Here’s everything you need to know in choosing a safe personal lubricant — that’s right for you!

I was recently honored to interview Aly Oseth, a sex educator.

Aly Oseth

Aly Oseth is the Events and Community Resource Manager at Lotus Blooms in Alexandria, VA. She is currently working toward acquiring Sex Educator Certifications from the Institute for Sexuality Education and Enlightenment and AASECT. Aly is driven by her passion for equitable access to unbiased information and resources for all individuals with an emphasis on breaking socio-economic barriers to quality sexual healthcare and sexual pleasure products.

LZ: I understand your sexological research area is personal lubricants. Why lube?

Aly Oseth:

When I started working at Lotus Blooms, a feminist sex shop with a focus on health and education, I was trained that our store carries lubricants that specifically do not contain glycerin and glycol. It was explained to me that these ingredients are not great for the body and, as I continued to press for more information, I was offered a few resources to look into. Ultimately, I found myself questioning what information I was providing to others was based in scientific information and what was marketing from the companies whose products we sold. The more I dug in on investigating, the more I found myself realizing that the issues we commonly see with more “mainstream” industries were just as pervasive in the industry I was dipping my toes into. Specifically issues regarding a lack of evidence-based research, lack-luster (yet costly) regulations, and a lack of business to consumer transparency. As I see it, our society is currently in a position where it is having a major reckoning around what companies have been allowed to advertise versus what is being sold.  I’ve managed to find myself in a position where I am able to contribute to this raised consciousness through the lens of a sex educator who works in a retail sex shop. For now I am focusing on lubricant and hope to expand this research to other sexual devices over time. Honestly, a more brief answer would be that I am a curious, yet skeptical person and this particular topic has been a slippery slope.


LZ:  Who needs lube?
Aly Oseth: 

Anyone who wants sex acts to move more smoothly. Natural lubrication created by the vagina is affected by so many more factors than arousal alone. For that matter, wetness of the vagina is not even necessarily an indicator that someone is aroused. A good lube is great because it reduces/eliminates friction and helps protect the delicate tissue from tearing. Tears in the walls of the vagina or rectum can lead to discomfort and increase susceptibility to an infection. Ultimately, the decision to use lube is incredibly personal. If you think this is something that you’d enjoy or benefit from, scoop up some lube!


LZ: What does the average consumer need to know when choosing the right kind of lubricant?
Aly Oseth:

A lot of the most commonly available water-based lubricants that can be picked up at a drugstore are going to have formulas that are not actually great for your body. When I say this, I mean that the ultimately leave the tissue inside the body dry and vulnerable. They feel slick in use but then potentially leave the body feeling irritated. What has happened here is that the lube has sucked moisture out of your body’s cells, which has caused a layer of cells to die and fall away. When this happens, the body is possibly more susceptible to infection. If you’re using a water-based lubricant, ideally its formula has osmolality levels that are comparable to the body’s natural levels, around 250-350. Most lubes out there, however, far exceed these levels and the World Health Organization has suggested that something below 1500 would be ok.

Most companies are not making this information easily accessible, however. From my research, my rule of thumb is that if a company is unwilling to disclose the osmolality levels of their product, its likely that the levels aren’t ideal. Sliquid, Flip, and Good Clean Love are all products that I would recommend.

Also, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Most sex stores will sell sample size packs or smaller sized bottles. Pick some up and see what works for you and what doesn’t. If something doesn’t work, check out the ingredient list and see if there is an ingredient that wasn’t in a lube that was working for you. Treat it like your own, sexy science experiment.


LZ: There seem to be so many products on the market. And many categories. Can you simplify things so we might make an informed choice?
Aly Oseth:

There are water-based, oil-based, and silicone-based lubes. Which one works best is completely individualistic. Some pretty decent general rules to follow are:

If you are using condoms, do not use an oil-based lube. They are not compatible.

If you are using silicone toys, do not use a silicone lube. There is a lot of debate happening currently about whether or not this is actually the case. If you really want to use silicone lube with silicone toys, conduct a spot test somewhere on the toy that doesn’t go inside the body. If there is going to be a bad reaction, it will happen quickly.  If that seems like too much effort, just don’t mix them.

Use a thicker lube for anal sex play, it is going to coat the tissues in the body and hold its place more effectively than a thinner lube.

Avoid glycerin and glycol if you can. Glycerin typically is associated with the high osmolality levels that I mentioned in the previous question.

If you are unsure/anxious, go to an education focused sex shop. The staff will be more than happy to talk you through everything. If the staff seems annoyed or dismissive about your questions, move along to another shop with staff who will take your questions seriously.


LZ: What’s your take on CBD lube?
Aly Oseth:

If you want CBD in your system, the vagina and the rectum are very wonderfully places to put it for effective absorption into the system. Most of the CBD lubes that I’ve seen are made from coconut oil. Some people love coconut oil and some people have trouble with it. If you are interested, I’d recommend trying it out and monitoring your body for negative reactions.


LZ: Is there anything a person should be wary of when shopping for these products?
Aly Oseth:

In general, check your ingredients and pay attention to the marketing of the products. Smitten Kitten (a feminist sex shop in MN) has an incredible website where they have shared details on what ingredients to avoid/be mindful of, I would recommend visiting their website if you want more information on specific ingredients to pay attention to.


LZ: One more question, which do you use?
Aly Oseth:

I mostly use Sliquid silk. I like the medium thickness consistency as well as how long it lasts.


LZ: Thanks so much, Aly. I’m so appreciative to have you here, clearing all this up! Where is the best place for people to find you online?

Aly Oseth:

Oh geez, I am so lousy at having an online presence. Their best bet is to follow Lotus Blooms on social media and if someone is interested in being kept in the loop as I continue my lube research, they can shoot me an email at [email protected]