Why Does Lube Burn — 5 Reasons It Happens (And What To Do)

Lube can burn if you have sensitivities, allergies, the wrong formula, existing infections, or microinjuries of the genitals or anus, but it’s easy to fix.
aerial photograph of a forearm with irritated skin, with the words "it burns" written in personal lubricant with bottles and a lit candle in the background
We independently research and vet everything we recommend. Our team is supported by affiliate commissions. Learn more →

Personal lubricants are generally designed to be gentle but burning irritation can still occur during or after use if you are sensitive or allergic to its ingredients, are currently dealing with an infection, or have small tears in your delicate genital or anal skin. 

Here’s what you need to know about why lube can burn:

  • Lubricants — even a quality, FDA-approved formula crafted with safety in mind — can burn due to personal intolerances or allergies to one or more ingredients, imbalanced pH or osmolality (if water-based), underlying infections you may have (such as a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis), or microtears in the anus or genitals.
  • Expired personal lubricants can also cause a burning sensation, as lube ingredients can degrade over time, increasing the risk of irritation or infection.
  • If you experience a burning sensation while using lube (or afterward), discontinuing the use of that specific lube may solve the problem.
  • Treating underlying issues unrelated to the personal lubricant — such as existing infections or injuries — can also solve the problem.
  • Sometimes medical intervention may be necessary to help deal with lube irritation if it does not resolve on its own.

People often wonder, “Why does lube burn my vagina?” or notice that it “burns when I pee after using lube.”

If any of these sound familiar to you or if you’re worried about getting a chemical burn from lube, you’re definitely not alone.

Personal lubricants can sometimes burn and we’ll tell you why — and what to do about it.

— Things To Know —

5 Possible Reasons Why Your Lube Burns

There are many reasons why personal lubricants might burn, from allergies to infection to the simple mistake of using expired lube.

(Don’t do that!)

Often, the specific type of lube and its ingredients has something to do with the reaction.

Personal lubricants that are designed to stimulate the genitals (such as arousal gels) can cause a burning sensation and discomfort, so if your skin is especially sensitive, it’s best to steer clear of those entirely.

Such ingredients can include capsaicin (derived from hot peppers), which creates a stimulating effect when applied to the genitals — but it can also burn, particularly if it’s intense or you have sensitive skin.

Beyond avoiding lubes with known irritants, we’ll take a look at the five reasons why your personal lubricant might be causing a burning sensation.

  • You are allergic to the ingredients in your lube. 

If your body mounts an immune response to particular ingredients in a personal lubricant you may experience an unpleasant burning sensation, as well as itching, redness, swelling, or even rash.

One medical journal describes a man who “developed severe pruritic dermatitis of penis, scrotum with erythema [reddening], edema [swelling], scaling, crusting following intercourse with his wife, who had used K-Y jelly.”

This isn’t out of the ordinary for a lube reaction.

Allergies are common and it’s important to know that they can arise over time, unexpectedly.

With this in mind, even a personal lubricant that you use regularly and without issue can, potentially, become an allergen later.

  • You have a sensitivity to the ingredients or the pH (imbalance) or osmolality levels in your lube.

Any time you introduce something new to your genitals or anus, you risk a disturbance in their natural flora.

A study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases stated:

“Our findings validate and extend prior work suggesting an association between hyperosmolar lubricants and cytotoxicity to the vaginal mucosal surface, which could have potential implications for risk to bacterial vaginosis, as well as susceptibility to HIV and STI transmission and acquisition during rectal or vaginal intercourse.” 

If your body is sensitive to the ingredients in lube, such as glycerin — which is found in most water-based lubes — it can cause irritation and leave you vulnerable to infection, all of which contribute to a burning sensation.

Additionally, water-based lubricants must have a pH balance and osmolality that closely matches the area(s) in which it comes into contact.

Dr. Susan Milstein, a human sexuality health educator who sits on our medical review board, spoke on the importance of each.

“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,” she said.

She noted in this article that using pH-balanced lube can help to reduce your risk of irritation — and that includes any burning sensations you might experience from using lube.

“Even if you’re not aware of osmolality, your skin definitely is,” she continued. “You’ll know right away from the burning, itching, and dryness that ensues.”

For this reason, if you’re using a water-based lubricant, it’s important to make sure you’re using one with the right pH and osmolality, as all of our top recommendations have.

  • You have an underlying infection.

Having a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis can make genital skin extremely sensitive.

Mycoses, a medical journal about the diagnoses, therapy, and prophylaxis of fungal diseases reports, “Approximately 70-75% of (people with vaginas) will have vulvovaginal candidosis (VVC) at least once in their lifetime.”

If you take into account how common this is, it stands to reason that using lube during an active infection would contribute to the widespread experience of burning.

An infection can cause irritation and burn enough on its own — with the application of lube further worsening those sensations.

It’s worth noting, as well, that some lubricants can make you more susceptible to yeast infections — namely those that have sugar or glycerin.

  • You have microtears. 

The skin around the genitals is delicate and can tear fairly easily, leading to microtears (microtrauma) of the vagina or anus.

Some common culprits of microtears are unlubricated sex (especially anal sex without lube), penetration by too-large dildos or penises, and even friction from tight clothes.

If you apply lube when there are tears already present in the skin, you are likely to experience some serious burning.

And yes, we recognize the irony that unlubricated sex can lead to lube irritation later on.

  • Your lube is expired.

Lube expires in one to three years.

The ingredients can and do degrade over time, giving way to irritants that might cause reactions.

The change in chemical structure can also make way for bacteria, leaving you susceptible to other infections.

As we know from earlier, this can certainly make you feel the burn during and after use.

If your personal lubricant is expired, throw it away and purchase a new bottle.

What To Do If Your Lube Burns

If lube irritation is due to an allergy or intolerance, discontinue the use of that particular product.

Silicone lube is often a go-to option for folks who have issues with oil or water-based lubricant ingredients or who prefer to use a product that can do double-duty for vaginal and anal sex without concern over pH levels or osmolality.

Our top silicone personal lubricant recommendations — all tested and vetted by our team — are below if you’d like to try one yourself.

Can silicone lube cause irritation?

It’s possible, though far less likely than other kinds of personal lubricants as they typically have a short ingredient list and silicones have a very low risk of allergy.

Try one out if the current lube you are using is the issue.

If the burning sensation you’re experiencing is from an infection, you need to treat the condition itself with medication — which may require a doctor’s prescription — and should abstain from lube (and sex) until it resolves.

Likewise, if the burning is being caused by lube coming into contact with microtears, pause from using lube and having penetrative sex until your skin fully heals.

When To See A Doctor

If the burning doesn’t promptly go away after discontinuing the offending lube (within 48 hours), check in with your doctor.

They can determine if you have an underlying infection or if you need treatment for symptoms from an allergic reaction.

If you experience extreme redness, swelling, blistering, or any kind of breathing issues, get yourself to a medical health professional immediately.

Closing Thoughts

While burning from lube is uncomfortable, to say the least, it doesn’t have to spoil your fun.

Getting to the root of the issue is half the battle.

Once you’re there, you can take the necessary steps to a pain-free relationship with lube and a better understanding of your body’s wants and needs.

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.

Knowledge Base