Petrochemicals in personal lubricants? Not so sexy. Parabens and synthetic glycerin? No thanks. Odds are most of your customers looking for cleaner foods, supplements, and beauty products will also want to take a pass on chemical-laden intimacy products. Here, a look at what’s trending in the category, including ingredients to love and those to avoid.
Natural Lubes & Moisturizers
The global personal lubricant market size was valued at $894 million in 2018 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 8.1% through 2026 (1). Consumers interested in natural lubes and moisturizers are motivated by various reasons ranging from wanting something new for those fun nights spent with someone special to dealing with the effects of menopause, such as vaginal dryness.
A few considerations when stocking the shelves with these products:
- As a woman ages, hormones change and the pH of the vagina rises, which can cause dryness and atrophy of the vaginal walls, according to Dr. Sara Gottfried (2). In one study, pH levels of menopausal women averaged 5.4, compared to 3.8-4.5 for pre-menopausal women (3).
- When manufacturers create moisturizers and lubes, they consider osmolality (concentration of particles dissolved in a fluid). This is important because the epithelial skin layer or the body's natural mucus is constantly trying to maintain an equilibrium. The World Health Organization suggests only using lubricants with an osmolality below 1200 mOsm/kg (4). Another important point: Products with lower osmolality don’t draw as much moisture from the skin. Don’t expect to see osmolality levels on product labels; it’s a specification that manufacturers worry about and something for background knowledge.
Here, a look at the natural options.
Water-Based Lubricants: Widely available, water-based lubes are safe to use with condoms and easily wash off with soap and water. Besides water, look for ingredients like aloe, which can help retain more moisture. Water-based lubes that promote rehydration, like AH! YES or H2OH!, contain water as their first ingredient. AH! YES lube also contains aloe vera and flaxseed extract. H2OH! additional ingredients include chia seed extract and citric acid. Why chia seed extract? According to the company, chia extract was incorporated into the formula to hydrate and soothe thanks to chia’s omega-3s, antioxidants, and slippery soluble fiber (5).
Another option: BeeFriendly Organic offers a water- and oil-mixed lube made with organic extra virgin olive oil, organic beeswax, and vitamin E oil. The company says these ingredients reduce irritation, itchiness, redness, discomfort and improve skin hydration, softness, firmness, elasticity and sensitivity.
Oil-Based Lubricants: Aloe, almond, coconut, jojoba, olive oil—there’s a lot of oil-based personal lubricants on the market. “Oil-based may be a good choice for women who are sensitive to certain additives and preservatives common in water- or silicone-based lubricants," says Paula Derrow, Berkeley Wellness contributor (6). "They also make sex easier in water, they’re naturally moisturizing, and they last longer than other lubricants.”
One brand, Coconu, offers a coconut-oil based lube made without alcohol, petroleum, parabens, gluten, phylates, fragrances and dyes. Featuring sunflower oil, beeswax and shea butter, the product has a double use as massage oil. There’s also vegan Emerita Intimate Lubricant, made with sunflower seed oil, olive fruit oil, coconut oil, cocoa seed butter, castor seed oil, and tocopherol.
An important note: oil-based lubricants can degrade latex condoms. Oils should not be used with condoms, diaphragms, or cervical caps made out of latex (7).
Moisturizers: Like lubricants, moisturizers are effective at relieving discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse for women with mild to moderate vaginal dryness (8). Moisturizers rehydrate dry mucosal tissue and are absorbed into the skin and adhere to the vaginal lining, mimicking natural vaginal secretions. Some options on the market: Prevaleaf’s moisturizer, made of naturally derived coconut, palm and corn, grape seed extract, vitamin E, and aloe leaf juice. AH! YES offers a plant-based oil moisturizer made with sunflower seed oil, shea butter, sweet almond oil, beeswax, cocoa seed butter, and vitamin E. Then there’s Good Clean Love, which uses the benefits of hyaluronic acid in its vaginal moisturizer.
The olfactory system is the way to the heart...is that how the saying goes? The sense of smell plays an important role in the physiological effects of mood, stress, and working capacity, perhaps because there are 300 active olfactory receptor genes devoted to detecting fragrances (10). In one 2018 study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers examined the correlation between odor threshold in healthy participants and their sexual desire, sexual experience, and sexual performance. They found odor sensitivity correlated positively with sexual experience. Participants with high olfactory sensitivity reported higher pleasantness of sexual activities and women with high olfactory sensitivity reported a higher frequency of orgasms during sexual intercourse (11). While stocking the shelves with natural and organic intimate products, don’t forget to showcase natural aphrodisiacs like lavender, sage, rose, neroli and bergamot oils, which are said to arouse and positively impact mood.
The global condom market size was valued at $7.9 billion in 2018 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 8.5% through 2026 (9). For consumers interested in eco-friendly and chemical-free protection in the form of a condom, stock brands that are preservative-free, cruelty-free, vegan and fair-trade certified. Brands like LOLA offer vegan and gluten-free condoms made with natural rubber latex. Another brand: Sir Richards manufactures natural latex condoms without parabens, glycerin, or spermicide and certified by the American Vegetarian Association. There’s also Sustain, which manufactures condoms free of nitrosamine, impurities or byproducts of compounds like diethanolamine (DEA) or triethanolamine (TEA). These condoms use fair-trade rubber, are cruelty-free, non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegan.