You’ve been getting hot and heavy, and now you’re ready to seal the deal. You reach for the bottle of lube in your nightstand, and climb on top! A few minutes later, your sexy bits feel uncomfortable. So, you switch positions and add some more lube. Soon, your discomfort turns to pain. You’re burning and itching so bad that you swear your partner’s skin is covered in sandpaper.

You’re desperate to find a solution. You try new positions and go slower, but nothing is helping. You go to your doctor, and they can’t find anything wrong. You’re told, “just use more lube” – but you are, and it’s not working! What next?

Look at the Ingredients

Studies show that a third of women experience pain during sex at some point. Most resources and doctors recommend lube, but new research indicates that the lubricants themselves may be the problem! Over 95% of OTC lubricants contain chemicals that are well-known to be toxic and irritating to the skin. Turn your bottle around, and see if your go-to lube has any of these harmful ingredients.

The main compounds to look for are parabens (like propylparaben, methylparaben, and butylparaben), glycerine, and glycols (like propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol). These chemicals are used to preserve lubricants and make them slippery and long-lasting, but they are also linked to painful and dangerous reactions.

Parabens have been found in cancerous breast tumors, and have been linked to breast, ovarian, and testicular cancer, as well as reduced sperm count. They can also create allergic responses in the skin, especially the sensitive thin skin of the vaginal and rectal walls.

Glycerine is linked to yeast infections and mucous membrane damage, while glycols are known skin and eye irritants. Propylene glycol is also found in brake fluid, anti-freeze, and paint solvent, and can cause visible skin damage. Polyethylene glycol is linked to cancer, acidosis, and central nervous system damage.

If you’re using spermicidal lubricant, the sperm-killing chemical nonoxynol-9 also causes cell and tissue damage. Any lubricants with fragrances, menthol, or peppermint can also be irritating, drying, and cause allergic reactions.

These chemicals can also increase your risk of catching an STI, as recent studies show that those who use lubricants regularly have an increased rate of STIs and transmission.

Why are these harmful chemicals allowed in lube?

Most lubricants are sold “for novelty use only”, or are not regulated by the FDA. With that label, they are held to a lower standard and do not have to go through the same safety testing as other products. Only prescription lubricants and lubes that make claims about safety during pregnancy are held to a higher safety standard.

But, don’t worry, there are alternatives out there! Many high-quality lubricant brands are now removing parabens and glycerine to meet the needs of their customers, who demand safer and healthier products. Look for lubricants that are are paraben and glycerine free, or all-natural and organic alternatives.

Everyone’s body is different, so explore your options and try a few different brands. Some companies even offer small sample-sized packets for a low price. If you experience any pain, burning, or itching – wash it off, and try another! With a little time, you’ll find the lube that’s perfect for you and your body.