A study has shown that while lubricants may dry out and irritate the vagina or anus, it doesn’t expose a person to greater risk of HIV infection. PLoS ONE is the journal that published the study. Researchers, however, wish to do further study on the effects that personal lubricants have on the human body, particularly the epithelial tissue. This layer of cells is first line of defense that the body has against diseases like HIV.

Hyperosmolar lubricants did the most damage of all of the types included in the study according to Charlene S. Dezzutti, PhD, who was the lead author of the study. Despite this fact, it still seemed to have no ill effects on HIV risk.

The salts, proteins, and carbs are present in high amounts of hyperosmolar lubricants, but in smaller amounts in the vagina and anus, seem to be responsible for the damage to tissue with use. On the other hand, iso-osmolar lubes have a similar balance as epithelial cells.

The study included 14 different lubricant types. Some were over the counter, some were brand name, and others were mail order. The bases for these lubricants were either water, silicone, or lipid. A survey of 6300 individuals showed that the types of lubricants studied were more frequently used for anal intercourse. Water based hyperosmolar lubricants did the most cellular damage. Water based iso-osmolr lubes did the least damage. Even the most damaged vaginal tissue was not more vulnerable to HIV even after exposure to these types of lubes. Further research is being done with rectal cells.

Despite results so far, Dr. Dezzutti is not yet convinced of the safety of these lubricants and says that more testing is needed. NIAID (the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development all helped to fund the study.