Dear Dr. Myrtle,
Every time I use my vibrator, I’m getting a vaginal yeast infection! Is there something in the plastic? Could my lubricant be causing a problem?
First, we encourage people of any gender and any age to use water-based (not oil-based) sexual lubricants. We think of them as sex toys, because they are FUN and can add a great deal of sensation to your sexual endeavors. In addition, water-based lubes keep your condoms from breaking, reduce friction with toys, and maintain the health of your skin by helping to prevent painful friction tears. Skin without friction tears is more resistant to infections.
Having said that, some people have a difficult time using water-based lubricants that contain glycerin. Glycerin, on the positive side, makes for a very slippery, slick lube. But glycerin is chemically just a stitch different from glucose (sugar), and to yeast, glycerin and glucose are dinner foods. If you’ve been beating back your yeast colony with medication, then using a lubricant with glycerin will continue to feed the yeast you're hoping to get rid of. This is particularly important for people who have diabetes, or are immunosuppressed (whether from medication or from a medical condition), because these folks often already have a battle with yeast, and glycerin just makes it worse.
Many of the most popular sexual lubricants on the market do contain glycerin, including KY and Astroglide. You can find out whether your lube has glycerin by checking the ingredient list on the label. If you are having problems with yeast infections, we recommend switching to a non-glycerin lubricant. The lubes without glycerin that we offer are Liquid Silk, Maximus, Pleasureglide, Slippery Stuff, and all the silicone-based lubricants.
If you don’t have trouble with yeast infections, it’s FINE to use glycerin lubricants. Many great products contain glycerin, and glycerin lubricants have a wonderfully "fast", slippery feel, so there’s no need to shy away from them all if you are not prone to yeast vaginal or crotch infections!
P.S. The woman who asked this question switched to Liquid Silk, and returned one month later with no yeast infections. Her health professionals were mystified, but she was very happy to still be able to use lube, exonerate her vibrator, and live with fewer yeasties in her life.