What Is Lube Made From And Is It Safe?

Personal lubricants are made from base formulas of water, silicone, or oil, and while many of them are perfectly safe, not all of them are.
Aerial Photograph Of Personal Lubricant Being Poured Onto Finger
Updated:September 2022

Personal lubricants are primarily made from water, silicones, or oils, and may contain preservatives, emulsifiers, or other ingredients used to create certain textures, scents, or sensations.

Depending on the formula, most lubes are generally safe — but many can include unsafe ingredients.

Here’s what you need to know about personal lubricant ingredients:

  • Just because a personal lubricant is available on a store shelf, does not necessarily mean that it is made from body-safe ingredients!
  • Water-based lubricants are primarily made of water and other hypoallergenic ingredients, however, some formulas contain unsafe components like glycerin and parabens.
  • Silicone lubricants, although made from synthetic ingredients, are safe and inert as long as they’re made from specific body-safe silicones. Some silicone lubes may also contain other ingredients like numbing agents that are not recommended.
  • Oil-based lubricants are most often made from plant-based oils, many of which are potential allergens for those allergic to or sensitive to nuts, seeds, or flowers. Oil-based lubes derived from crude oil (such as mineral oil or petroleum) can cause irritation and infection in the vagina or anus and are not recommended.
  • Whether or not lube is “safe” depends on many factors, some of which are unique to the person using them.

While the very best sex lubes are made from body-safe ingredients, not all personal lubricants are not created equal.
Things To Know
In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about what lube is made from, including:
What Is Lube Made From?

What Is Lube Made From?

Collage Of Lube Ingredients: Aloe, Oil, Water, Vitamin E

Personal lubricant can be made from a variety of ingredients depending on its particular formula, but it can be made from water, body-safe (inert) silicones, or oils — most often those that are plant-based.

It’s important to understand that although a product is available for purchase, this does not mean that it’s entirely safe.

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Water-Based

What Is In Water-Based Lube?

As its name suggests, the primary ingredient in water-based personal lubricant is water, however, it may contain a variety of other ingredients.

Common body-safe ingredients used in water-based lubricants include:

  • Water
  • Aloe vera gel or juice
  • Vitamin E oil*
  • Plant-based oils like coconut oil*
  • Hydroxyethylcellulose
  • Propylene Glycol

*Naturally-derived oils may be used in trace amounts in some water-based lubricants. Barring allergies or personal sensitivities, they are completely safe. 

All of the above ingredients are considered safe but some water-based lubes contain ingredients that can lead to pH imbalances, irritation, or infection, including glycerin, parabens, or added fragrances, flavors, or dyes.

Glycerin can cause yeast infections, particularly among those who are susceptible, while parabens are potential endocrine disruptors.

Fragrances, flavors, or dyes can lead to skin irritation.

Our recommended water-based lubricants have been heavily researched and personally tested by our team — so you won’t have to wonder if you’re selecting a body-safe product.

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Silicone-Based

What Is In Silicone-Based Lube?

Silicone-based lube is primarily made of silicones that are ideally body-safe — and silicone formulas from brands we trust definitely are.

Body-safe and inert ingredients commonly found in silicone-based lubricants include:

Although silicones are synthetic, they are not absorbed into the skin — making them perfectly safe for all types of sexual activity.

Some unsafe ingredients that might be found in silicone lubes include PERC, also known as perchloroethylene and tetrachlorethylene, which is carcinogenic — meaning it can cause cancer.

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Oil-Based

What Is In Oil-Based Lube?

Oil-based lube is made from oils that are most often plant-based, although not always.

Plant-based oils are considered the safest ingredients for oil-based lubricants, including our personally tested recommendations, and these may include:

  • Coconut oil (virgin, unrefined)
  • Olive oil (extra virgin)
  • Avocado oil
  • Cocoa butter
  • Vitamin E oil
  • Almond oil (or sweet almond oil)
  • CBD oil
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Sunflower seed oil
  • Shea butter

These oils are safe when used as lube ingredients but they can also be used as lube alternatives by themselves, provided you do not have an allergy or sensitivity to them.

Some oil-based lubricants may also include lesser amounts of non-oil ingredients like aloe vera gel or beeswax, which has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Some unsafe ingredients that might be found in oil-based lubes include…XYZ, which can lead to ABC…

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Condom Lube

What Is Condom Lube Made Of?

Condoms that come pre-lubricated (also known as lubricated condoms) contain lube that is made from either water-based or silicone-based ingredients, depending on the formula.

Both are equally safe for ALL condom types, although they generally do not provide enough lubrication during sexual activity — oftentimes, you’ll still need to add extra lube.

Oil-based lubricants can never be used with condoms made from latex or polyisoprene because they’ll degrade their materials, putting you and your partners at risk for STI transmission or unintended pregnancy.

Some condom lubes contain spermicides, which are designed to act as a “backup” line of defense against pregnancy by killing sperm within the vagina in the event of condom breakage.

Spermicides, most often nonoxynol-9, can be irritating to some and can increase your risk of HIV or UTIs (urinary tract infections), however, and should be used with caution.

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Are Lube Ingredients Safe?

Are Lube Ingredients Safe?

Many personal lubricant ingredients are perfectly safe — but not all of them are.

Safe personal lubricant ingredients may include:

  • Water
  • Aloe vera gel or juice
  • Vitamin E oil
  • Plant-based oils like coconut oil
  • Hydroxyethylcellulose
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Body-safe silicones
  • Plant-based oils

Ingredient safety aside, some of the ingredients above may be potential allergens for some.

If you or your partners have allergies or sensitivities to specific ingredients, always check the product label before using it.

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Which Lube Ingredients Should You Avoid

Which Lube Ingredients Should You Avoid?

There are many lubricant ingredients you should avoid regardless of whether you’re selecting a water-based, silicone-based, or oil-based product.

Lube ingredients that should be avoided include:

  • Glycerin
  • Parabens
  • Capsaicin
  • Benzocaine
  • PERC (also known as perchloroethylene and tetrachlorethylene)
  • Oils derived from crude oil (such as mineral oil or petroleum)
  • Added fragrances, flavors, or dyes
  • Any specific ingredients that you are allergic to or sensitive to

The ingredients listed above are responsible for a variety of ailments ranging from irritation and vaginal infections to endocrine disruption and in the case of PERC, cancer.

For this reason, it is best to avoid them in favor of a personal lubricant made from safe ingredients you can trust.

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Conclusion

In Conclusion

Personal lubricants are made using a variety of ingredients depending on their base formulas and many of them are perfectly safe — although not all of them are.

All of our best recommended personal lubricants are made from body-safe ingredients you can trust implicitly, so if you’re searching for a lubricant for any type of sex, we’ve got you covered.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Everything Lube hub, an in-depth and evolving resource that comprehensively explores all aspects of personal lubricants from the different types and how to use them, to ingredients and safety — created to help you achieve the sexual pleasure you deserve.

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