When you’re getting down to business, you’re likely not thinking about how something that’s meant to protect you can harm you. Condoms, lubricants and sex toys are perfectly safe to use regularly, right?
Well, it depends on what’s inside the products themselves. Whether you’re going solo or with a partner, you should be conscious of what you might be exposing yourself — and others — to. Here are seven chemicals you should think twice about before ingesting or inserting them into your body.
Latex is a natural rubber used in condoms and sex toys. Approximately 1–6% of Americans have a latex allergy. Latex allergies usually develop after repeated exposure to latex products. Allergic reactions can occur when sensitive individuals come in contact with or inhale latex proteins. The symptoms range from contact dermatitis (mild) to anaphylaxis (life-threatening).
Glycerin is a colorless, sweet-tasting liquid found in many condoms, lubricants and some self-lubricating sex toys. Glycerin is safe in small amounts but can cause problems in the long run. Glycerin may dry out the vagina, causing irritation, yeast infections and increasing the risk of STIs. If that wasn’t bad enough, glycerin isn’t vegan — it contains animal fats.
Phthalates are commonly utilized to soften PVC, rubber and other plastics. The use of phthalates is banned in the production of children’s toys but not sex toys. Phthalates may cause damage to kidneys, lungs, liver, the digestive tract and the reproductive system. In high doses, exposure to phthalates can lead to cancer.
Parabens are preservatives used to prolong the shelf life of liquids such as lubricants. Many people avoid parabens in their hair care and body products and instead opt for “paraben-free” alternatives. Parabens are rumored to reduce testosterone levels, disrupt endocrine and cause cancer. The FDA is currently investigating the safety of parabens due to health concerns.
5. Bisphenol A
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a common plastic ingredient found within medical devices, food packaging and water bottles. BPA used to be considered a safe material, but the FDA warns of the negative effects of consumption over time. Exposure to BPA in sex toys can lead to reduced testosterone levels, disrupted hormones, heart problems and even cancer.
Benzocaine is a numbing agent in lubes and lubricated condoms that dulls the sensation of pain. However, the risks outweigh the benefits. Benzocaine can cause irritation and allergic contact dermatitis. Moreover, ignoring pain during sex may result in injuries, microtears and major problems down the road.
Petrochemicals, or chemical substances derived from petroleum, are used in most flavored or warming sensation lubricants. Lubricants made from petroleum can alter the vagina’s natural pH levels, ultimately leading to infections. According to a study, women who use petroleum jelly as lube are 2.2 times more likely to test positive for bacterial vaginosis.
So, what’s the solution? Consumer awareness. Read the back of the label for condoms and lubes, and research brands before buying sex toys. Choose products with natural ingredients that are vegan and cruelty-free.
Many name brands now offer non-latex condoms made of polyurethane. Some of our favorite non-toxic condom alternatives include GLYDE Ultra Thin Premium Condoms, HANX Condoms and Sustain Natural Ultra Thin Condoms. Our picks for organic lubes are Coconu Organic Personal Lubricant, Good Clean Love Almost Naked Organic Personal Lubricant and Wet Organics Aloe Based Lube.