pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline (basic) something is. pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14, with 0 being strongly acidic and 14 being strongly basic.
Why The pH Balance Of Your Personal Lubricant Is Important
The pH level of lube absolutely matters to your vaginal and anal health — far more than you may realize.
Using a lubricant with a pH that doesn’t closely match that of your vagina or anus can not only result in discomfort or irritation, but it may also make both more susceptible to infection.
In this article, we’ll talk about vaginal and anal pH, what can happen if the pH of either is disrupted, what a pH-balanced lubricant is, and the benefits of using one, and recommend the best pH-balanced lubes.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What Is Lube pH
- Why Is It Important
- How Lube Affects Your pH
- Benefits Of pH-Balanced Lube
- How To Find A pH-Balanced Lube
What Is Lube pH?
In chemistry, “pH” typically refers to the “potential for hydrogen.”
At its base, a personal lubricant is nothing more than a solution made from combined ingredients.
Revisiting high school science class for a moment, a solution can be classified as being acidic or alkaline (basic) depending on the concentration of hydrogen ions it contains within its water molecules.
Pure water can be found at the center of the pH scale, which ranges from 0 to 14. With a pH of 7, pure water is completely neutral.
Solutions with water molecules that have a higher concentration of hydrogen ions have a lower pH, making them more acidic in the process.
Likewise, a solution with a higher pH level is more alkaline (basic) and has a lower concentration of hydrogen ions present.
You’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with personal lubricant?”
The answer is: Everything — at least if there is even the slightest amount of water in a lube. Hydrogen ions exist in water molecules, so lubes that are made completely from oils may not have a measurable pH.
The pH of a personal lubricant can directly impact the pH of the body part it comes in contact with — including your vagina or rectum — raising or lowering their pH in tandem.
The pH scale is logarithmic in nature, meaning that for every unit increase in pH, the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution — such as your natural vaginal moisture — increases tenfold.
As we’ll talk about in just a bit, solutions that are too acidic or alkaline can damage body tissues, such as those in the vagina or rectum, which is why the pH of a personal lubricant matters so much.
Why Is The pH Of Lube Important?
The safest and best personal lubricants have a pH that’s within the same range as the body parts they come in contact with — including the vagina and rectum.
Take a look at our infographic below for a visual representation of the pH scale as it pertains to personal lubricants and your body.
The pH of the vagina is on the acidic end of the scale. Normal vaginal pH is generally somewhere in the 3.8 to 4.5 range.
Rectal pH is usually between 7 and 8, however, which is more alkaline in comparison.
Knowing this, the safest vaginal lubes and the best lubes for women should have a pH that’s somewhere around 4, while anal lubes should be between 5.5 and 7.
Yes — this means that if you’re enjoying both vaginal and anal sex, you should ideally use two different lubes.
As we mentioned earlier, the pH of lube can impact the pH of the body part it is applied to.
For instance, if your vaginal pH is 4 but you’re using a lube with a pH of 7, the product will raise your vaginal pH in tandem.
However, that same lubricant won’t alter your rectal pH the same way because it has a higher normal pH between 7 and 8.
When a lubricant’s pH closely matches that of the body part it will be applied to, it is called “pH-balanced” — meaning it’s balanced to the body’s pH and won’t change it.
As we’ll talk about in a moment, using a lube that isn’t pH-balanced can damage the delicate tissues of your vagina or rectum and increase your chance of getting an infection.
How Does Lube Affect Your Vaginal Or Anal pH?
As we mentioned earlier, the pH of a personal lubricant can change the body’s pH if it isn’t balanced to match it closely. The same holds true for osmolality, which we talk about in this article.
The vagina has a normal pH range of about 3.8 to 4.5, which is on the acidic end of the pH scale. Using a lubricant that is higher or lower than that range can alter the pH of the vagina at the same time.
When the pH of the vagina rises and becomes too alkaline or lowers to become even more acidic, the tissue can sustain damage, causing lube to burn during or after use and making the vagina more vulnerable to the growth of bacteria that can lead to vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.
One very important thing to keep in mind is that as you age, so does your vagina.
Your vaginal pH level can increase as you get older. If you find that a lube you’ve loved to use for years isn’t feeling so great anymore or you’re experiencing frequent infections, it may be time to find a new one with a slightly higher pH.
There are test strips available that enable you to check your vaginal pH at home, which can be useful if you’re concerned about your body’s pH changing over time.
If you’re experiencing a lot of itchiness in your vagina or if there’s an unusual smell, you may have already developed an infection — which warrants a visit with your healthcare provider for treatment.
Is Anal pH Different From Vaginal pH?
It absolutely is!
We talk a lot about protecting vaginal tissue, but anal tissue is also sensitive and it’s important to use a pH-balanced anal lube.
As we mentioned earlier, the pH of the anus is higher and more alkaline than the vagina, so a vaginal lube with a lower pH isn’t going to be a good choice for anal play.
Lubes designed for vaginal use have a pH to match that of the vagina, which is generally in the range of 3.8 to 4.5.
The rectum, however, has a pH that’s normally somewhere between 7 and 8. For this reason, anal lube should have a higher pH in the range of 5.5 to 7 to match it more closely.
Using a lubricant that’s more acidic and balanced for vaginal use could potentially irritate or damage your rectal tissue, making it more prone to infection.
What Are The Benefits Of A pH-Balanced Lubricant?
People choose to use lube for a lot of different reasons but a pH-balanced lubricant will match the pH of your vagina or rectum, keeping their tissues comfortable, healthy, and safe.
A pH-balanced lubricant will work with your body and not against it.
The benefits of using a pH-balanced lube include:
- Reducing your risk of infection
- Preventing damage to delicate vaginal or anal tissue
- Reducing your risk of irritation or burning
A personal lubricant can have a safe pH level but unsafe osmolality (that can also be very damaging to your tissues), which we talk about in great detail here.
How Do You Find A pH-balanced Lube?
It’s one thing to know what a pH-balanced lube is and why it’s important, and quite another to know how to find one.
The first step is to check the label for a pH level or the words “pH-balanced,” along with any mention of use as it pertains to the vagina or anus.
If you can’t locate the pH level on the bottle, move right on past it — it’s not worth taking a chance on a product that may or may not have an appropriate pH.
The Best pH-Balanced Personal Lubes
You want a lube that enhances sexual activities, not one that leads to infections and irritation.
When shopping for a personal lubricant, pH is an important factor to consider so make sure that the one you select has a pH that fits with your intended use.
And if you’re planning to engage in vaginal and anal sex, it’s wise to get a separate pH-balanced lube for each.
Your body will thank you for it!