When you need a lubricant, you need it fast. But a new study out of UCLA warns against using just any slippery solution out of your medicine cabinet or kitchen—doing so could put you at risk for vaginal infections. In a 2-year study of 141 sexually active women between the ages of 18 and 65, researchers found those who used petroleum jelly intra-vaginally increased their risk for bacterial vaginosis by 22%. Similarly, those who reported using oils inside the vagina had a 32% increased risk for yeast infection.
It is possible that these products change the delicate balance of vaginal flora—organisms that live in the vagina—and acidity in a healthy vagina. Any changes in that balance, whether it’s due to irritating lubricants or otherwise, can trigger an infection.
What’s more is that there’s growing evidence that some products meant for delicate areas—including certain types of lubricants and unnecessary cleansing products—can damage vaginal tissues and increase your risk for more serious infections including HIV. Leaving one of these infections untreated can cause more infection and fertility issues.
When choosing a lubricant, finding one that gets the job done but won’t tip the scale of good and bad bacteria and there’s hardly a worse choice than petroleum jelly. Avoid glycerin, acetate, propylene glycol and look for silicone, aloe vera and paraben-free.