Personal Lubricants – Choosing The Best Lube
If you're new to sex lube or wondering if you've been using the right product all along, keep reading our ultimate guide to buying best lubricants!
Personal lubricants might not be as exciting as a brand-new sex toy, but they can improve sex in such an impactful way that you'll wonder why you never used them in the past.
What is Lube and Why you need it!
Whenever people ask if they should use lube, we answer with an enthusiastic “Yes!”.
You see, lube makes things more pleasurable. Some people mistakenly think that needing to use lube or just choosing to use personal lubricant means you're not sufficiently turned on. But we realize this is a myth.
A woman can be ridiculously aroused but may not be sufficiently lubricated.
Vaginal dryness can be caused by a variety of medical conditions, medications, menopause, pregnancy, or breastfeeding, among other conditions. A personal lubricant can be used to alleviate the pain from vaginal dryness during an interlude or for daily comfort
Of course, the anus doesn't self-lubricate at all, so using lube is a must!
Even if you don't need lube, using it can make things more comfortable so that you can have sex for longer. You're not abnormal if you need lube during sex. Many couples use lube! Some people simply choose to use lube because it feels good.
Add Something Extra with Lube
Applying lube can even become part of foreplay, so you and your partner become more connected. Plus, personal lubricants with special features can help you become more aroused. Lubricant formulas can heat things up, cool them down and even help cut down on vaginal infections!
There are plenty of reasons to use a personal lubricant, but there are even more things to consider when choosing something that will coat your intimate parts. Keep on reading to become a lube expert!
Things To Consider When Buying Lube
Sure, you can head to just about any store – including a gas station – and pick up some lube, but if you grab whatever is on the shelf, you run the risk of buying a lube that is sticky, reacts to your body or just doesn't feel good. Here are a few things to keep in mind when picking the right vaginal lubricant.
Every bottle of lube has an ingredients list. You'll see a water, silicone or oil base, and other products, which are used to get the right texture and to preserve the lube in case it sits on the shelf for a long time.
Most of the time, you'll have no issues with these ingredients, but some ingredients have been known to irritate or even contribute toward infections, including:
- Glycerin is related to sugar, could potentially create a yeast infection and Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). If you're prone to yeast infections, stay away from lubes containing it.
- L-arginine is used in arousal lubes, but it can encourage an oncoming herpes outbreak. Avoid these types of lubes if you have herpes.
- Parabens are a group of preserving ingredients that include methylparaben and propylparaben. They're common not only in lube but other cosmetics, but research suggests that parabens are absorbed by the skin and metabolize in the body, especially in women's breasts and ovaries.
- Menthol is used for its cooling and tingling properties, but some people find that it's drying. It can also dry out the soft tissue in your genital area.
- Polyquaternium-15, a commonly used cosmetic ingredient, not only damage the rectal lining cells but actively increase HIV replication.
- Nonoxynol-9 is the ingredient used in spermicidal lubes. The chemical can actually leave abrasions in the vagina and can break down the protective rectal lining in the anus, both of which could potentially increase chances of getting AIDs, STDs and skin irritations, leading to infections.
- Petroleum oils coat the skin and block pores
Osmolality isn't something that most people are familiar with, but it can affect whether a lube is good for you or harmful.
Osmolality is a measurement of how much solid can be absorbed in water. Every lube formula has an osmolality. So do the vagina, mouth, semen and anus as you can see below.
- Vaginal Mucus ~260-290 mOsm/kg
- Colon Lining ~920 mOsm/kg
- Human Semen ~260-380 mOsm/kg
- Tap water ~3 mOsm/kg
Lube Osmolality Chart
So you may use different lubes for different sexual activities. Choose a lube with an osmolality similar to the vagina or anus to avoid damage the sensitive tissues.
If you're trying to conceive, pick lube with an osmolality similar to semen.It can be difficult to choose lube with the right osmolality because not every company publishes this information.
Good Clean love and Sliquid Organics both fall into the safe range for vaginal use. But many don't. For example, K-Y® Warming Jelly has an osmolality of 10,300 mOsm/kg. Ouch!
Finally, we have pH balance. If you recall from science class, the pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. Anything under 7 is acidic, and the vagina is slightly acidic with a normal pH range between 3.8 to 4.5; although, it can fluctuate during menopause and pregnancy.
Anything that upsets that balance can lead to a bacterial or yeast infection.Each lube has its own pH, and you'll want to stick to one that's close to the vagina's pH balance.
