Personal lubricants, also referred to as ‘lubes’, are typically associated with reducing vaginal dryness or friction during intercourse to provide a more pleasurable sexual experience.
But is lube safe for oral sex too?
The answer depends, not only on the type of lube but on the ingredients used to make it. If you’re interested in making oral sex more enjoyable for you and your partner, keep reading to learn more about which lubes are safe for oral sex, and which you should avoid.
How Do Personal Lubricants Help?
Irrelevant to your age, gender, or sexual orientation, personal lubricants help to reduce dryness and improve sexual arousal for both men and women during intercourse. They also help to intensify orgasms during sex, masturbation, oral sex, or when playing with sex toys.
When it comes to oral sex, lube can deepen the sensuality of the experience for both the giver and the receiver. However, not all lubes are created equal and it is important to learn which ones are safe and which should be avoided.
What are The Different Types of Lube?
The three main types of lubricants are water-based lube, silicone-based lube, and oil-based lube.
Silicone-based lubes are thicker and more slippery than water-based lubes and are usually recommended for anal sex, or sex in the shower or bath. Because of their viscosity, silicone-based lubes are also known to leave stains on bedsheets, lingerie, carpets, and wooden flooring, even after cleaning.
Furthermore, due to a damaging chemical reaction when silicone meets silicone, these lubes cannot be used with silicone sex toys, dilators, or kegel weights. While the reaction will not harm your body, it will ruin the silicone surface of your tools or toys.
Although oil-based lube was the traditional choice for many years, the damage it causes to condoms has vastly reduced its popularity due to leaving both partners open to sexually transmitted infections and heterosexual women susceptible to unwanted pregnancies.
Oil-based lubricants are also known to irritate sensitive vaginal skin and increase the risk of vaginal infections. For instance, a two-year study of 140 women aged between 18 and 65 concluded that those using an oil-based lubricant reported 22% more cases of bacterial vaginosis and 32% more cases of yeast infections.
Considered the safest and most universal lube, water-based lubricant not only feels the most similar to the body’s natural lubricant, but it is also safe to use with condoms, silicone dilators, and sex toys, and it is easy to wash from bedsheets and lingerie.
More importantly, studies show that women using water‐based lubricants experience less genital irritation after intercourse than women using silicone-based lubricants or oil-based lubricants. If you need recommendations, you can visit our guide on the Best Water-Based Lubes.
Which Lube is Safest for Oral Sex?
According to female health experts and medical researchers, water-based lubricant, made with vegan, medical-grade glycerin which maintains a natural vaginal pH level is considered the safest lube for oral sex. In contrast to oil-based or silicone-based lubes, water-based lube is harmless when ingested or swallowed in small amounts (as per the amount used for oral sex).
Velvet Rose Personal Lubricant, for instance, is one of the few FDA-approved water-based lubricants on the market, it is 100% vegan-friendly, and pH balanced (4.0 – 4.4 pH) in keeping with natural vaginal pH levels.
Can Certain Water-Based Lubes Irritate Your Vagina During Oral Sex?
Although water-based lubes are widely considered the safest and most comfortable option for oral sex, not all water-based lubes are created with the same ingredients, some of which could result in irritation or a higher risk of vaginal infections. The following two criteria will help you to determine if a brand of water-based lube is safe:
- The use of only vegan glycerin
- Product pH levels
Vegan Glycerin Instead of Animal Fat Glycerin
Much confusion and several studies have centered around the use of glycerin in personal lubricants, and many health bloggers continue to confuse their readers to this day.
To be clear, the use of animal fat glycerin can certainly alter the vaginal pH levels thereby increasing the risk of vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, and yeast infections, however, the same does not apply to vegan medical-grade glycerin.
In fact, since microbiologists confirmed that only vegan, medical-grade glycerin is safe for personal lubricants to maintain natural vaginal pH levels, it is now required by the FDA that only this type of glycerin is used. That said, many personal lubricants that are made with animal fat glycerin continue to be sold, unapproved by the FDA.
Product pH Levels
A healthy vagina, with a balanced microflora (of good and ‘bad’ bacteria) measures between 3.8 and 4.5 on the pH scale. Any personal lubricant that has a higher or lower pH level will upset this natural balance and leave the vagina owner open to vaginal infections and sexually transmitted infections.
Female health experts, therefore, recommend choosing a personal lubricant that clearly states a corresponding pH level (anywhere between 3.8 and 4.5) on the label.
Are Flavored Lubes Safe for Oral Sex?
Generally not. Lube that is flavored or fragranced with sugar or synthetic ingredients can irritate sensitive genital skin and compromise the natural pH balance of the vagina. When the natural pH balance of the vagina is altered, it is more susceptible to infections like bacterial vaginosis, STIs, urinary tract infections, and yeast infections.
How to Check that Lube Won’t Irritate your Skin
Everyone’s skin reacts in different ways to new products, and the genital skin is often extra sensitive.
So when it comes to personal lubricants, checking the label for ingredients is first and foremost important. You don’t want to see animal fat glycerin, for example, and as a general rule the fewer synthetic ingredients included in the product, the less it is likely to irritate your vagina.
As a test guide, when trying a new brand or type of personal lubricant, first rub a little on the inside of your elbow or wrist to ensure that it doesn’t irritate your skin. If you notice any reaction refrain from using it as a sexual lubricant and try another.
If there is no reaction, try a little on the vulva (outer vaginal lips) to ensure it does not irritate the more sensitive genital skin. If everything feels good, you are safe to proceed with the lube for all types of sexual activities.
Are Personal Lubricants with Cooling or Warming Sensations Safe for Oral Sex?
The personal lubricant ingredients that are used to produce a cooling or warming sensation in the vagina during oral sex are typically synthetic, such as caffeine, capsaicin, menthol, or niacin.
And anything synthetic can adversely affect the natural pH balance of the vagina, leaving it open to irritation and infections. Thus, the answer is no. Personal lubricants that promise cooling or warming sensations are best avoided for oral sex as well as any other type of sexual activity.
Although lubes are usually associated with relieving vaginal dryness or reducing friction during penetrative intercourse, they are also safe for oral sex and can significantly improve arousal. The key is to ensure you choose lube with harmless ingredients that will not irritate your vagina.
When choosing lube for oral sex, medical experts advise purchasing a water-based personal lubricant that uses vegan, medical-grade glycerin instead of animal fat glycerin. It’s also vital to ensure that the product pH level corresponds with the natural pH levels of a healthy vagina to avoid vaginal infections.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine - Association of Lubricant Use with Women's Sexual Pleasure, Sexual Satisfaction, and Genital Symptoms - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1743609515332562
Women’s Health – What Is The Difference Between Silicone And Water-Based Lubes? https://www.womens-health.com/silicone-water-based-lube-differences
National Capitol Poison Centre – Is Lube Safe to Swallow - https://www.poison.org/articles/are-personal-lubricants-safe-to-swallow-202
The National Library of Medicine - Intravaginal practices and risk of bacterial vaginosis and candidiasis infection among a cohort of women in the United States - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23635677/
Vegan First – Is Glycerin Vegan - https://www.veganfirst.com/article/qa-is-glycerin-vegan
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.