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BY DR. MICHAEL KRYCHMAN
One persistent and significant social and cultural problem that currently still remains is the social acceptability and usability for women's health (vulva owners) to use vaginal health products including vaginal moisturizers for dryness and sexual lubricants as care products. The ingredients of these products are often misunderstood, and their reported uses are misconstrued. Over the counter lubricants are not only for personal comfort, decrease vaginal dryness, and may help with issues such as menopause, the majority of men and women use sexual lubricants to enhance and heighten existing sexual pleasure and increase overall wellness.
How do many women actually choose a lubrication (aka lube) or vaginal moisturizer? A common theme that bubbles up to the surface is the shocking prevalence of shame and secrecy. Women will describe a similar scenario: she puts on a gray full length dark trench coat, drives five to ten miles away from her home to an adjacent neighborhood at sunset, to an out of the way pharmacy or drug store. She is fearful that she will be discovered as a sexual being! Women may be afraid to enter said pharmacy, under the cover of night, walking slowly and carefully to the intimacy product aisle. Without hesitation, or careful observation, without looking at the wide array of products, prices, or ingredient list, she just grabbed the first bottle at eye level. She puts it under several other random products, praying for no price check at the register. No check on Ph balance, propylene glycol. No check if it is water-based or silicone based. No check if it is recommended by gynecologists or potentially harmful for the vaginal area or may be conducive to vaginal infections.
There is a pervasive amount of misinformation concerning over the counter intimate sexual products. Here are some helpful hints that will help the educated and empower women in choosing the correct lubricant products. Embrace your sexual courage and make some time to read the labeling of your intimate products. Become self-educated about the difference between vaginal moisturizers and lubricants. Understanding when to use each specific product is also essential.
Feminine hygiene products come in many shapes and sizes, and not just tampons or menstrual products. Moisturizers are for maintenance and are used to hydrate the vaginal lining independent of intercourse. Lubricants are for sexual activity and sexual health - lovemaking; they help with lubricity and decrease friction. Women may also choose a moisturizer or lubricant for treatment of vaginal dryness or irritation, as well as to heighten sexual pleasure and enjoyment.
Women should start reading labels to identify potentially irritants and caustic additives.
Let’s dispel some of the myths about additives.
Parabens are common preservatives that are often added to cosmetics, including vaginal moisturizers and lubricants. They are known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a formal statement indicating that parabens in the concentrations found in cosmetics and other dermatologic products (up to 25%) posed no logical or carcinogenic health risk to the consumer. The American Cancer Society followed suit and also issued the statement which indicated that there was insufficient scientific evidence to support that cosmetics increased breast cancer and that larger better designed and randomized clinical programs were necessary. Despite these position statements indicating that small quantities of parabens likely pose no serious health risks or cancer risks, many myths concerning parabens still persist.
Glycerin is another common additive that may be considered a drying agent. Some women feel that this additive may predispose to an imbalance of the vaginal flora which may make it easier to get candida or yeast infections. We have another specific blog discussing glycerin so stay tuned for a more detailed discussion about glycerin.
Menthol and synthetic derivatives of menthol as well as natural Peppermint Oil are often added to sexual arousal gels and can be both irritating and drying to a woman’s vaginal lining and can irritate and cause damages mucus membrane even pain in some women
Polyethylene Glycol (PG)
PG can be found in common products like brake fluid, anti-freeze, and paint solvents, and can also be found in some vaginal products and can be used as a thickening agent. It may affect the skins natural barrier and can irritate the mucosa and cause irritation or discomfort in some women.
Nonoxynol-9 is a detergent that acts as a spermicide and is often found in condoms, lubricants and sex accessory cleaners. In clinical studies, it was also shown to help kill the HIV virus. One caveat remains is that it causes abrasions and micro lesions in the lining or mucosa of the vagina and may harm the protective rectal lining in the anus. As a result, it may increase chances of get AIDs and other sexually transmitted infections.
Fragrances maybe quite toxic according to the cosmetic database. Synthetically created smells are typically a mixture of phthalates, and other chemicals. Fragrances have been associated with irritation, redness, and other serious vaginal complaints. Fragrance ingredients may include diethyl phthalate and Galaxolide.
Women have choices! Women have a choice for vaginal intimate health. There are many confusing options, but they must educate, empower and educate themselves to make the right healthy choice!