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Personal Lubricants Enter Mainstream

NEW YORK - Sales of personal lubricants have taken off in recent years as suppliers have developed products that offer multiple benefits.

Personal lubricants have long been marketed in a fairly clinical way as a solution to vaginal dryness. Given that the condition is often associated with menopause, the aging of the baby boom generation likely would have provided some lift to the category.

But an estimated 95% of women need a personal lubricant at least some of the time, studies suggest, and marketers have introduced products that are more fun to use with features that focus on pleasure enhancement as well as utility.

McNeil Consumer Healthcare's K-Y Brand, for example, in 2005 launched its Touch Massage line, scented massage oils that include what the company said was the first warming massage oil that also functinoed as a personal lubricant. Last year the company added K-Y Sensual Mist, a lubricant that can be sprayed on the skin. The approach is making the product more convenient and less messy to apply while boosting the fun factor.

K-Y is the dominant brand in the $117.1 million personal lubricant category, according to Information Resources inc., but other companies are having an impact as well. BioFilm Inc.'s Astroglide and Zestra Laboratories Inc.'s Zestra also make the top 10 brands list, and the category has also attracted the attention of such companies as SSL Americas Inc. (Durex Play), Church & Dwight Co. (Elexa Intimacy Gel) and Trigg Laboratories Inc. (Wet).

DreamBrands Inc., a relatively new player, expects to make an impact on the personal lubricants category with a product based on a compound extracted from ocean plant life. Carrageenan personal lubricant is made from natural ingredients, according to the company's Oceanus Brands unit -- maker of the product. As a result, it represents a natural alternative to lubricants made with such synthetic ingredients as silicone and proplyene glycol.

The product is designed to provide a smooth, long-lasting form of lubrication that more closely duplicates a woman's natural lubrication. But the key ingredient is derived from seaweed and offers an unexpected benefit, the company claims.

It maintains that studies by the National Cancer Institue suggest that carrageenan is an "exceptionally potent" inhibitor of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which has been associated with genital warts and an increased risk for cervical cancer. In vivo studies suggest that Carrageenan personal lubricant can prevent genital transmission of HPV. The effect appears to occur even in the presence of nonoxynol 9 spermicide, which has been shown in recent studies to increase the reisk of virus transmission.

"This new medical finding on the health benefits of carrageenan as an inhibitor of certain types of HPV is astounding," says Oceanus Brands chief executive officer Gary Kehoe. "While more research is needed, carrageenan could protect millions of men and women. It could change the way people have sex."


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