Whatever your situation is, sex is usually better with lube. There are three kinds of personal lubricant:
- Water-based lubricants: water-based lubes are the most common and recommended since they’re safe to use with sex toys and latex contraceptives like condoms and diaphragms. Water-based lubes are formulated to be non-irritating, though some contain glycerin, which can cause yeast infections in women. Flavored water-based lubes can be great for protected sexual play but are not recommended for vaginal or anal sex. Water-based lubes are typically the least expensive of the three kinds, and clean up is relatively easy.
- Silicone-based lubricants: can be used with latex contraceptives and non-silicone sex toys. Silicone-based lubes will last longer than water-based ones but cannot be used with silicone sex toys because of silicone-on-silicone reactions. Some people can get irritated by silicone-based lubes so test it out on a patch of skin before using. Silicone lubes can stain sheets and clean-up can be a bit messy.
- Oil-based lubricants: are not safe with latex products or rubber toys, because they can break down the latex, however oil-based lubes can last a long time and be very soothing. Like the silicone lubes, oil-based lubes (like vitamin E, coconut oil, and Vaseline) can stain sheets and be messy. Coconut oil is fine for unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It is not expensive, has a wonderfully smooth texture, smells and tastes great. And because of the anti-fungal properties of coconut oil (it naturally contains caprylic acid, capric acid, and lauric acid – which all combat fungi), it can be a good choice for those prone to yeast infections.
Choosing the right lube is becoming trickier as new evidence suggests some of the most popular personal lubricants sold in stores today may have the potential to damage sensitive genital tissues and actually increase your chances of getting an STD, as discussed by Dr. Laurie Steelsmith, in this article.
For safety, Dr. Steelsmith suggests a lube that:
- Is made of natural ingredients: as in no synthetic chemicals.
- Is water-based: condoms used with oil-based lubricants are twice as likely to break.
- Is compatible with your body: lubricant that does not contain propylene glycol and glycerol (these two ingredients are the key drivers of high osmolality (i.e. have more sugars and salts than are found naturally in our bodies, therefore drying up the body’s cells, causing them to be prone to chafing and tearing, which weakens the body’s defenses against infections and STDs).
Several KY and Astroglide lubricants had the highest osmolality of 15 brands tested. One brand, called Aloe Cadabra – made of 95 percent aloe – had the lowest, and was closest to the vagina’s natural osmolality.
Though I’ve mostly seen it marketed to gay men, Fistpowder is another excellent all-purpose water-based lube anyone can use, and Liquid Silk, with medium high osmolality, is another very popular lubricant you may want to consider*. Read more about what you can expect from different lubes in this guide by Gritty Woman and this review by sex educator Carol Queen.
Thumbnail image courtesy of markuso at FreeDigitalPhotos
*Fistpowder ingredients: mix 500 mL of water with their formula of xantham gum, hydroxyethylcellulose, silica dimethyl, and silylate.
Liquid Silk has raised concerns with some people about the fact that it contains parabens (which can slightly mimic estrogen). If that does not bother you, it is an excellent, long-lasting lube.
Further reading: Sliquid – Flavored Lube That Doesn’t Suck