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K-Y Jelly is a water-based, water-soluble personal lubricant produced by Johnson & Johnson. According to the company, "The origins of the brand name 'K-Y' are unknown. Two popular hypotheses are that it was created in Kentucky, hence 'K-Y', or that the letters represent the key ingredients used to make the lubricant, neither of which is proven." Historically the main ingredient is methyl cellulose with carboxymethyl cellulose as a constituent ingredient.
Introduced in January 1904 by pharmaceutical and suture maker Van Horn & Sawtell of New York City, and later acquired by Johnson & Johnson, K-Y Jelly's original stated purpose was as a surgical lubricant, and it was often chosen by doctors because of its natural base. Johnson & Johnson produced a sterile version of the product (intended for medical markets) and a non-sterile version (marketed as general-use personal lubricant) until 2004, when it discontinued the sterile line. The product is now more widely used as a sexual lubricant. It does not react with latex condoms or silicone rubber-based sex toys. While K-Y has a thick consistency and a tendency to dry out during use, it can be "reactivated" by the addition of saliva or more water. K-Y Jelly does not contain a spermicide. A formulation with nonoxynol-9 was available, but Johnson & Johnson removed it from the market after finding that it could facilitate HIV spread.
Unlike petroleum-based lubricants, K-Y is generally biologically inert, and contains no color or perfume additives. The lubricant has proven extremely popular because it does not stain and is easily cleaned up. K-Y Jelly has been available over the counter in the United States since 1980. Recently K-Y Liquid, a warming lubricant, K-Y Warming, K-Y Intense (for women), and a dual-application liquid lubricant, K-Y Yours and Mine were introduced.
K-Y NG uses glycerin and hydroxyethyl cellulose as the lubricant, with chlorhexidine gluconate, glucono delta-lactone, methylparaben and sodium hydroxide as antiseptic and preservative additives. The liquid form of the product combines glycerin with propylene glycol, sorbitol, and Natrosol 250H (a brand of hydroxyethyl cellulose) for lubrication, with benzoic acid, methylparaben and sodium hydroxide as additives. An alternative glycerin-free formulation marketed as "K-Y Ultra" contains propylene glycol, sorbitol, Natrosol 250H and polysorbate 60 for lubrication, benzoic acid and methylparaben as preservatives, and vitamin E.
Based on package ingredient labeling and MSDS, it appears that the enhancement of female sexual arousal effect is from the PEG, a skin irritant, increasing blood flow to the clitoris and other sensitive areas. This same mechanism is attributed to cantharidin, the active ingredient in the purported aphrodisiac known as "Spanish fly".
As stated in documentaries such as The Terror Takes Shape found on the DVD and Blu-ray Editions of John Carpenter's The Thing, K-Y Jelly has also found use in the horror-movie industry by special effects technicians like Stan Winston and Rob Bottin to create a "slimy" appearance for monster puppet effects. Cinematographer Peter Kuran reminiscences during "The Terror Takes Shape" how major studios are able to order multiple "5 Gallon pails of K-Y Jelly" in order to "slime up" the Dog-Monster for the infamous "kennel" scene from The Thing. Copious amounts of K-Y Jelly were also used to simulate saliva and to give the eponymous Alien of the 1979 film an overall slimy appearance as well as the blood of the eponymous Predator of the 1985 film which was mixed with chemiluminescence fluid from green glowsticks.