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When a woman is sexually aroused, the vagina normally self-lubricates. This makes the overall experience a lot more fun.

Intercourse without lubricant can be painful and damage the vaginal lining. Your body may produce less lubricant as a result of hormonal changes, menopause, aging, or medication. That’s usually where artificial lubricant comes in.

Artificial lubricant can help enhance arousal, boost sexual pleasure, keep your vaginal skin soft, and, most importantly, reduce friction during penetration — whether it’s by a partner or your favorite sex toy. You can buy lubricant online or at your local drugstore.

Not sure where to start? Read on to learn how water, oil, silicone, and natural options compare, products to try, tips for use, and more.

Lubricants can be used by everyone, regardless of whether their body produces lubrication naturally.

If you’re dealing with vagina dryness, you may find lubricant especially beneficial. Using lubricant before sexual activity can help prevent itching, burning, chaffing, and other discomfort.

Dryness commonly affects people who:

Some lubricants are designed to enhance sexual function and arousal. If you want to try something new, these lubricants can be a great way to spice things up with your partner or set the mood for some solo play.

There are different types of lubricants to suit different needs. It’s totally normal if you favor one over the rest, or if you like to switch things up depending on the situation. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to expand your lubricant collection, there’s one out there for you, guaranteed.

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Water-based lubricants are the most common. They come in two varieties: with glycerin, which has a slightly sweet taste, or without glycerin.

Pros

Both types of water-based lubricant are cost-effective, easy to find, and safe to use with condoms. They typically don’t stain sheets, either.

Glycerin-free products are less likely to cause vaginal irritation. They also have a longer shelf life.

Cons

Flavored or warming lubricants often contain glycerin. Although these products have their perks, they dry out quickly. Because of their sugar content, they’re also known to contribute to yeast infections.

Glycerin-free lubricant can taste bitter. It may not be the best option if you like to switch things up between oral and penetrative sex.

Both types can become sticky or tacky over time.

Products to try

For water-based options with glycerin, consider:

For water-based options without glycerin, check out:

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Silicone-based lubricants are odorless and tasteless, slippery and smooth.

Pros

Silicone-based lubricants last the longest out of any lubricant. They don’t need to be reapplied as often as water-based lubricants.

They’re safe to use with latex condoms and — if you’re in the mood for a steamy shower session — will hold up under water.

Silicone-based lubricants are also hypoallergenic.

Cons

Some of the pros of silicone-based lubricant are also its cons. This type of lubricant may last longer, but it’s harder to wash off. You’ll need to give the area a soapy scrub to remove any residue.

Silicone-based lubricants aren’t recommended for silicone sex toys because it can break them down, making them gummy and gross over time.

Products to try

If you’re looking for a slicker lubrication option, consider:

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There are two types of oil-based lubricants: natural (think coconut oil or butter) and synthetic (think mineral oil or Vaseline).

Generally, oil-based lubricants are safe to use, inexpensive, and easily accessible. But, if you can, opt for a water-based lubricant first. Oils can irritate your skin and stain fabric.

Pros

Natural-based oil lubricants — like avocado, coconut, vegetable, and olive oils — are great for genital massages and all types of sexual play. They’re also safe for the vagina and safe to eat.

Synthetic oil-based lubricants, including body lotions and creams, are good for external masturbation, but not much else.

Cons

Both natural and synthetic oil-based lubricants can destroy latex condoms, cause condom failure, and stain fabrics.

Synthetic products may irritate your vagina. They’re also harder to clear out of your body than their natural counterparts. This could lead to a vaginal infection.

Products to try

You can find most natural oil-based lubricants at your local grocery store. But if you want to invest in something created specifically for intimacy, check out:

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Natural oil-based lubricants aren’t the only natural products on the market. Some companies have produced organic or vegan lubricants made of botanicals or other eco-friendly ingredients.

Pros

Many natural lubricants are free of paraben, a commonly used preservative with established health risks. They also use organic ingredients, which are better for the environment and safe for your vagina.

Cons

All-natural lubricants may have a shorter shelf life. They may also cost more than a traditional lubricant.

Products to try

If you’re going au naturel, consider:

Of course, not all vaginal lubricants are created equal. Some brands will work better for you than others, depending on your needs.

  • If you’re dealing with dryness. “Warming” lubricants may not help, as they contain glycerin and can dry quickly. Long-lasting silicone lubricants are your best bet.
  • If you’re prone to yeast infections. Stay away from lubricants with glycerin. The compound can irritate your vagina and kill good bacteria, triggering an infection.
  • If you’re trying to conceive. Look for a lubricant that says it’s “sperm friendly” or “fertility friendly” on its packaging. Research shows that some lubricants can have a negative impact on sperm motility.
  • If you’re going to use a condom. Avoid oil-based lubricants at all costs. Nothing destroys a latex condom quicker than oil-based lubricant.
  • If you’re going to use a sex toy. Stick with a water-based lubricant. If your sex toy is made of silicone, silicone-based lubricants can break down a toy’s rubber over time.
  • If you’re going to play in the shower. Opt for a silicone-based lubricant. Water-based products will rinse off as soon as you’re under the showerhead.

Although oil-based lubricants are safe to use, they can render most condoms ineffective. They may cause vaginal irritation too.

You should also limit your use of lubricant with fragrance or flavoring. These chemicals may cause irritation.

Some ingredients in lubrications are more likely to result in inflammation or irritation and should be avoided by those who are sensitive. These ingredients include:

  • glycerin
  • nonoxynol-9
  • propylene glycol
  • chlorhexidine gluconate

Vaginal moisturizers can help prevent general itching and irritation, but they don’t provide enough wetness to prevent discomfort during penetration.

That’s because moisturizers, unlike lubricants, are absorbed into the skin. They need to be used regularly in order to ease dryness.

If you’re planning on having any type of sexual activity, you may still need to use a lubricant to increase comfort.

There really isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to use lubricant effectively. But there are a few things you can do to make the process easier:

  • Lay down a towel to prevent staining.
  • Warm up the lubricant in your hands before applying.
  • Include lubricant as a part of foreplay to boost arousal.
  • Apply lubricant right before penetration during partner or solo play.
  • Be liberal when applying so that your vulva and vagina are sufficiently wet. Apply lubricant to the penis or sex toy.
  • Reassess how much lubricant is still on as you go, and reapply as needed.

Most lubricants are free of side effects. However, it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to something in the lubricant.

See your doctor if you develop any of the following symptoms after use:

  • difficulty breathing
  • any swelling, especially of the tongue, throat, or face
  • hives
  • rash
  • itching

Also see your doctor if you develop more frequent yeast infections when lubricant is a part of your regular routine.

Vaginal lubricants can be a great way to help ramp up your partner or solo sex session. The added wetness can reduce any friction or discomfort and help increase arousal.

When deciding between different lubricants, keep your comfort and safety in mind. How much you use and how long your lubricant lasts will determine whether or not you’re going to have any fun during your afternoon romp. With the wrong product, your vagina may feel irritated instead of frisky.

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