When it comes to sex, no matter what you enjoy, you can usually play by the rule: the wetter the better. This logic works, well… fluidly when it comes to lube because wetter is exactly what you’re getting.
And if you associate lube with vaginal dryness only, it’s time to step out of the box. Instead think less friction, smoother skin, and all around better sex — no matter your gender, age, or stage in life.
In fact, according to an Indiana University study, 70 percent of the 2,453 women surveyed said that lube made sex more pleasurable and enjoyable. Carli Blau, LMSW and sex and relationship therapist in New York City, confirms that “needing a lubricant does not mean that you’re not interested in your partner.”
So let’s get rid of the idea that lubrication is the only indication of arousal and start trusting our partner’s words.
Think of lube as encouragement to your lady bits — or a way to save time because you were supposed to be out the door five minutes ago. Here’s the before-play to foreplay with lube.
When shopping, you’ll want to think about the different types of lube out there when choosing the one that’s best for you. Lubes come in a variety of bases:
- hybrid, combining a few of the above
Hybrid lubes, like Babeland's BabeLube Silk ($10-24), are often a combination of both water and silicone, and have elements of both. There are many different formulations to perfectly suit your needs.
Known as the “versatile” lube, water-based lubes can be used in practically any activity you can think up, even ones involving silicone toys. Blau adds that water-based lubes are also safe to use with condoms — both latex and non-latex. And according to Blau, they may decrease the risk of condom breakage.
For vaginal sex, there’s Blossom Organics Natural Moisturizing Personal Lubricant ($10 and up), which balances the pH of the vagina while reducing friction. This type of lube is most popular for three reasons: it won’t stain your sheets, it’s easy on the skin, and it washes off easily in water.
But if you’ve got really sensitive skin…
… you’re going to want to try a silicone-based lube, which is like silk sheets on your sensitive parts. Since silicone is hypoallergenic, most people won’t experience a reaction. This type of lubes also lasts longer.
If you’re interested in something more long-lasting that needs to be reapplied less often, you may have found your match.
When Kathryn, a 27-year-old who’s tried several lube types, experimented with shower sex, she looked into silicone-based lubes. “It makes the experience much more enjoyable, since the water usually washes everything else away,” she says.
An excellent silicone option is Wet Platinum Lubricant ($8 and up) made with high-grade ingredients.
The only downside? The silicone in your lube can deteriorate the surface of silicone toys. Blau says that when this happens, your toys become less sanitary because it creates abrasions in the silicone where bacteria can grow.
“If you share sex toys,” she reminds us, “or use them with more than one partner, make sure to use water-based lubricant when playing with toys to ensure your safety.” Fortunately, silicone-based lubes are safe to use with condoms.
If you’re the type that simply can’t be bothered with reapplying at all once you get going — we get it — this lube is the gift that keeps you going, going, and going.
YES OB ($8 and up), for example, is a plant-based oil lubricant known for its long-lasting properties.
Pro tip? Oil-based lubes can double for sexy and fun massage time. But the downside comes if you’re using a latex condom. This type of lube increases the chances of a ripped or torn condom, defeating the condom’s purpose — and your good time in the process.
Oil-based lubricants are also associated with higher rates for infections, such as bacterial vaginosis. And your expensive sheets may be another reason to stay away from oil-based lubes. Oil tends to stain sheets and clothing, and can also be difficult to clean up.
Worried about exactly what ingredients you’re putting down there? Natural lubes have been cropping up in the past couple of years, though there’s a bit of debate as to what “natural lube” really means.
Basically, look for products that have both natural and a small number of ingredients on their list. Aloe Cadabra ($11 and up) is a great option as it consists of 95 percent aloe, and Sliquid Organics Natural Lubricating Gel ($10 and up) is a vegan, paraben-free option without smell or taste.
Coconut oil is a popular choice as well, though it’s got its downsides. It can stain your sheets and increase incidence of condom breakage, as oils break down the efficacy of the latex.
You’ll also want to be careful about cross-contamination if you’re not cleaning your hands while dipping them in a jar of coconut oil that’s also used for cooking. When picking up something all-natural to warm up, make sure it’s used just for sex and nothing else.
We kid, there’s no “right” way to use lube. Need it to masturbate? In the mood but your body isn’t getting the message to start lubricating yet? Go ahead and spread… liberally.
Jenny, age 26, can’t naturally produce enough lubrication for sex. She uses lube with her boyfriend during foreplay by rubbing it on her partner’s genitals and adding it during sex if she starts to feel uncomfortable.
Kate, a 27-year-old account manager and an avid lube-user, says that she uses lube 75 percent of the time, either when she’s masturbating or when she’s with a partner. “Even if I am wet,” Kate says, “it’s still nice to have that little bit of extra help.”
So apply as much as you want, where you need it — be it the vagina, penis, or anus.
After you’ve figured out which lube is best for you, you might want to warm it up a little bit in your hands. This isn’t necessary, but lube can be a little cold on your nether regions if you skip this step. If you’re using a condom, don’t forget to apply a non-oil based lube to the outside!
When you go lube shopping, you’re going to find all sorts of options out there — flavored, natural, warming, tingling. These lubes can be fun, but be careful to look at the ingredients and test the pH value of over-the-counter products with litmus strips (like in science class).
A healthy vagina should maintain the pH level of 3.5 to 4.5, so the lube you use should also be around the same level.
Always pay attention to the ingredients listed. In fact, there are a few names you may want to avoid because they may cause irritation or inflammation:
- propylene glycol
- chlorhexidine gluconate
Blau also suggests finding one that is paraben-, glycerin- and petroleum-free to minimize risk of infections. If you’re using condoms and toys, find a lube that is latex, rubber, and plastic-friendly.
And no matter your reasons for using lube, remember — it’s a simple and fun way to take your sex life to the next level. So go forth, and lube up!
Mariah Adcox is a writer and aspiring pet owner living in New York City. Her work has appeared at WineLibrary.com, Makeup.com, and LendingHome.