Some Thoughts On: Prolube and Scam Products

Hello my lovely readers,

By now you know me; I love a good lubricant. Sadly this post isn’t about a good lube, far from it actually. Today I want to talk about a product called ProLube.

Evaliscious first raised the red flag when it came to this product and I’m very glad she did. Why? Well, because ProLube (and the company that produce it) pretty much embodies everything sex bloggers fight so hard against.

With no quantifiable evidence, the company I Believed After Using It (hilarious name, btw) claim that their lubricant can:

  • Maintain lubrication for the whole day after a single application in the morning.
  • Control itching and irritation.
  • Control menstrual cramps and acne (even though they tell you not to use it during a period).
  • Control odor (because targeting people’s insecurities is the best, amirite?).
  • Increase libido (specifically 10 hours after applying).
  • Protect the cervix against dysplasia.
  • Treat yest infections and bacterial vaginosis.
  • And, in their most damning claim, protect from STDs, including HIV.

Yeah, this lubricant is claiming to protect people against HIV. This particular claim, to quote the site, is one they say has “Strong theoretical proof, no clinical trials”.

Oh, they also have a product that they claim cures herpes completely. Right.

If your BS meter is going off right now I don’t blame you, because mine is off the charts. Not only does I Believed After Using It claim all of these benefits to ProLube but they also claim that it is the only product that offers complete protection from HIV (when used with a condom), hammering in the fact that condoms aren’t 100% effective as a fear mongering tactic.

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While it’s true that condoms have an associated risk it’s a small one and is usually caused through extenuating circumstances, such as the condom being out of date, not being applied properly, or being used with the wrong type of lubricant. In all cases, though, condoms are the most effective form of protection if you’re sleeping with a partner who has HIV.

Courtesy of Aids.gov
Courtesy of Aids.gov.

For a lubricant to claim that it is the only product on the entire market that can offer a 100% protection rate is not only wholly inaccurate but also incredibly dangerous for anyone who believes the claims. If you do want to know what methods are recommended beyond condoms to reduce the risk of infection please check out this link from Aids.govDo not buy this lubricant.

In addition to making these horrendous claims, I Believed After Using It has consistently refused requests to know what ingredients go in to their lubricant. Why? Because we wouldn’t believe their claims if we knew what was in it. Gee, I wonder why.

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When pressed these best they could say it that the reason their ingredients are so ‘magical’ is because they are an ‘advanced formula’. This formula apparently creates a micro-environment STDs are not able to survive in. However, when asked for proof of this they simply evaded by saying that people would be too stupid to understand. Classy (bonus points for saying that to someone with a Biochemistry degree).

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Needless to say this is not a company to support. They’re evasive, insulting, fear-mongering and rely on so much pseudoscience that it’s not even funny. But the worst thing is that, if not for people in the adult community calling them out, they’d probably get away with all this (and still might).

Y’see, while I Believed After Using It are happy to make a myriad of miracle medical claims, they’ve actually marketed their product as a cosmetic, so they have no obligation to undergo the rigorous tests that some products have to. It’s the lubricant equivalent of labeling a jelly toy ‘for novelty use only’, with the added risk of passing on/contracting a potentially life-threatening virus and it’s pretty damned shitty.

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I Believed After Using It was also very vocal about the fact that they’ve been distributing their product for about 2 years locally. Most of their ‘evidence’ actually comes from the anecdotal accounts of the people who have used it. I Believed After Using It has also made a point of saying that they target sex workers, people who need safe and reliable lubricants, not this despicable flimflam of a product.

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And, of course, the ultimate defense given by I Believed After Using It is white-knight sexist bullcrap. Essentially they’re suggesting that their only intention is to help women; that they need to protect women. After all we don’t know how this stuff works, it’d all go over our heads. We need protection, right?

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Well balls to that. We can protect ourselves (as can people of all genders) and the way we do so is by calling out harmful products like this and making sure that no-one falls victim to such abhorrent marketing tactics. Tell your friends about this shitty product, tweet about it, if you have a platform then post about it. Dangerous Lilly has already done so and I’d love to see more posts.

The more we fight back the less power companies like this have. Raise awareness and hopefully companies will wise up as 2016 progresses. If not you know that me and the rest of the adult community will be there to try and fight back as best we can.

