The ingredients that make up health and wellness products are a serious consideration for both manufacturers and buyers. Rather than inject unnecessary chemicals and compounds for short-term effects that make the product more profitable (such as giving it a longer shelf life, a more pleasing fragrance, a better taste, etc.), manufacturers should promote the user’s health with natural components that will only benefit the body above all else.
Nevertheless, many wellness products contain both active and inactive ingredients that are required in order for them to get the job done. In the realm of sexual wellness, personal lubricants are one such product that many people approach with a wary eye on the labels. For something as important as sex health, lube ingredients are expected to be not only functional when used in coordination with other sex products, but also harmless to the body. With many people suffering from sensitive skin or dryness during intercourse, the choice of which lubricant to purchase is a big one.
Lubricants can generally be oil-based, water-based, and silicone-based. Of the three, silicone causes the most hesitance amongst consumers due to its artificial nature. But what exactly is silicone? And is it safe to be used in your personal lubricant of choice?
What is Silicone?
Silicone is a polymer (also known as polysiloxane) that appreciates a wide range of uses in products throughout both the consumer and industrial markets. It’s best described as a cross between synthetic plastic and synthetic rubber and comes in many forms, including silicone rubber, silicone grease, and even silicone caulk. The material mostly sees use as a sealant, adhesive, and insulant for hardware and tools. One of its other benefits is that of a lubricant.
Specifically, silicone is made of silicon, which in turn is made from silica. Despite the similarity of their names, silica, silicon, and silicone are each different materials!
Silica generally consists of beach sand and quartz. When heated in a furnace with carbon, silica transforms into the base element of silicon. The newly created silicon is then mixed with hydrocarbons to create siloxane monomers, which are finally bonded into polymers to produce silicone resin as we know it. Even though the process of creating silicone is heavily industrial, the end product enjoys frequent use in health and wellness products thanks to its aforementioned properties.
But just because companies like to use silicone in their products doesn’t make it good for you, necessarily. So should silicone lubricant really have a place in the bedroom?
Is It Okay to Use Personal Lubricants With Silicone?
Considering how artificial silicone’s creation process is, can it be trusted in sexual wellness products like personal lubricants? What is silicone’s effect on the body?
When compared to the alternative lubricant bases, it turns out silicone lubricants are actually more effective at staying wet for longer periods of time in addition to being completely safe to the human body. This is partly because the body is unable to absorb silicone, whereas oil- or water-based lubricants can easily be taken in during intercourse. Silicone-based lubricants don’t contain any water or oils, meaning they won’t dry up for a long, long time. Even better, silicone lubricants (without any additives) are less likely to cause irritations or allergic reactions, and even stay slippery when used in water.
So if you had reason to be wary about silicone as a base for sexual wellness products, worry no more—it’s actually safer than other options!
For example, oil-based lubricants are usually a bad idea to use in combination with condoms. This is because the oils manufacturers use have been known to break down latex rubber, making condoms more likely to degrade or tear during sex. As previously mentioned, oils are also more likely to be absorbed into the body, taking any chemicals they might have with them. For these reasons, oil-based personal lubricants are steadily becoming less preferential over water- and silicone-based products. With so many lubricants designed specifically for sex out on the market, it’s generally easy to avoid oil altogether.
Water-based lubricants are better than oil overall, in that they will mix will condoms just fine. Plenty of water lubes are also designed to be water-soluble and can be easily washed away after use. The only downsides? Water-based lubricants can’t be used in the bathtub or shower, and will also tend to dry out faster than silicone solutions.
But as good as silicone-based lubricants are, there are still some limitations to their use under certain circumstances. Silicone lubes cannot be used alongside silicone sex toys, as the mixture between the two silicone products will cause the toy’s material to swell, deform, and become gritty over time. This creates a bit of a conundrum for some, as silicone is the safest material for sex toys (it is smoother and less likely to retain germs), while silicone lubricant is slippery and effective.
Instead, it is recommended to use water-based lubes to safely enjoy silicone sex toys, as the water will have a minimal impact on the toy’s structure. Certain brands of water lubricants are high-quality enough to feel and act similar to silicone lubes (without the actual benefits, unfortunately) to stand as a suitable replacement for most people.
Silicone lubes are also more than happy to stain bed sheets, and are more difficult to wash out as a result. They also tend to be a little pricey compared to other lube products and don’t taste very good in most cases. However, it’s important to note that a supply of silicone lubricant won’t run out as quickly as that of other bases thanks to its long-standing tendencies, meaning you could potentially save more with silicone in the long run.
With those cons aside, however, there is no doubt that scientifically and practically, silicone-based personal lubricants are safe to use and particularly good at their job. Users can enjoy extended sessions of sexual fun thanks to a mixture that stays wet and slippery much longer than oil or water and feels extremely smooth when put into practice.