The right lubricant can make sex more comfortable and even help prevent infection, but before you reach for the bottle you've had tucked in your nightstand for months (years?), you should know that lube can expire.
While not every lubricant is stamped with a sell-by date, their shelf life generally ranges from one to three years, according to testing data from the Food and Drug Administration. "While there are no known risks to using old lubrication as this has not been well studied, I would advise my patients against this," Ankita Langan, MD, FACOG, an ob-gyn in Columbus, GA, told POPSUGAR. "The chemicals in the lubricant may change over time and could potentially cause a skin reaction or may not work as well." An allergic reaction, which may cause itching and burning, is one of the only risks associated with lubricant, so you don't want to do anything to make one more likely.
"In general, it's good practice to not use any product past its expiration date," added Naz Homaifar, MD, MBA, an ob-gyn and chief medical adviser at Natalist. "There aren't too many ingredients that really expire in lubricant, but there is a theoretical risk for certain ingredients (like Nonoxynol-9, a spermicide) to go bad." It's better to be safe than sorry, so if the expiration date on the bottle has passed, or you notice anything different about the lubricant — like a change in the smell or consistency — it's best to toss it. If you're unsure about whether it's time to replace a bottle, you can always check with the manufacturer.
Likewise, if you're ever concerned about which lubricant is best for you, you should talk to your ob-gyn. "I typically tell my patients to use fragrance-free, water-based lubricants as these are less likely to cause an allergic reaction," Dr. Langan said. But there are lots of things to consider. Dr. Homaifar noted that some ingredients are linked with an increased risk of infections like bacterial vaginosis, while oil-based lubricants can damage latex condoms, making them less effective for those who rely on them to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.