Update 1: Since I wrote this article many other professionals and concerned individuals have contacted I Believed After Using It directly and Chelsea Polis, PhD has even posted their own article on the issue.  I Believed After Using It have continued to say much of the same thing, adding in that they won’t change the claims on the website because they believe them. Right.

I Believed After Using It also released a ‘study’ that they claimed proved their assertions on the benefits of their lubricant. I’m not based in the sciences, so I don’t know too much about the finer details of the study but what I do know is that multiple academics have called them out on how inefficient the study is. It has no name, no mention of peer-reviews publication, is incomplete, at least some of it is directly plagiarized and it doesn’t even address the claims that I Believed After Using It was trying to back up.

Basically it’s one big damning mess which just further validates that this company is knowingly peddling inaccuracies, plagiarizing academic papers to try and give the illusion of a validated product, and is definitely one to avoid at all costs and report if possible. 

I will continue to update this post if more developments occur. In the meantime lets look at the bright side. So many people have rose up to let this company know that what they’re doing is completely unacceptable. Together we’re strong and that couldn’t be more apparent than with incidents like this. 

Update 2: It’s fair to say that this company is a complete and utter lost cause. In the most recent Twitter exchanges they have simply decided to insult people who challenge them while simultaneously arguing that they are 100% in the right.

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Not only this but they insist that they don’t need to prove their product works through clinical trials because they know it works.

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Just to be 100% clear. They believe that the best way to prove that their product can protect against HIV and other STDs is to test it on their customers. If their customers don’t complain then they consider that enough proof that their product works. They’re literally working on Homer Simpson logic.

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No doubt they will continue this way until someone gets hurt, perhaps seriously. At that point, what does it really matter to them? They’d probably find another way to dismiss it (that is if they haven’t received complaints already). I’ve seen no accountability from this company so far so I’m not counting on it when something goes seriously wrong. 

Bonus points for them trying to debunk their own quoted tweet here.
Bonus points for them trying to debunk their own quoted tweet here.

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It’s fair to say that if you can’t trust a company to practice basic safety and logic then their lubricant definitely shouldn’t be applied elsewhere. 

At this point I must repeat the importance of reporting this company and raising awareness in the community.

It’s clear that they have no interest in changing their mind. Either as part of a scam or through willful ignorance their mind is made up.

Update 3: Please check out this amazing post by Deliciously Bad which offers their perspective on the ProLube scandal. This article is amazing; it offers the perspective of their friend (whose science skills are off the charts) as well as the perspective of sex workers. Both are highly valued and extremely important in regards to this product. Just check it out. Trust me. 

Update 4: With the company showing no accountability and no sign of backing down all we as a community can do is expose more of their bad practices and, oh boy, there are a lot of them. 

Since my last update I Believed After Using It have made a Q&A page, mostly filled with garbled sort-of science and typos. Perhaps the worst offense to mind mind is this particular statement:

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This has to be the only lubricant company (maybe even the only company) I know that advises you to keep on using their product if it’s causing irritation. For the record if a lubricant aches, stings or otherwise irritates you during use then discontinue using it immediately. Something in the formula is clearly not compatible with your body and continued use will only aggravate the issue and cause you more pain.

What’s perhaps worst than this advice is the excuse they give: ‘This happens only a few cases of vaginal infection’. Now that’s some pretty broken English but, if I’m understanding correctly, they’re essentially claiming that you will only experience irritation if you have a pre-existing infection and that their lubricant will get the infection under control.

Making this excuse is the equivalent of telling someone that their body is broken (or in some way wrong) rather than accepting that lubricants aren’t compatible with all people. It puts the blame squarely at the user’s feet and makes them feel as if it’s their fault that this terrible lubricant (which we still don’t know the ingredients for) caused them irritation. In essence it’s a deflective form of victim blaming. 

Then again what do I expect from a company that feels like if someone contracts HIV when using their lubricant it’s the condom company’s fault and nothing to do with them.

But let me focus on this point for a minute, because it’s something that I didn’t address in my original post. Apparently ProLube has to be used with a condom in order to work. That’s the way they’ve marketed it and it’s what is in their Q&A too. I Believed After Using It are confident that their lubricant helps prevent STDs and HIV because, in its entire time on the market (which has now gone up to 5 years instead of 2) they’ve allegedly never received a complaint. But, and here’s the essential part, how can they verify that this success rate is due to their lubricant and not the condom?

