In case you weren’t aware, lube is awesome. It makes bodies — and toys — fit together with ease, and lends additional slipperiness to any and all sexual adventures. Whether or not you think you “need” it, consider giving it a try. For many people, lube can be a total game-changer for the better. Lube also makes sex safer — because it decreases friction, abating the risk of fissures and micro tears, which reduces the risk of STI transmission. Lube also makes condoms less likely to break.
The world of lube is wide and wondrous; there are lots of different types, and each are ideal for different activities. Today, we’re going to talk a bit about many kinds of lube, and which kinds work best for what. Before we go any further, though, it’s pivotal to note that lube is better than no lube.
Lube Types and Uses
Water-based lube is a staple. It tends to feel more like “natural” vaginal lubrication than silicone-based lubricant; some folks prefer it for this reason. Some water-based formulas are thicker and more cushiony, while others are on the runnier side. Thicker formulas, like Sliquid Sassy, tend to be better for anal play. (If you’re ever shopping for lube and you’re unsure of how thick or thin a lube will be, you can tilt the bottle from side-to-side. If it moves with ease, it’s thin. If it doesn’t budge, it’s more gel-like.) When used on its own, water-based lube tends to dry up pretty quickly, which can be a bummer depending on your needs. You can always reapply as needed, or simply revive it with a spritz of water or a dab of saliva. Water-based lube can be used by itself, or in tandem with a silicone lubricant.
Silicone-based lubes are odorless, tasteless, colorless, condom compatible, and typically very thin in consistency. To some, silicone “sounds like” a chemical, and thusly gives them pause; some sources argue that silicone is unhealthy for vaginal flora. There’s no scientific evidence that this is the case, however. Silicone is totally natural and hypoallergenic, and most silicone-based lubes contain five or fewer ingredients. When used as lube, it remains on the surface of the skin; it doesn’t get absorbed. As such, it can be great if you need a lube that’ll last. (It’s also not soluble in water, which makes it great for any underwater activities.) Some folks don’t like silicone lube because it doesn’t feel like “natural” vaginal lubrication; the consistency is very thin, and its specific kind of slipperiness does not mimic naturally-occurring vaginal lubrication.
Some advisories regarding silicone lube: 1) Silicone lube stains fabric, so be careful using it on your favorite sheets or around fancy lingerie. 2) Silicone loves itself, maybe a little too much; silicone lube has a tendency to bond with silicone toys and ruin their texture over time. If you really want to use silicone lube with a silicone toy, you can patch test your lube on a part of the toy that doesn’t come into contact with the genitals (like the bottom of a dildo base) or cover the toy with a condom. 3) Seriously, this stuff is slippery, and pretty tricky to clean up. Be careful not to get trapped on the wrong side of the door or spill it on hard floors! 4) Silicone lube is also flammable. So, put down those massage candles for now.
Hybrid lube is typically a blend of water and silicone, and arguably feels the most “natural” of the bunch. Many hybrid (often also known as “silk” lubes) were originally designed to work as vaginal moisturizers. It’s usually creamy and thick in consistency; it doesn’t dry up as quickly as pure water-based lube, but doesn’t last quite as long as pure silicone-based lube. Silicone and water hybrid lubes do not bond with silicone toys like pure silicone lube does, so they should be safe for use with silicone sexual aids.
Oil-based lube lasts for a really long time. Still, it’s is a tricky business. No oil — no, not even coconut oil — is compatible with latex condoms. Some oils, like petroleum, can also coat pores and interfere with vaginal flora; for that reason, we don’t recommend them for use in the vagina or use with latex condoms. They can, however, be paired with polyurethane or internal condoms. Coconut oil is generally safe for vaginal use, and it can be really good for people with lots of sensitivities. Still, since it’s antifungal, coconut oil can potentially wipe out good, necessary vaginal bacteria which can result in a pH imbalance.
Oil-based lube can be great for anal play; for example, if you’re using a non-latex condom, fisting, or penetrating with toys. For people with penises, some oil-based lubricants (like Gun Oil or Grizzly Paw Masturbation Cream) work wonderfully for masturbation, too.
Look for Lube Ingredients
As far as ingredients, we recommend avoiding glycerin, parabens, and propylene glycol. Glycerin is not the same as glucose, but it’s chemically very similar to it; as such, it potentially cause irritation or yeast infections in people with vaginas. It’s important to note that glycerin is not dangerous or necessarily harmful. It just doesn’t cooperate well with some people’s bodies. If your favorite lube happens to contain glycerin and your body isn’t having any reaction, there’s no need to toss it.
Parabens are common in many personal care products, and some studies indicate that they’ve been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Propylene glycol has been known to irritate mucous membranes, (in this case, we’re talking about vaginas and anuses) and can increase the chance of STI transmission in status-discordant (positive and negative) partners.
We also discourage use of any lubricants that contain analgesics, or numbing ingredients. If you’re experiencing pain with penetration — whether anally or vaginally — that’s an issue that needs to be addressed, not masked.
Most lubes are not conception-friendly, as they can hinder sperm mobility. If you’re trying to conceive, we recommend checking out a lube specifically designed to facilitate conception, like Pre-Seed Fertility-Friendly lubricant, Samsar Conceive Plus, or Yes Baby Sperm Friendly lubricant. (Also, all you folks who don’t want to get pregnant — lube does not prevent pregnancy, it’s just that it sometimes can get in the way if you’re actively trying to get pregnant as soon as possible. Don’t think you there’s no way you can get pregnant because you’re using lube! You can — it’s just less likely.)
Pay attention to your body — if you suspect that a certain lube is causing irritation, discontinue use immediately and investigate its ingredients. Swapping to a lower ingredient, organic water based lube (like Sliquid), or silicone lube could reduce irritation.
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