Getty Images

When you’re aroused, your vagina may naturally lubricate. This helps prevent pain during partner and solo sex and makes the overall experience a lot more fun.

Your body may produce less lubricant as a result of hormonal changes, aging, or medication. That’s usually where artificial lube comes in.

Artificial lube 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 lube 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.

Lubes are for everyone, regardless of whether your body produces lubrication naturally.

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

Dryness commonly affects people who:

Some lubes are designed to enhance sexual function and arousal. If you want to try something new, these lubes 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 lubes 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 lube collection, there’s one out there for you, guaranteed.

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 lube 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 lubes often contain glycerin. Although these products have their perks, they dry out quickly. They’re also known to cause yeast infections.

Glycerin-free lube 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:

Silicone-based lubricants are a blank slate of sorts. They’re odorless and tasteless, slippery and smooth.

Pros

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

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 lubes are also hypoallergenic.

Cons

Some of the pros of silicone-based lube are also its cons. This type of lube 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 lubricant can also break down silicone sex toys, making them gummy and gross over time.

Products to try

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

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

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

Pros

Natural-based oil lubricants — like avocado, 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 lubes, including body lotions and creams, are good for external masturbation, but not much else.

Cons

Both natural and synthetic oil-based lubes 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:

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

Pros

Many natural lubes 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 lubes may have a shorter shelf life. They may also cost more than a traditional lube.

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 lubes are your best bet.
  • If you’re prone to yeast infections. Stay away from lubes with glycerin. The compound can irritate your vagina and kill good bacteria, triggering an infection.
  • If you’re trying to conceive. Look for a lube that says it’s “sperm friendly” or “fertility friendly” on its packaging. Research shows that some lubes 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 lube.
  • If you’re going to use a sex toy. Stick with a water-based lube. If your sex toy is made of silicone, silicone-based lube can break down a toy’s rubber over time.
  • If you’re going to play in the shower. Opt for a silicone-based lube. 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 lube with fragrance or flavoring. These chemicals may cause irritation.

Some ingredients are guaranteed to result in inflammation or irritation and should be avoided entirely. These ingredients include:

  • glycerin
  • nonoxynol-9
  • petroleum
  • 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 lubes, 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 lube 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 lube in your hands before applying.
  • Include lube as a part of foreplay to boost arousal.
  • Apply lube right before penetration during partner or solo play.
  • Be liberal when applying so that your vulva and vagina are sufficiently wet.
  • Reassess how much lube is still on as you go, and reapply as needed.

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

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

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

Also see your doctor if you develop more frequent yeast infections when lube 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 lubes, keep your comfort and safety in mind. How much you use and how long your lube 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.

Healthline and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link above.