Game of Lubes - the who’s, the when and the what now’s....

Illustration of a purple hand that is dripping from lubricant poured over it. Surrounding the hand are floating illustrations of previously used lubricants such as yams, lubrication jelly, seaweed and olive oil.
Written by Lucy Lube
Illustration by Maartje Aletta Reggin

It’s not often we sit and think about when, how or even give the nod of approval to our helping friend lubricant - back in the olden days when sex was a mostly hidden act and when there were certain things that we didn’t know about. For example, (fun fact no.1) the ancient Egyptian enthusiasm for oral sex is credited by some historians for the creation of another cornerstone of modern society: lipstick. Egyptians are often thought to have been the first bunch of people to wear makeup. Under this theory, the Egyptian lust for both make-up and oral sex hit it off when ancient Egyptian folks publicised their oral expertise by colouring their lips — a practice that eventually evolved into our modern red lip classic thing that you like (admit it, you love it). Let’s not forget, everything originated from somewhere. In my case and the case of Lucy Lube, we both originated from the act of sexual pleasure!

At Lucy we see lube as something to enhance sexual wellness, develop conversations and increase pleasure. As you read on you will see that it has come a long way... Pun maybe intended but a bit soon! It's important to remember, in order to advocate for anything we must understand the struggle to be able to appreciate the current. When you hear about what our ancestors used to use before commercial lube was invented, you’ll really appreciate what Lucy Lube has to offer!

Modern day commercial lube wasn’t invented until the early 20th century, and even then, it was a far cry from the collection of products that we know of today. There are heaps of options available today that tick all sorts of boxes—they tingle, they glide, they stride, shit they nearly do all the work if you ask them nicely. Unlike Lucy Lube, a lot of current products out there are not natural/organic but way back when, they were as natural and obscure as a doctor’s handwritten note in a free clinic.

Let’s look through this timeline at what our beautiful ancestors reckoned was hip and cool...


350 BC: Olive Oil

Olive oil remains one of the best and most popular condiments. Perfect for any fresh salad or pasta dish, it is very healthy and rich in natural ingredients. Turns out, olive oil has been tossing salads for years in more ways than the obvious.

Derived from black, ripened olives, olive oil is considered one of the last “fruits” harvested right before early winter’s frost. The earliest mention of olive oil as a lubricant is from 350 BC. That’s around the same time that the dildo became popular; ancient Greek dildos were made of padded leather and, yes, anointed with olive oil.

People should avoid using olive oil because it can damage latex condoms. This damage can cause these items to tear or break, increasing the likelihood of a person getting pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

"Profert Oenothea scorteum fascinum, quod ut oleo et minuto pipere atque urticae trito circumdedit semine, paulatim coepit inserere ano meo” - Roman novel written by Gaius Petronius


I know you’re thinking Aquaman could keep you moist but in reality, seaweed was actually used as a main ingredient in lube. Seaweed is boiled to produce a goopy, sticky liquid called carrageenan. Carrageenan is water-soluble, gelatinous, and slippery—or in other words, a really great lube.

(Fun fact no.2) A new study led by Rutgers clinician and researcher Mark Einstein is examining a revolutionary way to block transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV), the organism that causes 99 percent of cervical cancers, using a topical gel applied during sexual activity. The product is a personal lubricant made with a formulation of seaweed extracts commonly referred to as carrageenans.

1600s: Yam’s

In Japan’s Edo period (1603-1868), couples used tororo-jiru, a slick substance made by grating Chinese yams. Early Chinese condoms made from animal intestine or treated linen were often coated with a few drops of vegetable oil to facilitate penetration. Yam-i-rite?

Exact first use is not documented....but we guess it’s been used for a while: Spit

"It's perfectly safe to supplement your own natural lubrication with saliva," explains Patti Britton, PhD, a clinical sexologist in California and author of The Art of Sex Coaching.

The earliest documented references to saliva as a personal lubricant were
penned in the 18th-century as often being the butt of many Chinese jokes.


Old mate Van Horn (how fitting!!) and Sawtell in New York introduced KY Jelly in January 1904, and later acquired by Johnson & Johnson. KY Jelly's original stated purpose was as a surgical lubricant, and it was often chosen by doctors because of its natural base. The product is now an international sex symbol known by many generations - even your granny...ewwww! Let’s not forget that around this era, Vaseline petroleum jelly was also used. It was sticky, smelly and let’s be fair, probably very unpleasant. Thankfully, like any good idea, people sat down with a pen, paper and an abacus and developed the product even further.

Most recently:

Like any product, the more available the product the more people's preferences change. Lucy Lube prides itself on being a product that is mainly focused on the feminine side of sexual wellness. Are we the only product out there? No. Are we trying to change the way lube is looked by others? Yes. We are trying to destigmatise and change the thought that lube is there to enhance men’s sexual experience. We are shifting the taboo boundaries to show that lube is something that is enjoyed and is something that should be as common as dust on your bedside table. Are we making fun better? No - that is down to you however we are making it something that can be experienced in a different way. Basically we want to make good sex - great sex. Whether it's a solo act or with “friends” we want Lucy Lube to enhance and sustain your sexual wellness.


Maartje Reggin (@littlemaart) is a disabled designer and activist from The Netherlands who loves doing research and making everyone feel included. She is a friend to all animals (especially her two house bunnies and her cat) and can’t live without tea.  

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