Lubricant can make sex more enjoyable, but if you've ever felt itchy or uncomfortable shortly after using it, you may need to toss the stuff. "It's possible to be allergic to any ingredient in a lubricant," ob/gyn Alyssa Dweck, MD, FACOG, author of The Complete A to Z For Your V, told POPSUGAR.
That said, "it can be hard to figure out if you're allergic to lubricant, a condom used with lubricant, or even sperm [which is a rarer condition, but possible]," Dr. Dweck said. Naturally, this means figuring out exactly what's causing an allergic reaction may require some experimentation. Of course, if lubricant is the only thing that's changed about your sex life, it's likely that one of its ingredients is the culprit. These are the most common symptoms of a lube-related allergy, according to Dr. Dweck:
- Feeling itchy in the areas that came in contact with the lubricant.
- A rash or hives on any area of skin the lubricant touched.
- A burning sensation in or around the vagina, or anywhere that came in contact with the lubricant.
- Vaginal discharge shortly after using lubricant.
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing — though rare, these symptoms are extremely serious and require a trip to the ER.
If you experience an allergic reaction, wash the area with soap and warm water, and if the allergy doesn't clear up or subside within a day, call your doctor to discuss. You'll also want to stop using the product immediately, no matter how much you or your partner may enjoy it.
What Should You Look For in a Lubricant?
Dr. Dweck explained that there are three varieties of lubricants: water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based (these are natural options like coconut oil and olive oil).
When choosing the right lubricant for you, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, if you tend to have sensitive skin, choose a lubricant that has as few ingredients as possible. (This is especially important if you have a specific skin issue, like eczema or psoriasis.) Dr. Dweck recommends Uberlube to her patients, which consists only of vitamin E and silicone.
If you don't have sensitive skin but are prone to yeast infections, steer clear of lubricants that contain glycerin. "It may not trigger an allergic reaction but could make you susceptible to a yeast infection," Dr. Dweck said. There's also a spermicide in some lubricants that can cause irritation and even increase risk of infection in some women who use it, she added — you'll find it on the label as Nonoxynol-9.
Regardless of the reaction, remember that you're probably not allergic to lubricant itself, but an ingredient in the lubricant, so it's important to take note of everything that's on the label. Make sure to test the lubricant on a small area first before going all in, and don't buy flavored lubricants or ones with ingredients that cause a warming sensation if you know your skin is sensitive.