• Lube 101 Definitions

    Henna / Lawsonia Inermis

    A plant commonly found in Africa and South Asia. For centuries, henna has been a popular folk remedy for a variety of illnesses, and henna dye is often used to create temporary tattoos.

    There is evidence that henna acts as an antibacterial and anti-fungal ingredient. It may also reduce inflammation, and it is generally safe when applied to the skin. However, some people have allergies to the plant, which can cause hives, irritation, and other symptoms. Henna is not safe for internal use.

    Women should not use massage oils or other products with henna when pregnant or breastfeeding.


    A flowering plant commonly used as aromatherapy. It is part of the mint family.

    Lavender oil has shown a capacity for reducing anxiety and improving users’ ability to sleep. It also has a hormonal effect similar to estrogen when used in large amounts, and some research shows that it may have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

    While lavender is generally safe, its essential oil can irritate the skin when used in extremely large amounts.


    Often referred to as the vaginal “lips,” the labia are two pairs of skin folds that make up part of the female vulva (the external structures that surround the vagina). Their purpose is to protect the vagina and clitoris.

    The outer folds (labia majora) have more fatty tissue and are usually larger than the two inner folds (labia minora). The two inner folds swell slightly during arousal.

    Labia vary greatly in size and shape. Touching or licking the labia can be pleasurable for some women.

    Longfolia (Tongkat Ali)

    A flowering plant native to Malaysia, Thailand and other parts of Asia. It is an extremely bitter plant, traditionally used to treat irritated skin and as an antimicrobial agent.

    Longifolia extract is sometimes used to treat erectile dysfunction, and supplement manufacturers frequently claim that the plant has testosterone-boosting abilities. However, there is limited clinical evidence for this use, and more research needs to be completed to establish whether longifolia is an effective sexual enhancement supplement.

    The plant is considered safe, although some users may experience nausea and other relatively mild side effects.

    Lysine / L-Lysine

    An amino acid that may reduce the likelihood of herpes simplex outbreaks. Some lubricants include l-lysine for this reason.

    L-lysine is found naturally in soybeans, lentils, and other popular foods, and it is an important building block for proteins. It may also have beneficial effects on skin health, although there is limited research to support this use.

    People with herpes are much more likely to transmit the virus during outbreaks, and l-lysine may help to control the spread of the disease. However, it is important to note that l-lysine does not provide complete protection against genital or oral herpes, particularly during an outbreak; condoms and dental dams are the best way to limit the spread of the herpes simplex virus, and products with l-lysine should only be used as a secondary form of protection.


    A genus of grass characterized by its fragrant smell. In some cultures, lemongrass (also known as Cymbopogon) is said to have an aphrodisiac quality. It is also used as a preservative, a medicinal herb, and as a natural pesticide.

    Personal lubricant manufacturers primarily use lemongrass for its purported libido-enhancing effects and for its pleasant fragrance. While it is generally safe, it can cause reactions in people with grass allergies. Some evidence suggests that lemongrass can stimulate menstruation, and because of this, pregnant women should not use products with this ingredient.


    An anesthetic (numbing) agent added to some numbing sprays to desensitize tissue and to relieve discomfort. Unlike other numbing ingredients such as benzocaine and lidocaine, lauromacrogol is fairly mild; it is also used in some balms and ointments as an anti-itching agent. Synonyms for lauromacrogol include polidocanol, laureth 9, and PEG-9 lauryl alcohol.

    While this ingredient is fairly gentle and well tolerated, it can cause a warming feeling that some users find uncomfortable. It can also cause a potentially serious allergic reaction when applied in large amounts (this is rare for topical preparations). Side effects can include hives, pain, or burning.

    Lycium barbarum

    A woody plant, primarily found in Asia. The fruit of the lycium barbarum plant is commonly known as the goji berry or wolfberry. Goji has anti-inflammatory properties and may act as an aphrodisiac. See “goji berry extract” for more information.


    Mental and emotional receptiveness to sexual activity. Other names for libido include sex drive, sexual receptivity, and sexual appetite.

    Libido is entirely subjective, but an extremely low sex drive (for example, when a person does not want to have sex for months at a time) be a symptom of an underlying mental or physical health issue. Factors that can affect a person’s libido include age, physical and mental health, hormonal production, and diet.

    Libido should not be confused with physical preparedness–e.g., erectile ability in men or vaginal fluid production in women. A person can have a strong libido, yet encounter physiological issues when attempting to have sex.


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    Additives used to regulate microorganisms in a product. They play a particularly important role in preventing fungal and bacterial growth in personal lubricants.

    Common lube preservatives include citric acid, chlorhexidine gluconate, sodium benzoate, and phenopip. While most preservatives are completely safe, some can cause side effects. A class of preservatives known as parabens are particularly controversial, as several studies indicate a possible link between parabens and breast cancer. Some users also report topical reactions to certain preservatives.

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