Is your sexual lubricant causing thrush?

Is your sexual lubricant causing thrush?

Read about the author Samantha Evans

Owning a sex toy company we know that using a sexual lubricant enhances your sexual intimacy and pleasure which is why we recommend using a sexual lubricant with all our sex toys and for sex play too.

However, I have personally been affected by using poor sexual lubricants in my 20s and 30s and spent many years suffering from thrush, bacterial vaginosis (BV), recurrent cystitis and urinary tract infections that led to vaginismus. In fact, using KY jelly and other well known lubricant brands still available on the high street, online and recommended by many healthcare professionals destroyed my vagina health and our sex life.

This is how I became so passionate about educating people about their intimate health, especially their vagina and vulva health.

When we founded our company, we only wanted to sell skin safe products including lubricants and discovered YES sexual lubricant through our research.

Thank goodness we did. As soon as we switched to using YES my vagina health dramatically improved- no more itching, stinging, discharge, urethral irritation or recurrent infections.

YES has saved and transformed my sex life after years of suffering and being offered little advice by doctors, none of whom – and there were many – recommended or asked about my sex life, what lubricants I use or my intimate hygiene regime Often the sexual advice offered is outdated and can be detrimental to sexual health, including prescribing sexual lubricants that contain glycerin, known to cause thrush, something which nearly destroyed my sex life in my 20s and 30s.

The only advice I got from a gynaecologist at my local hospital was to iron the gusset of all my knickers, which is useful advice but he never discussed my sex life or the use of lubricants.

To overcome the issues of recurrent thrush or BV I would use well-known feminine hygiene products bought over the counter and still recommended by GPs everywhere that actually exacerbated the problem as so many of them contain the same ingredients that were causing these recurrent infections!

Over the years I have learnt to avoid scented or coloured products, such as shower gels, bath bombs, scented condoms and scented sanitary pads. I avoid having baths and cannot understand why anyone would put a bath bomb in their bath, as these can cause thrush too. I recently came across perfumed condoms. No one needs a perfumed condom!

I switched to a Mooncup as tampons used to cause so much irritation and exacerbate vaginal dryness, I wish TOTM (Time of the Month) organic products had also been available when I still had periods. Using a Mooncup was also cost-effective as it saved me money on buying menstrual tampons and pads and was environmentally friendly.

My 19-year-old daughter has been using a menstrual cup for several years too.

Many GPs, including mine, often tell women to have a glass of wine before having sex after childbirth, yet telling them to use a pH balanced sexual lubricant is much better advice. Many people do not realise that breastfeeding impacts on vaginal secretions, and sexual intercourse may feel uncomfortable or painful.

I also use YES VM vaginal moisturiser as it is so soothing on the delicate tissues of the vagina and helps to restore the pH of the vagina which may become unbalanced, leading to vaginal infections.

Discovering a new lubricant that feels wonderful!

Having been so cautious about what sexual lubricant and vaginal moisturiser we use, it has been amazing to discover SUTIL Luxe. We have recently added it to our range because we love using it for any sex play, and it is great as a vaginal moisturiser too. It is good to be able to offer a choice especially for those who love using a silicone lubricant but are unable to with their favourite silicone toy, so now they can or may not be able to use YES products.

SUTIL LUXE is a silky smooth water-based lubricant that feels like a silicone lubricant without the silicone, it gently cushions and glides, blending seamlessly with your own natural lubrication during sex. A little goes along way, and it is long-lasting, which is unusual for some water-based lubricants. Being water-based, it is easy to wash off, unlike silicone or oil-based lubricants.

Free from irritating ingredients and hormone free it is perfect for anyone, including those not able to have hormone replacement therapy and post cancer treatment, not only as a sexual lubricant but also as a vaginal moisturiser and can be used with any sex toy or dilator.

I love that SUTIL is made from eco certified ingredients and is committed to creating natural and organic cosmetics that are not only great for your skin, but also derived from renewable resources and manufactured using environmentally friendly processes. Even the sleek tube is biodegradable, a huge plus for protecting the environment too. You can discover how I enjoyed using it here

Become lubricant savvy and protect your vagina health by checking the label and avoid products that contain glycerin, glycols, parabens or are not designed for vaginal use.

