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Lube is an erotic aid that adds wetness to sexual play.

It’s designed to reduce friction during skin-on-skin and genital-on-genital contact, explains Megan Fleming, sex therapist and medical reviewer at Promescent, a sexual pleasure retailer committed to improving your sex life.

Although some friction during sex can feel great, too much can cause irritation and pain to the delicate genital tissues.

“For penetrative play, in particular, sexual lubricant makes anal and vaginal play more comfortable and pleasurable,” she says. “There’s a reason for the saying ‘wetter is better.’” Touche!

Who can benefit from using lube during sex?

Everyone! Really!

Lubricants can (and should!) be used by everyone — regardless of whether your body produces lubrication on its own, how old you are, or what kind of sex you’re having.

“Even if you think you lubricate well enough naturally, lube can add to your experience,” says Heather Jeffcoat, a doctor of physical therapy who specializes in sexual dysfunction and incontinence and the author ofSex Without Pain: A Self-Treatment Guide to the Sex Life You Deserve.”

That said, if you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, you may find lubricant especially beneficial.

Adding lubricant can help ease symptoms commonly associated with vaginal dryness, such as itching, burning, chafing, and other discomforts.

What causes vaginal dryness?

There are several reasons why someone might be experiencing vaginal dryness. These include:

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What sex acts should you use lube for?

Any solo, partnered, or multi-partnered sex act can benefit from adding lubricant.

For example:

Fleming notes that for penetrative anal sex, lube is especially important.

“The anus isn’t self-lubricating like the vagina can be,” she says. “You’d be wise to use lots of lube for all anal play, whether you’re using your finger, penis, butt plug, or another anal sex toy.

There are probably more kinds of lubes on the market than vibrators, which is to say a lot.

But they can all be divided into one of three main categories:

  • Water-based
  • Silicone-based
  • Oil-based

Understanding the pros and cons of each can help you decide which lube you should use in every sexual situation.

Water-based lubricant

Water-based lube might as well be known as universal lube. Made, as you might guess, with water, water-based lubricant can be used with latex barriers and silicone toys. (You’ll understand why this is so exciting in a second!).

Generally milder than other lubes, water-based lubricant is a good option for people with sensitive skin and those who don’t want to worry about staining their sheets or skivvies. (Oil and silicone lubes stain easily).

The main downside? They aren’t long-lasting. Because their primary ingredient is water, the body absorbs some of the product. This is totally safe! But you might have to reapply more than you’d like.

Silicone-based lubricant

Marathon lovemakers, this option is for you.

Silicone-based lubes last the longest of any lubricant. The body can’t absorb this lube, so you don’t have to reapply it as often as water-based lubricants.

They’re also safe to use with latex condoms.

And, if you’re in the mood for a steamy shower session, silicone-based lubes hold up under water. Note that silicone is slippery on tile, so you may need to lay down a no-slip mat before play.

Some of the pros of silicone-based lubricant are also its cons. This 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. Plus, it’s a pain to get out of bedding.

Silicone-based lubricants also can’t be used with silicone sex toys. Silicone sticks to silicone, which can warp the texture and feel of your silicone sex toys.

Oil-based lubricant

Another good option for all-day boinking, oil-based lubes are longgg lasting. And the best part? They’re safe to use with all types of sex toys.

Because they’re long-lasting and silicone-safe, most experts recommend using oil-based lube with silicone anal toys.

The main drawback? Oil disintegrates latex, making latex barriers like condoms, finger cots, gloves, and dental dams less effective at preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. It should be used only during partnered play with people you’re fluid bonded with.

Another downside is that oil can stain fabric. So, you’ll need to lay down a towel or blanket first.

Oil-based lube should be your last pick for vaginal play if you’re prone to yeast or bacterial infections. “It’s OK for some but may disrupt the pH balance of others,” Jeffcoat says.

What is natural lube?

When you start shopping for lube, you’ll see the phrase “natural” used in marketing.