- Ideal Osmolality of lube should be 285-295 mOsm/kg
- Ideal pH of Vaginal Lubricants should be 4.5
- Ideal pH of Anal Lube should be 5.5 - 7
Types of Lube
Now that you know all about what's in the lube and how it can affect your body, it's time to consider the different types of lube.
Many people consider this to be the most basic of lubricants. KY, Astroglide, ID Glide and Maximus are all water-based personal lubes. Water-based lubes are available everywhere and are generally affordable.
They are compatible with all sorts of toys and condoms and wash easily away – they're not good for shower sex because of this.
But they can dry more quickly than other types of lube, becoming sticky as they do. Fortunately, you can refresh them by adding more lube, water or even saliva.
- Compatible with most condoms and sex toys
- Doesn't stain
- Dries quickly
- Can be sticky
- Not shower-friendly
If you want a longer-lasting lube that also works in the shower, there's silicone-based lube.
It's safe to us with condoms, but be careful with toys as silicone lube and silicone toys can react. It tends to be thinner and can be messier.
Silicone-based lubricants usually contain a short list of four or fewer ingredients and it is safe as it doesn't get absorbed in your body.
It's also a little pricier than its water-based counterpart, but you'll find just about as many silicone lubes as you will water-based lubes in stores.
Some people find that silicone lube feels less natural, and it's also more difficult to wash off, which you might not like.
- Compatible with most condoms and non silicone sex toys
- Longer lasting
- Water friendly
- Harder to wash off
- Not compatible with silicone toys
Oil Based Lubricants
Oil-based lube typically refers to petroleum-based products (think Vaseline) and is often touted for male masturbation because the lube doesn't go inside the body and you don't use condoms, which oil can break down.
Some people also like them for anal sex.
These lubes are plenty slick, but can coat your skin and make it difficult to “breathe” when they don't wash off.
The one exception is a natural oil such as coconut oil, which many people use for vaginal lube
- Good for masturbation
- Not good for vaginal sex
- Hard to wash off
- Not condom compatible
Hybrid lubes incorporate two different bases: water and silicone. System Jo does make one water/oil hybrid, which shouldn't be used with condoms.
These lubricants are designed to be the best of both worlds: slicker, longer-lasting and easier to wash. Manufacturers also tout hybrid lubes for being fabric safe because some silicone lubes can stain fabric.
Some hybrid lubes are thicker than silicone lubes.
Some hybrid lubes come in two bottles to create a “His” and “Hers” experience. When you combine, it feels different than when using a single-type lubricant.
- Longer lasting
- Thicker than silicone-based lube
- Condom safe (if no oil)
- May not feel that different from regular lube
- Not as effective for massage
Lube with Special Properties
There is a host of personal lubricants that have special properties and uses to consider.
Anal lube either tends to be a thicker water-based gel that adds more cushioning, or it will be a slicker silicone lube that lasts longer. Some anal lubes desensitize to help with pain, but it's best to find a good lubricant and take it slow rather than ignore your body's message.
If you don't want to get pregnant, consider a spermicidal lubricant. These lubes have an ingredient, nonoxynol-9, which kills sperm on the way to the Fallopian tube. Some condoms are coated with this type of lube, or you can purchase it separately.
On the other hand, you have sperm-friendly lubes. With an osmolality and pH similar to sperm, these lubricants create the best chance of fertilization when you're TTC. Preseed, Yes Baby, and even Astroglide offer a sperm-friendly lubricant.
Try one of these for extra sensation. Cooling lubes tend to rely on menthol for the effect, which might be drying. Warming lubes typically use glycerol for the effect, which is related to glycerin (see above).
Flavored lubes make it easier to give oral sex by providing a more pleasant scent and taste. They may be too sticky for other types of sex. Some also contain sugars that can encourage yeast growth in the vagina, so choose something else for penetration.
Lube and Vaginal Irritation, Infection
Personal lubricants are designed specifically to make sex more pleasurable, so it comes as quite a shock when you discover that your body doesn't like some lubricants.
Typically, women are the ones who experience adverse reactions because lube goes inside their bodies, and the membranes of the vagina are more sensitive than the penis.
Irritation can range from a burning sensation, which is often common with warming lubes, to itching to bacterial or yeast infections in the vagina. As you've already read, avoiding ingredients such as parabens and glycerin can reduce the risk of irritation.
