For many couples, the use of lubricants is an important component of both vaginal and penis health , and for a couple reasons. First, adequate lubrication is needed to prevent condoms from breaking during sexual activity. Second, it prevents friction that can irritate the sensitive skin of the vagina and penis. In addition, lubrication tends to make sex more enjoyable for both partners.

While lubing up is important, some of the more popular products on the market may be best avoided. Learn about what to steer clear of and which alternatives to seek out below.

What to Avoid

A 2013 study in the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal found that the use of products like over-the-counter vaginal lubricants led to a 22% increase in bacterial infections and a 44% increase in yeast infections among women; a 2012 study by the University of Pittsburgh found that popular lubricants can damage vaginal cells and lead to increased rates of catching and spreading sexually transmitted infections. These health issues are of great concern to both men and women.

People should get familiar with the ingredients used in common lubricants. One, called chlorhexidine gluconate, is an anti-bacterial agent. That might sound great, but there are several healthy bacteria in the vagina that such a lube could interfere with, causing problems for a woman’s (and her partner’s) health.

Other ingredients to be wary of in a lube are those that create warming or cooling sensations, such as menthol, peppermint and capsaicin. While heating things up or cooling them down can add a bit of excitement to playtime, it can also lead to skin irritation for one or both partners, which may evolve into long-lasting problems. Such additives should be avoided, or used infrequently to minimize risk of skin problems.

One of the most important things to know about lube is that oil-based options - Vaseline, baby oil, cooking oils, etc. - erode latex condoms. This means that they interfere with STI and pregnancy prevention when used with such condoms.

Finally, there’s just something unnerving about spreading a bunch of chemicals on one’s most sensitive parts. That’s why some health professionals and sex experts recommend going natural in the lube department. The following options are available.

Organic Brands

Not all products on the market contain sketchy ingredients. There are several brands of water-based (read: safe with latex condoms) lubes that feature all-natural ingredients. Firefly, Sylk and Yes are just a few. Firefly is special in that it contains aloe, an ingredient that soothes the skin and promotes healing of damaged tissues - something particularly useful after a trip to Poundtown.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has many uses - it can be eaten, used on the skin and hair, applied to whiten the teeth and even used as lubricant. It is a solid at room temperature; partners can massage it between their fingers to melt it down. Because it is oil-based, it shouldn’t be used with latex condoms. It’s therefore best for couples who use polyurethane condoms or use an alternate form of birth control (if trying to prevent pregnancy - if not, note that coconut oil and other oil-based lubes may interfere with the journey of sperm through the vagina, so they may reduce the risk of getting pregnant).

Many people love both the smell and taste of coconut. This makes coconut oil a particularly thrilling addition to playtime for several of the body’s senses. Added bonus: Men can purchase a tub of the stuff on the cheap.

Aloe Vera

Long hailed for its ability to soothe the skin and help it heal from burns, it turns out that aloe makes a fine sexual lubricant as well. It has a mild, pleasant smell and can reduce skin irritation and inflammation, making it both pleasurable and medicinal at the same time. While there are products out there featuring primarily aloe, some couples may choose to invest in a plant and grow their own lube. Aloe plants are multi-purpose - aside from supplementing bedroom affairs, they are handy in case of burns from the sun or stove and are beautiful to boot. Simply slice a leaf and apply for playtime fun.

Hydration: All-Day Importance

Adequate moisture isn’t only important during sexy time; the penis skin benefits from being properly hydrated all day. That’s why some men choose to use a penis health cream (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) chock-full of emollients like Shea butter and vitamin E for smooth, supple skin. Men can get the best bang for their buck by purchasing a product containing ingredients that promote ample blood flow and proper nerve function in the organ, including L-arginine, acetyl L-carnitine and vitamin C.