If ProLube is meant to be used with a condom and people have been using it with a condom and reporting positive results then I’m much more inclined to believe that the condom might have been the preventative factor here and not the lubricant. Call me old fashioned that way.

But, to me, this really does bring a lot into question: How can they discern what their lubricant is accountable for and what a condom is? How do they factor in the use of a condom with their (theoretical) studies? Is it not even worth entertaining the thought that maybe condom-use is the real reason that people who use this lubricant haven’t contracted STDs and HIV? I mean really? Not even mentioned? Okay. 

On a whim I also decided to do a basic Google Image search on some of their sites images too, because they hardly looked professional, and, surprise, surprise, they’ve been taken from other websites. The main one that shows up first has actually been stolen from a breast cancer survivor site. Yeah, because this company really cares about women. 

Click this image to see the image in situ.
Click this image to see the image in situ.

I Believed After Using It claims that they care about women and that they’re protecting them, but this statement is ultimately more revealing than they’d like to admit. In my opinion I Believed After Using It clearly doesn’t care about women but what they certainly see women as is vulnerable. Their party line is that they want to protect women because of this vulnerability but, in reality, they just want to take advantage of this perceived vulnerability for their own personal gain. It’s insidious.

I fully believe that I Believed After Using It expected to keep on using their exploitative and dangerous marketing tactics to keep on growing as a company uncontested. Thankfully that has not been the case. People have continued to put pressure on I Believed After Using It. An article about the controversy has been published in Plaid Zebra regarding the controversy, meanwhile Chelsea Polis, PhD has done a guest post on the topic for Ask for Evidence. Ask for Evidence have some lofty accreditations, adding further credence to the level of BS being peddled by this company. 

In one final twist it should be noted that I Believed After Using It are now also sending out emails asking people to help fund their studies. In the email they show no sign that they are going to cease distribution until the studies are made, however they do hammer in the fact that they have no real proof of their product’s miracle claims. The terms ‘we think’ and ‘we believe’ come up a lot and the terms ‘in view of our experience’ and ‘theoretical knowledge’ come up. 

I Believed After Using It claim in the email that ‘In our website we stated frankly that we have only theoretical proof without any clinical trials, to alert people to make a conscious decision on purchasing it’. So in the spirit of that approach this post will keep updating with each new scandal so that readers and potential buyers truly do feel like they can make a conscious decision before purchase. With all that’s been discovered so far something tells me that most people will be disinclined to make a purchase. 

Until the next review,

Emmeline.

  • @a_tgif_a

    I’ve actually emailed them directly and am yet to get a reply. Fishy to say the least. @a_tgif_a

  • Lunabelle

    I have emailed the FDA. If they want to sell as a cosmetic, there are still rules…particularly in regard to claiming medicinal benefits. Selling as a cosmetic is not a free pass to say anything you like and cosmetics, I believe, must disclose ingredients. Lube (technically a “medical device”) can keep ingredients confidential after being FDA certified. I know many others have emailed, tweeted and called the FDA to report their nonsense. The problem is that the FDA is not known for being speedy or consistent where lube is concerned. We have good quality lubes stuck in the approval process for years, while junk like KY and Astroglide is in every drug store. I’m not sure we’ll see movement any time soon, which makes it all the more important for bloggers, educators and activists to speak up. It did my heart good to see how quickly tweets about this horrible company spread, and the number of influential folks in our community who helped get the word out.

  • Oh good lord. Emmeline, thank you so much for posting this — what a nightmare. I really hope someone is able to follow up on this (FDA or otherwise; oh, what a world it would be if general harassment from people who have ACTUALLY STUDIED SCIENCE would be enough to make this company cry quietly and go back to just chilling with satan 24/7) — you’re right; it’s not just poor product development or marketing, it’s something that could really hurt people.

    For all that the FDA hates approving things in a timely fashion, they *are* rather good at keeping products off the shelves if the companies can’t ante up the $20k for testing. Hopefully, that bad habit of theirs can come into effect here and actually do some good!

  • I contacted them anonymously through their site. They are only selling in Asia right now, so the FDA will have no jurisdiction and cannot stop the product from being made/sold in Asia.

    • Well this is quite problematic. Still this may have all acted as a deterrent for selling in the US.

  • computechguide

    I was thinking to review then at my blog http://makepocketpussy.com but you have valid points to not to review them.