Lubricant Osmolality And Why It’s Important

Osmolality. What Is It?

For our needs osmolality is simply the concentration of a water-based lubricant.

If you want to get slightly more technical – Osmolality is a measure of the concentration of dissolved particles per unit of water in a water based liquid and it’s measured in milliosmoles per kilogram (mOsm/kg).

Why Is Personal Lubricant Osmolality Important?

The osmolality of your water based lubricant is of interest because of where you place it, your vulva, anus, or penile urethra (your pee hole).

The outer layer of skin in these areas is made of cells that let water flow freely in and out of them as needed (non-keratinized for the sex nerds).

The cells do this trying to maintain equilibrium between themselves and whatever water based liquid is touching them.

So if the osmolality of your body area cells is different to the osmolality of the water based lubricant molecules, then your body cells will adjust by either absorbing water or releasing it.

What Does A Change In Cell Water Level Do?

If your body cells absorb enough water while trying to equalise, they can burst and die. This can happen if your lubricant is very hypo-osmotic, this is an uncommon product.

And if the body cells release enough water while trying to equalise, they can dehydrate and die. This can happen if your lubricant is very hyper-osmotic, and the majority of lubes on the market are hyper-osmotic!

How Do Damaged Cells In At My Anus, Vulva, or Penis Affect Me?

Dead and damaged cells in these tender body areas are an issue because

  1. the function of these cells is to help prevent dirt and bacteria from entering into your body and
  2. the area can become irritated and more susceptible to infection “for example by HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)” World Health Organisation.

“for example by HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)”

World Health Organisation.

Most commercial personal lubricants have high osmolalities (2000–6000 mOsm/kg). The normal osmolality of vaginal secretions is 260–290 mOsm/kg and in semen it is 250–380 mOsm/kg.

The World Health Organisation recommends their procurement agencies “should source lubricants with osmolalities of not greater than 1200 mOsm/kg.”

The big issue is checking your lubricant osmolality, because it is not on the label!

How Do You Buy Intimate Lubricant With The Correct Osmolality Range If It’s Not On The Bottle?

Speaking openly about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), means chatting about your bedroom and your lubricant osmolality and more research is needed in this field to keep us all safe.

To find a great lubricant, look for a supplier who carries educational information and only stocks body safe lubricants. Take Vavven™, for instance. A social enterprise that sells body safe adult toys to help promote SRHR in local communities and around the world, Vavven™ carries a broad spectrum of ethically produced products including lubricants which have had their osmolality range checked. They also continue to work with industry bodies and highlight issues to regulators.

Below is a list of osmolality for common lubricants.

Common Lubricant Osmolality Guide

Use and procurement of additional lubricants for male and female condoms: WHO/UNFPA/FHI360

The WHO recommend osmolality is less than 1200 mOsm/kg.

 The Ideal pH for the vulva is 4.5 & the ideal pH for the anus is 5.5-5.7

A Little Help Is Needed

Lubricants certainly have a pleasure aspect due to the sensation, but there’s a much larger health aspect. Changes in moisture affect all vulva owners at any age, and the anus is not self-lubricating so lubricant is essential. So no matter who you are and how long you’ve been around, a drop or two of lubricant will bring a smile to all involved. Our personal lubricant range is body safe and fun, so give it a splash.

Vavven™ is a social enterprise selling sex toys and raising funds for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. Change a world with your purchase.

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About Jacqueline Haines

Social entrepreneur who champions sexual and reproductive health and rights. Founder of Vävven.

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