You can also try an aloe-based lube such as Aloe Cadabra that's designed specifically to soothe. Some lube formulas contain ingredients specifically to battle infections. These ingredients include
- Coconut oil, which can be used as lube without any other ingredients.
- Carrageenan, an ingredient derived from seaweeds that's moisturizing and can fight infections
- Guava bark soothes.
- Jojoba oil is anti-fungal but not condom safe.
You can look specifically for a non-irritating, natural or organic lube if you've experienced irritation in the past, but everyone's body is different. Some people won't like coconut oil while others may even find soothing lubricants to be problematic.
Companies like Sliquid make sampler packets that help you find the best lube for your needs.Whenever in doubt, proceed with caution. You can test a bit on your inner thigh to see if there's a reaction. This is especially advisable for any personal lubricants with a warming or cooling effect.
Lube and Condom Compatibility
Good news: most lubricants are compatible with condoms and dental dams. The same goes for diaphragms. As long as your lube doesn't contain oil or petroleum, you're good to go!
This means water-based gels, silicone lubes and most hybrids can be used without compromising your safer sex. You can even use a drop of lube inside of a condom for a better fit, but don't use so much that your condom slips off.
Lubricants and Sex Toys
Lube makes it easier to play with toys, but you should make sure your lube is toy-friendly.
Water-based lubricants work with any toy, but some silicone toys can react with silicone lubricants. This isn't typically an issue with higher-quality silicone lube, but you should do a spot test just in case.
Choose a part of the toy that you won't insert, such as the bottom of the base. Apply some lube and get to rubbing. If it becomes sticky or gummy, even after washing, switch to a different lube.
Oil-based lubes are also silicone-toy-compatible, but remember that these lubricants are best used for anal toys or sex toys such as cock rings, which don't penetrate.
Silicone Based Lube
Water Based Lube
Oil Based Lube
Thermal plastic Toy
Pregnancy and Lube
Pregnancy does all sorts of things to your body. It can slightly alter your vagina's pH balance, cause more infections and increase or decrease your amount of natural lubrication. So if you find yourself reaching for a bottle of lube during pregnancy, don't fret!
Lube can make things feel better and is safe during these times.Be aware that bodily changes may make you more sensitive to certain ingredients, however, even if they weren't an issue before.
Stick to a water-based lube without glycerin or parabens if you've never used lube before, and take caution with warming lubes. For people who are trying to get pregnant, a sperm-friendly lube such as PreSeed or Conceive Plus will be your best bet, but you can switch back to your preferred lube after pregnancy occurs.
Do you have a question about lube that we have yet to answer in our guide? Keep reading!
How do I use lube?
How you apply lube depends on personal preference. You can squeeze it into your hand or directly onto your body or toys – pump bottles are ideal for this. Next, you can choose to apply it internally (vagina or anus) or externally to a penis – or both! While you want to use plenty of lube, start with a small pump and work your way up so you won't make a mess or waste product.
How to get rid of lube stains?
Water-based lube stains should wash right out the next time you do laundry as will most silicone-based lube stains. Whatever you do, don't dry your sheets until stains are removed!
For stubborn water-based stains, you can try a few removal methods. First, re-wet the stain with the same lube. Then try these products.
- Vinegar and rock salt: first apply vinegar, then rub with rock salt
- Ammonia: saturate a water-based lube stain with ammonia – a clear product works best
- Hydrogen peroxide: Apply until no more bubbles form.
- Dish soap: apply to stubborn stains. Dish soap can get out oil-based stains that other soaps can't touch.
You can also try WET Keep It Clean, which is a toy cleaner that actually helps to remove silicone lube stains. Pjur makes a similar cleaning product that may do the trick.
How long do lubes last?
There isn't much thought to storing lube, and the bottles are intended to keep for quite a while. Some have shelf lives of up to seven years! Your bottle of lube may even have an expiration date, which you should heed. Carol Queen recommends using up lube within one year and ditching any lube that's changed odor or color.
If you don't use up your bottle of lube, it may become tacky and thicker. This is especially true of water-based lubes, but you can add a little water to squeeze more life out of them.
How do I store my lube?
Clean your bottle and make sure it's tightly closed before storing it upright. Keep it out of direct light and heat.Oil-based lubes may become liquid at higher temperatures, so be careful when opening them. You can store them in the refrigerator to prevent this from happening, but it's not necessary.