Nontoxic Love: How to Avoid Harmful Chemicals in Sex Products

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and that means (let’s just say it) some of us are prepping to get lucky. So what better time to talk about what’s in sexual health products like lube and condoms, and feminine products like wipes and washes?

These are products that rarely get talked about, for obvious reasons. But we have to discuss what’s in them, because some of the common ingredients are harmful chemicals that come into contact with some of the most sensitive skin on our bodies—and in the case of women, some of the most absorptive.

Consider this: doctors are increasingly administering hormone treatments vaginally because they’re absorbed and circulated through the body much more rapidly. According to Women’s Voices for the Earth’s Chem Fatale report, “One study found that a vaginally applied dose of estradiol (an estrogen proxy) resulted in systemic estradiol levels in the body 10 to 80 times greater compared to the same dose given orally.”

So it makes sense to keep toxic chemicals as far from that area as possible, right?

Unfortunately, nontoxic sexual health products are currently the exception rather than the norm. Here are some common ingredients linked to harm in sexual health & feminine products:

  • Propylene & propylene glycol: and synthetic glycerin: ingredients derived from petroleum. Not all petrochemicals are linked to human health harm, but these two can contribute to damaging rectal, cervical, and vaginal tissue.
  • Chlorhexidine gluconate: This disinfectant chemical has been shown to kill off many strains of lactobacillus, a type of bacteria that, when in balance, are necessary for a healthy vagina, according to a new fact sheet from Women’s Voices for the Earth.
  • Nitrosamines: common ingredient in latex condoms linked to cancer. This does NOT mean that you should stop using condoms. Sustain condoms are certified MADE SAFE, but if you don’t happen to have those on hand, use other condoms to protect against STIs and pregnancy. See more on nitrosamines in condoms.
  • Parabens: preservatives linked to increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Formaldehyde-releasing ingredients: including DMDM Hydantoin and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol. Formaldehyde is linked to cancer.
  • Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone: skin allergens.
  • “Fragrance”: used as an umbrella term for dozens of different ingredients that make up a particular scent. Many common fragrance ingredients, like phthalates and synthetic musks, are toxic to human health.
Feminine Wash

In addition to formaldehyde-releasers, parabens, MI, CMI and fragrance listed above in wipes, washes can contain:

  • FDA-restricted dyes: D&C Red No. 33, Ext Violet #2 which are not authorized for use on mucous membranes like internal vaginal tissue.

See more on chemicals of concern in feminine products from our partners at Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Finding Safer Products

The first step is reading labels to avoid the chemicals listed above. But if you want an even easier solution, look for MADE SAFE certified products from Good Clean Love.

    The MADE SAFE seal means that products have been screened by scientists for known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, reproductive toxins, neurotoxins, behavioral toxins, flame retardants, heavy metals, high-risk pesticides, insecticides, toxic solvents, and harmful VOCs. Ingredients have been further examined by a chemist for bioaccumulation (builds up in human bodies), persistence (builds up in the environment), ecosystem harm, as well as for general and aquatic toxicity.

    Back to blog