As an added bonus, 10 percent of the profits Sustain makes are donated to women's health groups.
2. Good Clean Love. This non-toxic brand manufacturers lubricants made without petrochemical and parabens. Their Bio-Match Restore lubricant ($20; goodcleanlove.com) is also made without glycerin, is pH balanced, and contains healthy lactobacilli to keep your vaginal microflora balanced.
3. Seattle Green Toys. When you're looking for sex toys (and you should be—it's one of the best ways to Have an Amazing Orgasm), consider Seattle Green Toys' site. It features only toys that are free of phthalates, and "other toxins."
4. Good Vibrations. It's a sex store that also recently implemented an "Ecorotic" rating system. When you're shopping their site, look for the Ecorotic seal to find toys and products that are made from natural, body-safe ingredients.