Being menopausal, I am aware that women going through the menopause are often more prone to getting thrush and BV as a result of decreasing oestrogen levels which affect the vagina walls making them thinner, lose elasticity and less well lubricated. Not only can this make sex feel uncomfortable or painful, it can increase transmission of sexually transmitted infections if people do not use a condom.

A recent survey of nearly 7,000 sexually active women between the ages of 16 to 74, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (2017), found that nearly one in ten British women finds sex painful.

Vaginal dryness is one of the most common reasons why sex feels painful.

Many women, young or old, suffer from vaginal dryness at some time during their life but are often too embarrassed to discuss the problem or seek help. Vaginal dryness is generally associated with the menopause, as it is a common problem that menopausal women experience. However, many young women go through an early menopause a s a result of Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) or following cancer treatments, both medical and surgical.

Levels of vaginal secretions differ between women of any age and can be affected by stress, anxiety, hormonal changes due to contraception or post-childbirth, side effects of medication and medical or surgical interventions.

Having frequent or vigorous sexual intercourse can cause the bladder to become inflamed or infected. Lack of vaginal lubrication can irritate the delicate tissues of the vagina, vulva and around the entrance to the urethra, the hole where you pee out of, leading to what is commonly known as“honeymoon cystitis” but this can affect any woman of any age. It is called this as couples on their honeymoon have lots of sex so using a sexual lubricant can reduce the incidence of cystitis and urinary tract infections.

Almost half of women worldwide will have a vaginal yeast infection before age fifty (Blostein, Levin-Sparenberg, Wagner, & Foxman, 2017) yet it is perceived as a nuisance condition because it is easily treatable with readily available over the counter (OTC) treatment costing an estimated $2.84 billion in the USA alone! With the wide availability of OTC treatments, one study found that only one third of the women buying an OTC treatment had thrush, and an additional 20% who has thrush also had another type of vaginitis that required different treatment. ( Ferris, Dekle and Litaker, J of Fam Practice 1996).

We also know that many products mask symptoms and exacerbate conditions that may not be thrush, including genital eczema, lichens sclerosus and vulval cancer. This is why it is important to be examined and ask to be referred to a genital dermatologist if you are still worried. Some GPs do not even examine their patients before prescribing antifungal treatment or recommending OTC treatment.

Using sexual lubricants are a simple way to enhance sexual intimacy and pleasure and can help reduce the incidence of thrush but choosing the wrong one may exacerbate the problem.

Vagina Health

Many people are careful about what they eat and what beauty products they use on their face, hair and body, often spending £100’s. However, few think about what their sexual lubricant contains, even though they’re putting it on one of the most sensitive and highly absorbent areas of their body: their clitoris and vagina.

The vagina is often referred to being a “well-oiled engine”, as it is a self-lubricating organ. It also has a very delicate pH balance, so introducing chemicals found in many commercially available sexual lubricants can actually do more harm than good. This is also a common occurrence when people use household products as a lubricant substitute

By upsetting the vagina’s pH balance, also known as the “vaginal flora”, common vaginal infections such as thrush and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) can develop. This is because the new environment caused by certain lubricants is more favourable for the bacteria or yeast to grow in.

BV is often described as having a fishy odour, so is easy to identify and is easily treated with antibiotics. Thrush is caused by a yeast infection, making you feel itchy sore and producing a cottage cheese like discharge, easy to treat with over the counter antifungal cream, pessaries or one dose medication. You need to treat your partner to avoid reinfection.

It is important to get your symptoms diagnosed before treating with over the counter products, as you may end up exacerbating your health issue with the wrong treatment.

However, rather than getting thrush or BV in the first place, why not look at what’s in your sexual lubricant.

A 2-year study at UCLA of 141 sexually active women aged between 18 and 65 (2013) found that women who used petroleum jelly intravaginally increased their risk for bacterial vaginosis by 22%. Similarly, those who reported using oils, such as those found in your kitchen cupboard, had a 32% increased risk for yeast infection.

Diabetes and Intimate Health

The most commonly reported sexual health problem in women who have type 2 diabetes is vaginal dryness, caused by hormonal changes to the walls of the vagina and reduced blood flow to the genital area. Those who have difficulty controlling their blood sugar may find themselves particularly prone to yeast infections due to the higher levels of glucose, which creates a surgery environment for thrush to thrive. It is important to use a pH balanced sex lubricant as many commercial lubricants and vaginal moisturisers available over the counter or on prescription contain glycerin which can cause thrush.

