Going Green in the Bedroom

Harmful chemicals—you wouldn’t eat them, you wouldn’t use them on your face, so you certainly wouldn’t want to put them “down there.” As Americans are becoming more health conscious and aware about the harmful ingredients in mainstream foods and personal care items, there is also a rising concern over intimacy products. Intimacy products may be a bedroom staple, but getting your hands on the wrong kind can lead to more damage than pleasure (1).

What’s in Your Bedside Drawer?
Many drug store lubricants contain chemicals that could harm you or your partner. Studies have shown that skin is very absorbent, and up to 60% of chemicals that are placed on its surface can enter into the bloodstream. Some areas of the body, like mucosa (or mucous membranes) are even more sensitive and susceptible to chemical absorption than typical outer skin because they lack an outer protective layer called the Stratum corneum. The mucosa is found in areas such as the mouth, eyes and intestines, but it also covers our more intimate areas, like the vagina, rectum and tip of the penis (1). This means that during intercourse, these sensitive mucosa areas are free to act as sponges by absorbing any chemicals they come in contact with.

Mainstream lubricants often contain two potentially dangerous ingredients: propylene glycol and parabens. Propylene glycol, which is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to its low oral toxicity, is also found to be a skin irritant for the sensitive mucosa areas. Parabens, generally used as preservatives, have been shown in studies to possibly be linked to breast cancer (2).

Intimate toys also raise concern due to the presence of phthalates. Phthalates are chemical plasticizers that enhance the properties of plastic by giving it flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. These chemicals are known to be possible carcinogens that can cause mutagenic effects on the skin and mucosa (3). Also, many items are made from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC production releases toxic chemical dioxide, which you don’t want to breathe in or use near sensitive body parts (4).

Safety First
Don’t get discouraged while checking ingredients and discarding any potentially dangerous bedside products; there are still ways to have safe fun in the bedroom. The natural products industry has already made its way into the intimate products market and offers many safe alternatives to the ones found in drugstores.

Some companies now offer lubricants that contain organic and plant-based ingredients. Instead of synthetic chemicals, their products are composed of ingredients such as organic aloe vera, bees wax, locust bean, almond, shea butter, sunflower, chamomile, calendula, vitamin E, flax and rose hip (1, 4). Some companies even add glycerin and cinnamon that work with your body’s own moisture to create a gentle warming sensation (4). Companies also offer vegan products, free of animal testing.

There are also lines of intimate toys and massagers that are phthalate free, and made from FDA-approved materials that are biocompatible and free of toxins. Some distributors embrace a sustainable approach with not only their ingredients, but also with their packaging (3, 5).

Natural Contraception
In the hopes of having a more natural sex life without taking synthetic oral contraceptives every day, some women are turning to their own bodies for fertility answers. By monitoring basal body temperature with a precise thermometer, a woman can track how fertile she is on certain days during the month, or have a contraceptive monitor do it for her (6). There are also vegan condoms and vegan spermicides available (7).

For those who want to conceive, many natural products can help. Such supplements may help restore hormonal balance, optimize your chances of conceiving and even support cervical health (6).

Between the Sheets
Now that you can rest (or play) easy, why stop with natural intimacy products? “Going natural” can be applied to many aspects of life, and couples and singles alike are transforming their entire bedrooms into natural and green intimate havens. From organic sheets, to sustainable furniture and soy-based candles, the options for an earth-friendly bedroom are endless.

Need to shower? Try scrubbing down with your partner to save water. Getting intimate? Turn down the lights to save energy. And if you really want to go green, take the deed outside to your yard, but first make sure you are not using any harmful chemicals or pesticides (8).

People are making changes to go green in so many aspects of their lives, make sure natural intimacy is the next one on your list. WF

1. The Yes Yes Company Ltd., www.yesyesyes.org, accessed Dec. 17, 2012.
2. Sliquid, LLC, www.sliquid.com, accessed Dec. 17, 2012.
3. JimmyJane, www.jimmyjane.com, accessed Dec. 17, 2012.
4. Emerita, www.emerita.com, accessed Dec. 17, 2012.
5. Natural Contours, www.natural-contours.com, accessed Dec. 17, 2012.
6. Fairhaven Health, www.fairhavenhealth.com, accessed Dec. 17, 2012.
7. RDO Medical UK Ltd., www.natural-intimacy.com, accessed Dec. 17, 2012.
8. Greenpeace International, “The Greenpeace Guide to Environmentally-Friendly Sex,” www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/eco-sex-guide, accessed Dec. 17, 2012.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2013