Why Glycerin In Lube Is Not Safe (And Options That Are)
Glycerin is often used in personal lubricants — typically those that are water-based.
Also known as glycerol, glycerin is a type of sugar alcohol and humectant, a substance that attracts water from the skin or air that surrounds it.
However, because it can cause yeast infections, genital irritation, and increase your risk of STIs when used in lube, glycerin should generally be avoided.
- Although it isn’t technically a sugar, glycerin (like sugar) is a food source for Candida albicans, a type of fungi that’s commonly responsible for yeast infections in the vagina or anus.
- Glycerin is a humectant — meaning it draws in moisture — but it also raises the osmolality of a personal lubricant, which can increase your risk of irritation and subsequent infection.
- Glycerin can damage the mucus membranes of the genitals or anus, increasing the risk of infections or STI transmission between partners.
Glycerin’s chemical makeup does make things nice and slippery as a lube ingredient, but it can cause more problems than it’s worth when introduced to the bedroom.
Why Is Glycerin Used In Lube?
Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a type of sugar alcohol that is viscous, clear, odorless and has a slightly sweet taste.
It can be found in many applications from foods to cosmetics, e-cigarettes, and beyond — including personal lubricants (most often those that are water-based).
Glycerin may be listed on an ingredient label as:
- Sugar alcohols
Naturally derived from both plant and animal sources, glycerin is a very adaptable chemical.
You might encounter the same ingredient in your lotion, gummy bears, and vape juice as you go about your day.
One reason you’ll often find glycerin in lube — besides its slick viscosity — is because it is a high-osmolality humectant.
A humectant pulls moisture from one side of a membrane to another and osmolarity measures a water-based solution’s ability to do that.
To put it simply, glycerin in lube not only acts as its own sexy WD-40 but draws out your own natural moisture at the same time.
Glycerin is a plentiful, flexible, and stable ingredient that can be helpful in a number of ways, but not so much when it comes to a sex lube.
Why Should Glycerin Be Avoided In Lube?
Although it’s commonly used in water-based lubricants (although not in any that we personally recommend), glycerin can be problematic when used internally during vaginal or anal intercourse.
Here’s what you need to know about glycerin in lube:
- Like sugar, glycerin acts as a food source for the microorganism responsible for most yeast infections, Candida albicans. When this fungus is well-fed, it can quickly lead to an overgrowth — resulting in a yeast infection in the vagina or anus.
- Glycerin draws in moisture while also raising the osmolality of a personal lubricant, putting you at risk for genital or anal irritation and infection.
- Glycerin breaks down mucus membranes and damages tissues in the vagina and anus, which increases the risk of not only irritation but STI transmission, as well.
With glycerin being a sugar alcohol, it can feed the natural yeast (fungi) in your vagina.
Although a healthy vaginal microbiome keeps such fungi in check, a food source will cause them to grow and multiply — quickly — leading to a yeast infection, especially if you’re already prone to getting them.
Fans of anal sex are also at risk regarding glycerin in lube, as anal yeast infections are a possibility as well.
Glycerin raises the osmolality of a lube — pulling moisture from your body because its humectant properties draw moisture toward the solution — putting you at risk for genital or anal irritation and infection in the process.
A high-osmolality lube can damage cell walls and mucus layers that normally act as a barrier for STIs.
As mentioned above, glycerin has dozens of uses in day-to-day life, but it probably goes without saying that it is a bad idea and an ingredient you want to avoid when selecting a personal lubricant.
Glycerin may be ubiquitous, but there are plenty of options for those looking for lube without glycerin.
In fact, every single water-based lubricant we have ever personally vetted, tested, and reviewed is completely free from glycerin.
We take your health as seriously as we take that of our own team and we’d never recommend a product we have not (or would not) use ourselves.
Our favorite water-based lubricants below are all glycerin-free:
→ For more, read: Best & Safest Water-Based Lubes: Tested & Reviewed By Our Team
What To Look For In A Glycerin-Free Lube
The ingredients list is the most obvious thing to look for when lube shopping.
Just as with food, the higher an ingredient is on the list, the more of it is contained within the product.
It’s important to keep an eye out for glycerin using an alias on the label — such as glycol, glycerol, glycerine, or even “sugar alcohols.”
Even if a lubricant is free from glycerin, it may still contain parabens (preservatives that are linked to endocrine disruption and some cancers) or other additives and ingredients that can cause irritation and should be avoided.
Following the rule, “the fewer ingredients, the better,” can go a long way toward simplifying your search.
Top Glycerin-Free Lube Recommendations
Speaking of simplicity, check out our list of the best water-based lubes for some great products we’ve already vetted and tested ourselves.
Every recommendation is free of both glycerin and parabens — and is made from only body-safe ingredients you can trust.
FAQs About Glycerin In Lube
Here are answers to some of the most common concerns and questions about lubes with glycerin.
Is Glycerin Dangerous?
The chemical itself is non-toxic and is a common ingredient found in foods and beauty products.
In fact, you’ve probably inhaled some at a concert or haunted house, as it is used in fog machines.
Can I Use Natural Or Vegan (Vegetable) Glycerin As A Lube?
Vegetable glycerin as lube carries all of the same risks as using a lube that contains glycerin, including yeast infections and genital or anal irritation.
Is Glycerin Good For Skin?
Yes, glycerin is great for moisturizing skin, thanks to its humectant properties.
That same characteristic, however, is problematic in personal lubricants because glycerin increases a lube’s osmolality, and a high osmolality increases the risk for genital or anal irritation and STI transmission between partners.
Glycerin is a miracle molecule for a lot of products — just not when it comes to those designed for sex.
Steer clear of vaginal and anal lubes containing glycerin to avoid complications such as yeast infections and an increased risk of STIs.
Always read the ingredients on the back of any lubricant you’re considering purchasing and if you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our personally vetted recommendations — they are all glycerin and paraben-free.