Although thrush is more common in people with a vagina and vulva, people with a penis can get thrush too. Balanitis is the inflammation of the end of the penis and foreskin (the glans) caused by infection, such as thrush, bacterial infections, sexually transmitted diseases, skin irritations and certain skin conditions. Men with diabetes often experience this problem due to sugary urine, causing thrush which sits at the end of the penis, which is why it is so important to use a pH balanced sexual lubricant free from glycerin.

How do I prevent Thrush?

Household Products

Owning a sex toy company we hear about the weird and unusual range of products people use as sexual lubricants, many of which are not suitable as a sexual lubricant, including Bio Oil, hand cream, body lotion, Germolene, baby oil, olive oil, body lotion, butter and low-fat spreads. The only thing these all have in common is that they are slippery!

Many couples use saliva as it is watery, but it dries out quickly.

Avoid using products you find in your kitchen cupboards such as oils, spreads, butter or lard.

When buying a sexual lubricant, always check the label to check the ingredients of your lubricant. Choose a trusted brand that has been researched and thoroughly tested that tell you the ingredients, pH and osmolarity.

Be aware that not all commercially available lubricants print their ingredients or the pH on the label.

As the walls of the vagina become thinner during the menopause, friction during sex can cause grazes and small cuts, making you more prone to infection such as thrush and BV, so choose a sexual lubricant that will not exacerbate vaginal infections. This can also be problematic when you have had cancer and cancer treatments too. Be aware of the importance of using condoms and getting tested because the thinning vagina walls can increase transmission of sexually transmitted infections.

Feminine Hygiene Products

New research by the University of Guelp in Canada found that 95% of women use feminine hygiene products in the form of douches, washes, wipes, and lubricants to keep their vagina clean and smell lovely, yet many of these products can be detrimental to vagina health.

Some women may have been using these products to overcome an existing infection, such as thrush or bacterial vaginosis, rather than seek medical advice due to embarrassment and the convenience of buying such products OTC. This is potentially putting their health at risk if it is a more serious issue such as Lichens Sclerous or Vulval Cancer, so any changes need to be checked by your GP.

They found that women who used gel sanitizers were eight times more likely to have a yeast infection and almost 20 times more likely to have a bacterial infection.

Women using feminine washes or gels were almost 3 ½ times more likely to have a bacterial infection and 2 ½ times more likely to report a urinary tract infection.

Participants using feminine wipes were twice as likely to have a urinary tract infection, and those using lubricants or moisturizers were 2 ½ times as likely to have a yeast infection.

Why You Need to Ditch Feminine Hygiene Products

The feminine hygiene industry market is worth $2billion in North America alone. In the UK, our supermarket shelves and chemists are awash with so many of these products. Whilst these products continue to exist and be advertised in the media by celebrity doctors, beauty/wellness brands and celebrities who have hit the menopause, women will continue to use them. We have to educate women that our vaginas are self-cleaning and do not need to be scrubbed, douched, scoured or perfumed to keep them clean and smell like lavender or roses, tightened with serums or vaginal rejuvenation treatments or made up with vulva make up to make them look pretty and younger!

No one needs jade eggs, charcoal sticks, detoxing teabags or sticks, wasp nests, vulva hydrating masks, glitter or any other potentially harmful products inside their vagina or on their vulva.

The manufacturers of such products are making millions and will continue to do so whilst we continue to buy their products. Many of the celebrities are being paid huge sums of money to promote these brands with little idea to the detrimental impact upon vagina/vulva health and that our vaginas/vulvas are unclean and need all these products, which they do not!

On a gender note, where are all the penis douches, wipes, sanistisers and washes?

Some men do not have good hygiene habits, we know that bacteria can get trapped under the foreskin or in unwashed underwear and under nails when men scratch their bottoms and testicles, yet the genital hygiene market is prominently aimed at the insecurities of women making them believe that their vagina is unclean.

There are products that have been designed to benefit vagina health that have taken years to develop, so do some research and choose carefully but remember you don’t need to scour your vagina, you can keep it healthy and prevent infections by not using feminine hygiene products that upset the vagina flora.

No one needs a perfumed condom!

Many people think they are allergic to latex, but it is often the ingredients in the lubricant on the condom that causes irritation, stinging or even thrush. However, many condom manufacturers do not include the lubricant ingredients on their packaging even when they have space which is so frustrating it is worth exploring different brands if you experience any irritation.

