Test: Which chemicals are used in lube?

18. maj 2020

Is there unwanted chemicals or perfumes that can cause allergies in lube? The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has checked ingredients in 29 lubes.

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Which chemicals are used in lube?
Photo: The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Lubes: Many are good choices

In the lube test, the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has examined ingredients in 29 lubes, intimate gel and the like.

21 lubes in the test get the best chemical rating. I.e. they are free of perfumes, allergenic ingredients and substances suspected of being endocrine disruptors.

See the tested products in the Danish test

Suspected endocrine disruptors: Test show unwanted chemicals in 4 lubes

An unwanted silicone substance (cyclopentasiloxane) is the main ingredient in 2 of the lubes in the test.

The silicone test is suspected of being endocrine disruptor and is harmful to the environment. The EU is working to ban the substance for environmental reasons.

Parabens are also suspected of being endocrine disruptors. The test shows the levels of parabens (methylparaben and sodium paraben) in 2 other lubes in the test.

The cocktail effect: Overall exposure to unwanted chemicals can be problematic

A lube with unwanted chemicals probably does not pose a risk per se, although absorbed through the mucous membrane may be different from through the skin.

But lubes can contribute to your overall exposure to unwanted chemicals - the so-called cocktail effect. The total amount of unwanted chemicals can be problematic, if you are exposed to it from many different products. For example, it can be problematic in relation to endocrine disruptors.

The concentration of the unwanted silicone substance (cyclopentasiloxane) can be high in 2 of the lubes with that substance. The silicone substance is the first ingredient on the declaration and is thus the main ingredient.

See all tests from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Perfume: The allergy will follow you for the rest of your life

A lube with perfume is in contact with sensitive parts of your body.

Therefore, think about whether perfume or allergenic plant extracts are needed in your lube. In the test, 4 lubes contain these ingredients, which can cause allergies.

Perfume is generally a good idea to limit, if you want to reduce your risk of perfume allergies.

Condoms and sex toys: Some lubes can damage products

Lubes are available water-based, oil-based and silicone-based. Water-based lube can generally be used for condoms and sex toys.

However, some oil and silicone substances can damage condoms and sex toys. 

Check out the instructions on the different products to avoid using a lube that can harm other products.

About the test

The test team at The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has purchased a large number of lubes in Danish stores and webshops.

After that, we have carried out a so-called declaration test of the products. In other words, we have examined the ingredients lists on the products. The declared content is in conjunction with a large number of lists containing unwanted substances which may have lasting adverse effects.

These effects may, for example, be allergies or endocrine disruptors.

The test is carried out in the same way as the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals assess cosmetics and care products in the app ‘Kemiluppen’ (The Chemical Magnifying Glass).

The test does not take into account the concentrations in which the substances are present. It also does not take into account substances that may cause irritation, pH or similar.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ test methods

This is what we found

The products receive these ratings in the test:

• 21 products are without a number of problematic chemicals and receive best chemical rating (A)

• 4 products contain perfume/plant extracts and receive medium chemical rating (B)

• 4 products contain substances suspected, among other things, of endocrine disruptors and receive the lowest chemical rating (C)

See the tested products in the Danish test

Suspected endocrine disruptors in lube

The drug cyclopentasiloxane is suspected of being endocrine disruptor.

It is also environmentally sensitive and the substance can accumulate in nature. Due to the environmental impact, the EU is working to reduce the permitted use in a number of products to 0.1 percent including lube.

Parabens in the form of methylparaben and sodium methylparaben are included in 2 products. The drugs are suspected of being endocrine disruptors.

It must be assumed that there is no risk in using the specific products in themselves. However, the concentration of cyclopentasiloxane may be high in the products, and it is possible that there is a greater uptake of the substance through the mucous membranes than through the skin.

Which legislation applies?

Lubes can fall under different laws depending on how they are marketed.

If they are designated as medical devices, they will be marked with the CE marking. Lubes may also be designated as cosmetics or be referred to as chemical products.

But lubes are in a grey area and it is not clear, which legislation the products belong to.

The test does not show a significant difference in ingredients in relation to whether they are CE-marked or not.

For further information regarding the test contact project manager Christel Søgaard Kirkeby on csk@fbr.dk