What is Lubricant Osmolality and How Can It Affect Vaginal Tissue?

Soul Source now carries a new personal lubricant, BioNude by Good Clean Love. It’s an all-natural, unflavored water-based lubricant that is iso-osmolar, meaning its osmolality is the same as vaginal tissue. So, what is osmolality?

Personal lubricants come in a variety of options, from silicone-based and oil-based, to water-based, and hybrids of any and all of these. But depending on their chemical makeup, lubricants can also have varying levels of what scientists call osmolality.

 Osmolality measures the concentration of dissolved particles per unit of water. The osmolality of a lubricant is important because the epithelial skin layer or the body’s natural mucus is constantly trying to maintain homeostasis, or an equilibrium of osmolality.

Water moves freely back and forth across cell membranes in response to the osmotic pressure being exerted by the molecules of extracellular fluids (lube) on the cell’s intracellular fluid. If a lubricant has a higher osmolality than the cells of the body (hyper-osmotic), the vaginal tissue releases its own moisture in an attempt to reach homeostasis with the lubricant. So instead of making the vaginal tissue moisturized, this process actually dries out the tissue, putting women at risk of abrasions, skin sloughing, and other cell damage. Studies show that due to this tissue damage, hyperosmolar lubricants also put women more at risk of infections, such as Bacterial Vaginosis and others. Unfortunately, many of the most popular and easily-available lubricants on the market are hyper-osmotic. 

If a lubricant has a lower osmolality than the cells of the body it’s called hypo-osmotic, and causes the cells of the body to pull water out of the lubricant.

A perfect lubricant would be iso-osmotic, meaning it would have equal osmotic pressure, or its cells would have the same hydration levels as the cells of vaginal tissue, which is approximately 285-295 mOsm/kg, milli-osmoles per kilogram of solvent. Since BioNude lubricant is iso-osmolar, it poses less risk by mimicking the body’s natural lubrication, rather than drying out vaginal tissue. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests only using lubricants with an osmolality below 1200 mOsm/kg.  The osmolality of the other lubricants that Soul Source offers, Sylk and Sliquid Organics Natural, fall below this number as well.

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