Be aware that there are now perfumed condoms which I strongly recommend you avoid if you experience any vaginal, vulval or anal irritation, no one needs a perfumed condom. It is frustrating when I see perfumed condoms, intimate washes and wipes, lubes and vaginal moisturisers full of irritating ingredients in goody bags at women’s health and medical events where we are talking about vagina/vulva/anal health.

This is why we need to keep educating people about what they are putting inside their vaginas, anus and on their vulva because many do not realise they are damaging their sexual health and pleasure

What Ingredients should I avoid?


Glycerin is a common ingredient found in many commercial lubricants and even some available on prescription. Being a sugar it creates a sugary environment that thrush loves to thrive in, so it is advisable to choose a glycerin free products esepcially if you know you are prone to vaginal infections or get recurrent thrush or bacterial vaginosis. Choose a product that is pH balanced and glycerin free if possible, especially if you think you have a sensitivity, and always check the label. Having said that, some brands do not put the ingredients on the label! If your GP prescribes a lubricant or vaginal moisturiser, ask them what the ingredients are.

Just because it is on prescription does not mean it is good for your vagina health, and there are glycerin free products that your GP can prescribe instead.

Many flavoured lubricants contain glycerin, but some only use natural flavourings that do not contain glycerin, so check the label. Flavoured lubricants are ideal for oral sex but if you know you are sensitive, it is advisable to wash it off before penetrative sex and use your glycerin free lubricant.

Be aware that some brands try to promote their lubricant with plant glycerin as being safe, it is not! Plant or mineral based, it is still glycerin and will cause thrush. Other brands contain sorbitol, this is a sugar which will cause thrush.

Propylene Glycol

Another common ingredient is glycol, a common preservative found in many sexual lubricants and a well known vaginal irritant, especially for women who experience vaginal infections or irritation. The sting, burning or itching sensation many women experience when they put the lubricant on their vulva or inside their vagina is often the propylene glycol causing irritation. This can be a particular problem with condoms as women think they have a latex allergy when it is, in fact, the lubricant on the condom causing irritation, not the latex. Again, condom manufacturers do not put the lubricant ingredients on the packaging.

Using a condom, such as Skins that has a silicone lubricant, is advisable as there will be fewer issues with irritation.


Some lubricants, even on prescription, can contain parabens. Parabens (methyl parabens) are included as preservatives in many cosmetics, personal care and food products to prevent bacterial growth and have been potentially linked to breast cancer.

Research by Dr Darbre at University of Reading (2012) looked at the concentration of five parabens in breast tumour tissue. One or more types were found in 99% of the tissue samples, and all five were measurable in 60% of the samples. They concluded that parabens are absorbed through the skin from skin care products.

The delicate tissues of the vulva and vagina are highly absorbent, therefore avoid using sexual lubricants containing parabens.

To ensure you don’t experience any adverse reaction to your lubricant, always choose a pH balanced lubricant and avoid ingredients such as parabens and petroleum-based ingredients found in petroleum jelly.

Tingling/Coloured/Flavoured Lubes

Some people love them, others hate them, but we never recommend them at Jo Divine. Why? Because there is nothing worse than a burning, stinging or itching vulva or vagina.

Lubricants designed to make you tingle or warm up your vagina contain menthol and chilli, substances that are not recommended for use on your genitals.

“Always try a small amount first. If you experience burning, stinging or itching, wash it off immediately.”

The same goes for coloured lubricants, which can cause vaginal irritation and allergic reactions. So, if you’re prone to sensitivity, avoid coloured and flavoured lubricants.

Some lubricants can be difficult to wash off and leave behind a sticky feeling, which is neither pleasant nor sexy. Others can stain your bedsheets and underwear.


Choosing a pH balanced sexual lubricant is important to avoid upsetting the vagina flora and increasing your risk of developing thrush or bacterial vaginosis. Many lubricant brands do not tell you what the pH is on the tube or bottle, so you have no idea if it is the same as the vagina, which is between 3.8 and 4.5.

Many couples use saliva as their lubricant, but it is more watery than slippery and dries out quickly. Some household substances are not suitable for lubricant such as Vaseline, olive oil, Baby Oil, Bio Oil, hand cream or body lotion as they are not designed for internal use or pH balanced to that of the vagina.


