No matter how confident you are, some things are just awkward to shop for. Take lube, for instance. A lot of us end up tiptoeing into the condom section of the drugstore, furtively snatching a bottle of KY or Astroglide then quickly burying it in our basket before bolting, all without taking the time to read the labels in detail. You’ll get a lot more guidance if you walk into a good sex-positive, female-friendly store like Toronto’s Come as You Are or New York’s Toys in Babeland. But I have some friends who refuse to step inside for fear they’ll be seen walking in and out. In that case, head to their online shops or check out Red Tent Sisters. They have a great selection of natural and organic lubes (as well as conventional ones). Still, which lube should you buy? Stop blushing and leave the product testing to me. I’ve done all the dirty work for you (some puns are just begging to be used). Heads up: just because a lube says it’s “paraben-free” or claims to be “natural” doesn’t mean it’s free of crappy ingredients so always read the fine print! Intimate Organics Defence Natural Lubricant, for example, contains irritating methylisothiazolinone linked to rash outbreaks (crotch-scratching is so not sexy).
ASTROGLIDE & KY
Found in nightstands everywhere, both are good examples of what not to buy if you’re trying to woo an earth-conscious lover. Astroglide’s basic formula contains fossil-fuel-derived propylene glycol (so not sexy), as well as two types of parabens (one that falls on the official hormone disruptor list in Europe) and yeast-feeding glycerin to kill the mood even more. KY’s is the same, minus the paraben. Much wiser to snag a bottle of aloe-based Astroglide Natural. Astroglide $15/150 ml; KY $12/75 ml. SCORE: 1/5
PJUR SILICONE & PINK SILICONE
If you love your silicone-based lube, you already know this stuff gives and gives and gives, since there’s no water in it to dry up. Plus, it’s condom-safe, non-irritating, waterproof, with fewer chemical fillers. The big ol’ but here? Silicones/siloxanes are environmental bad boys, particularly if you spot cyclopentasiloxane or cyclomethicone on the label. They’re harmful to aquatic life – so much so that Health Canada had planned to label these “toxic” until industry complained. Clearly we know who the feds are sleeping with. Pjur $30/100 ml; Pink $21/100 ml. SCORE: 1/5
SLIQUID & HATHOR
These two totally different natural lube brands have one thing in common: they both use plant waste products as a base. Sliquid uses plant cellulose from cotton, Hathor a biodiesel-based propylene glycol. What I dig about Hathor, including the flavoured kind, is that it’s a Canadian-made water-based lube. (However, it’s not organic.) What I love about Texas-based Sliquid is that it makes a partly organic line (with zero taste) that includes Sliquid Organics Natural Gel (designed for back-door play) that’s thickened with some organic goodies like flax. Sliquid $22/255 ml; Hathor $28/250 ml. SCORE: 3/5
GIDDY YOYO RAW LOVE BUTTER & PROVINCE APOTHECARY SEX OIL
These cute Canadian products totally blow pseudo-natural sex oils and butters (including Boy Butter) out of the water. You can use these deliciously long-lasting products as lickable massage oils, for solo love sessions (I’m talkin’ to you, gents) as well as all kinds of intercourse (anal, vaginal), as long as you don’t need latex condoms/dams. Oils aren’t latex compatible; hence, they don’t get a perfect score. Über-local Province Apothecary mixes a base of fractionated coconut oil with some lovely organic oils (a flavourless mix). Giddy Yoyo uses all-certified-organic cocoa butter, coconut oil, olive oil and vanilla beans. $14.99/85 ml, $16.75/75 ml. SCORE: 4/5
YES ORGANIC & BLOSSOM ORGANIC
UK-based Yes offers certified-organic options for all tastes. What’s your pleasure? There’s a water/organic aloe-based lube (latex-compatible for safe sex, naturally) and a long-lasting oil-based option made of all-organic almond oil, shea butter, sunflower oil and cocoa butter. This last one is literally edible, though not latex-compatible. California-based Blossom Organics, Aloe Cadabra and Oregon-based Good Clean Love all make great condom-friendly organic aloe-based lubes, too. They’re all essentially aloe with thickeners and need more frequent reapplication than oils, but are great carnal kick-starters. $20/75 ml, $13.99/120 ml. SCORE: 4/5
A version of this article first appeared in NOW Magazine.