Green apple. Cherry cola. Vanilla. These might sound like beverage flavors, but they’re actually flavors of lube. Yup, as in the slippery stuff you use to reduce friction and encourage feel-good glide during sexual activities. But why, you may be wondering, would someone want use lube that tastes like bacon or pumpkin spice (which, yes, are both real flavored lubes you can buy)?
Well, according to Lisa Finn, a sex educator at sex-toy emporium Babeland, what’s key isn’t so much that lubricant be flavored but that it be edible. And since flavored implies edible, that’s usually a great sign you can safely swallow some of the product without worry. For more intel about specifically why, though, you should be making sure that your favorite tube of lube is indeed edible, keep reading.
Why—flavored or not—all lube you use should be edible
That’s right, flavored or unflavored, do know that all lube you use should be edible—even if you have no plans whatsoever to get any in your mouth. “If a lube isn’t safe to ingest orally, it isn’t safe to put near or in your vagina or anus,” Finn says. In fact, many sex shops won’t even sell lubes that can’t be ingested (Babeland included).
What makes a lube safe to ingest, exactly? Good question. For starters, any lube that contains an ingredient that you’re allergic to isn’t safe to slather on either set of lips. You also want to avoid also lubes that contain preservatives (like parabens) and alcohol, Finn, says. “Parabens interfere with our hormones and…alcohol can dry out any orifice, including your mouth, anus, and vagina,” she says.
“If a lube isn’t safe to ingest orally, it isn’t safe to put near or in your vagina or anus.” —Lisa Finn, sex educator
Beyond that, there are a few ingredients that are technically fine to ingest in small doses, but your below-the-belt privates won’t like necessarily appreciate them. Petroleum jelly, for instance, can trap bacteria and interfere with the vagina’s self-cleaning process (like discharge), potentially causing bacterial overgrowth and infection. And Finn is particularly wary of glycerin, which “is a sugar that can disrupt the pH of your vagina and can increase risk of yeast overgrowth in vulva-owners.” There’s also nonoxynol-9, glycol, chlorhexidine gluconate, and fragrances, which are all common irritants for people who have sensitive skin and erogenous zones, she adds.
So, especially if you’re not using a barrier protection (like a dental dam or a condom), opt for a lube that doesn’t have these on its ingredient list. Your junk (or your partner’s) will thank you.
The real deal with flavored lube
Flavored lubes—which can be water-, silicone-, or oil-based—have been intentionally formulated to taste fun, flirty, fruity, you name it. According to Finn, the main point of flavored lube (beyond providing you the confidence that it’s also edible lube) is to bring the sense of taste to the bedroom. “When it comes to sex, generally the more senses you can bring in, the better,” she says.
For folks using barrier protection during oral sex, for instance, flavored lube can dull the taste of latex and offer an alternative that’s a little less evocative of a dentist appointment and a little more of a sex appointment.
Flavored lubes can also come in handy for those who think the idea of playing with food in the bedroom is sexy. “You can replicate the sensation of drizzling chocolate on your lover, or licking chocolate off your lover, without having to worry about the sauce getting on the sheets, or getting it in someone’s vagina and causing a yeast infection,” Finn says.
“Everyone has their own unique genital flavor, and that flavor is nothing to be ashamed of.”—Finn
Worth mentioning: flavored lube shouldn’t be used to cover up the taste of anilingus. “If someone has showered or used a wet wipe, oral anal sex is just going to taste like skin,” says Finn. So if the concern is not the taste of booty, but the bacteria in and around that area, understand this: “Lube does not neutralize bacteria,” she says. Noted.
Finally, flavored lube also should not be used to cover up a natural flavor or scent. “Many vulva-owners are interested in flavored lube because they enjoy receiving cunnilingus but are worried about the way they taste,” Finn says. “Everyone has their own unique genital flavor, and that flavor is never anything to be ashamed of.” So if you find yourself feeling self-conscious about your personal flavor, try to remember it’s just bogus cultural messaging talking. And if it’s your partner making you feel off about your flavor? Highly consider regarding them as your flavor on the moment and move on.
And whether you opt for Granny Smith-flavored lube or not, incorporating an edible version of the product into sexual activity can make any sesh even more…well, just conjure the image of the fire emoji.