Some popular water-based brands including KY jelly and well-known brands frequently prescribed and recommend by healthcare professionals and widely available on the high street and online can exacerbate vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy. This is because they have a high osmolarity so draw moisture away from the walls of the vagina rather than lock it in and hydrate them.

Educating Healthcare Professionals

When prescribing a sexual lubricant, HCPs need to be aware of what some of them contain, such as glycols which cause vaginal irritation When advising their patient to buy a commercial lubricant they need to tell them to check the ingredients for glycols and parabens as both cause imbalance to the vagina flora leading to infection or irritation, exacerbating the problem further.

Not all lubricants and vaginal moisturisers are the same, and choosing the cheapest product on prescription will not save money in the long term when the patient returns for another prescription for antifungal treatment for thrush or antibiotics for bacterial vaginosis.

If your GP prescribes a sexual lubricant, ask them to check the ingredients, especially if you have sensitive skin, recovering from cancer treatments or suffer from thrush or other vagina infections. If you experience any problems such as itching, burning or develop a vaginal discharge, stop using it and ask to be prescribed something different.

HCPs also need to ask their patients what feminine hygiene products they are using if they present with recurrent UTI’s, thrush and BV. There is no point in treating the infection if the woman continues to use the product that has caused it in the first place. It will just return.

I work with many HCPs who ensure they offer the best product to their patients.

What lubricant should I choose?

With the shelves in our high streets, supermarkets and chemists heaving with sexual lubricant and vaginal moisturiser brands and a huge range now available online, it can be a minefield knowing what you should use to keep your vagina happy and healthy.

Several celebrities and beauty brands have created their own range of intimate products, some of which contain irritating ingredients mentioned below. Menopause, in particular, is on trend so many products are being aimed at this age group, but millennials are being targeted by beauty brands.

Just because it has been created by a celebrity brand or is being promoted on TV or in a magazine by a celebrity doesn’t mean it is good for vagina health!

Ensuring that you use a good pH balanced sexual lubricant or vaginal moisturiser is so important at any age but especially during and beyond the menopause or following cancer treatment as many women experience vaginal atrophy and dryness.

Some people don’t have any problems with their sexual lubricant, but if you think your product could be causing sexual health issues, choose pH balanced lubricants that are glycerin, glycol and parabens free and avoid tingling/coloured/flavoured lubricants.

Water-based Lubricants

These are the closest to your natural vaginal lubrication and safe to use with sex toys and contraceptives. They do tend to dry out more quickly, so you may need to reapply more, and they can be easily reactivated with water.

Oil-based Lubricants

Oil-based lubricant are longer lasting and thicker than water based. This also makes them more nourishing for the vagina, helping to keep it hydrated and flexible. Be aware that they are not latex- condom compatible, and avoid oil-based substances like Vaseline and baby oil.

You can use water based and oil-based lubricants together to create a double glide effect which helps you to enjoy sex for longer.

Silicone-based Lubricants

Silicone-based Lubricants are longer lasting and waterproof, so a little goes a long way. Choose products that do not contain perfumes, flavours or dyes. Great for anal play, choose a product that is pH balanced, to that of the anus as this is different to lubricants designed for vaginal sex play.

You should never use silicone lubricants with silicone sex toys as they can damage the product, leaving them feeling tacky to the touch. Some people are allergic to silicone lubricants, so you need to stop using them if you notice any burning, itching or stinging.

Discover what works for you, get a sample, some lubricant companies are happy to send you one to try and do a skin test to see if it irritates, something we always recommend.

If you are happy using a cheap lube or coconut oil that’s fine. However, if you are one of millions of women who struggle with their vagina health, do some research and find a pH balanced sexual lubricant or vaginal moisturiser that works for you and keeps your vagina healthy.

Before you buy from any “sexual wellness website” including well-known high street brands and websites, check the products they are selling because you will find many contain all the irritating ingredients mentioned which will impact upon your sexual wellness and intimate health.

Using YES organic lubricants has transformed and saved my sex life, especially now I’m menopausal, and I am even happier to have discovered SUTIL Luxe, a water-based lubricant that feels like silicone. So become lube-savvy and, just as you would pay attention to your diet and skin care products, choose your sexual lubricants carefully. When many women find a brand that works for them, they are so relieved they stick with it.

Discovering a pH balanced sexual lubricant that works for you will enhance both your sexual health and pleasure, whatever your age, and keep your vagina/vulva very healthy and happy!

Written By : Samantha Evans