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Dear Sexpert,

Can I use micellar water or v-wash as anal lubricant (since it should be water-based)? What can I use apart from expensive lubes?

Sincerely,

Tear Preventer 

Dear Tear Preventer,

Thank you for reaching out to the Sexpert with your question! Since the anus does not lubricate naturally, many people find that adding a lubricant makes anal penetration a more pleasant experience. Additionally, using an effective lubricant lowers risk of condom breakage (from friction) and helps protect sensitive tissue. As you note, making sure a lubricant is water-based — as opposed to oil-based — when using latex condoms or other latex-based protective barriers is ideal for preventing the latex from breaking down. With such a wide variety of lubricants on the market and a wealth of information about lubricants on the internet, it can be difficult to choose the option that will be best for you. 

First, I’d like to start by talking about micellar water and V Wash for our readers who are not familiar with these products. V Wash Plus Expert Intimate Hygiene is marketed as a vaginal wash to ease vaginal discomforts (e.g., itching, pain) or infections. V Wash is a water-based wash that includes the ingredients lactic acid, tea tree oil, and sea buckhorn oil. Alternatively, micellar water is a combination of purified water, hydrating ingredients (such as glycerin), and low concentrations of extremely mild surfactants — substances which tend to reduce surface tension of a liquid in which they are dissolved. The molecules of surfactants group together to form microscopic spheres called micelles, which act like magnets for dirt and oil. Recently, micellar water has become popular in the United States among models, celebrities, and makeup artists as a makeup remover, cleanser, and toner.

I would advise against using V Wash or micellar water as anal lubricants. First, these products contain chemicals, such as glycerin, that can cause infections if not cleaned off properly and can damage the lining of the rectum. Further, in general, lubricants and other care products designed for the vagina*, such as V Wash, are acidic to cater to the slightly acidic pH of the vagina. Since the rectal pH is more neutral, surrounding tissues could be damaged upon exposure to these products.  

Now let’s talk about good lubricants to use depending on sexual activity. If you will be using a latex condom or silicone sex toy, use water-based lube to prevent condom breakage or damage to the toy. Look for non-flavored (flavored varieties often have sugar and other added ingredients) varieties of water-based lube to minimize sensitive tissue irritation. Note: it might require some reapplication, as water-based lube dries more quickly. 

Some people who have penetrative anal sex may prefer silicone-based lube because it is typically slicker and stays wetter longer, thus reducing friction upon sensitive tissues. Although safe for use with condoms, silicone-based lube is not safe for use with sex toys unless there is a condom on the toy. Finally, oil-based lube is not safe for use with latex condoms.  Because of the sensitivity of anal tissues and incompatibility of lubricants with condoms and sex toys, I would also advise against using household products such as petroleum jelly, coconut oil, or olive oil as anal lubricants. To ensure pleasure and safety for all parties involved in anal stimulation or penetration, it is best to use an unscented product that is suitable to your preferred activity.

To learn more about safer anal sex practices or to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you can make an appointment with a University Health Services’ clinician at McCosh Health Center online at MyUHS.

*For more information about care products and cleansers designed for the vagina, see the Sexpert article “Are Feminine Hygiene Washes Safe to Use?” 

References:

  1. https://www.allure.com/gallery/micellar-water-facial-cleanser
  2. Identification of Personal Lubricants That Can Cause Rectal Epithelial Cell Damage and Enhance HIV Type 1 Replication in Vitro. AIDS RESEARCH AND HUMAN RETROVIRUSES, Volume 27, Number 9, 2011
  3. https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/olive-oil-anal-sex-lubricant

The Sexpert is a biweekly column done in collaboration between the Prospect and the Peer Health Advisers (PHA program). For more information, you can visit the Sexpert’s website. If you are interested in submitting a question, you can email sexpert@princeton.edu

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