But what does it mean? Typically, natural lubes are paraben-free. (Parabens are a commonly used preservative with established health risks).

Sometimes it means that all the ingredients are organic or vegan, or that the product contains botanicals or eco-friendly ingredients.

Lubes marketed as natural aren’t necessarily better — it all comes down to personal preference.

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Ultimately, what qualifies as the best vaginal lubricant will vary from person to person. After all, everyone has different sexual needs and preferences.

That’s why this article breaks down the best lubricants by type (water, oil, or silicone-based) and highlights important features like consistency, scent, and overall ingredients.

We also prioritized options recommended by Healthline-trusted experts.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $15
  • $$ = $15–$35
  • $$$ = over $35

Best water-based lubricants for vaginal sex

Coconu Water-Based Lubricant

Though Coconu is best known for its oil-based product (also listed below), its water-based lube is top-notch, too. This sensuous pick is silky.

Of note is that this product has an orange tint often reserved for oil-based lubes. We’re telling you so you aren’t surprised when you squirt it onto your fingers.

Also noteworthy: Coconu donates a portion of its proceeds to Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, a global nonprofit committed to funding research, advocating for patients, and supporting survivors.

Cake Toy Wonder

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 3.3 fluid ounces (fl oz)
  • Type: water-based
  • Ingredients: water, glycerin, cellulose gum, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, citric acid, hydroxyethylcellulose, tetrasodium EDTA

Sexual pleasure brand Cake doesn’t market this as water-based lube — it’s marketed as a water-based jelly.

Why? Because it’s that thick! The consistency is like that of self-produced vaginal lubrication or discharge.

Another cool feature is the bottle it comes in. Rather than a squeezy bottle, this comes in a pump bottle, making it far less messy than other products.

The only downside is that it contains some glycerin. More on this below, but glycerin may irritate folks prone to yeast infections.

Gun Oil Stroke 29 Masturbation Cream

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 3.3 oz
  • Type: water-based
  • Ingredients: deionized water, octyl palmitate, sweet almond oil, cetyl alcohol, polysorbate 60, cetearyl alcohol, vegetable glycerin, carbomer, triethanolamine, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin

Don’t let the brand name turn you off. This product will enliven your sex life.

One of the creamiest and most vicious options on the list, this pick feels like body lotion.

The best part: It’s so thick that it doesn’t drip. Hello, easy clean-up.

Best silicone-based lubricants for vaginal sex

Uberlube Silicone Lubricant

This pick is elite. Made of pure silicone with a dash of moisturizing vitamin E, Uberlube is a long-lasting, moisturizing silicone-based product.

Often described as “pillowy,” this lube is so thick it feels like it’s padding your body with slippery good stuff.

Some people may feel like it’s so thick that it dulls the sensation. But for anyone navigating vaginal dryness or anal play, its consistency is a perk.

Pjur Back Door

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 3.4 fl oz
  • Type: silicone-based
  • Ingredients: dimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, dimethiconol, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil

As the name suggests, this product was made with your backdoor in mind. It’s extra slick and thick, two qualities you want in a lube.

Formulated with jojoba seed oil, it’s designed to moisturize your tissues after particularly vigorous play.

And while that is especially important after anal sex, it can do your vaginal tissues a solid, too. Just be sure to test it on your inner elbow or wrist first.

As far as lubes go, the above five are the best.

But if it isn’t lubrication that you’re after but overall arousal, you might consider trying an arousal oil instead.

Arousal oil is a topical designed to increase blood flow in the genital area. Plus, you can also use arousal oil *with* lubricant).

No blanket statement like this can be made. All lubricants and all bodies are different.

That said, some lubricant ingredients can cause inflammation or irritation and should be avoided by people prone to vaginal infections or who have sensitive skin.

These ingredients include:

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

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

These common pesterers aside, Jeffcoat notes that some people can also be sensitive to lubricants that don’t have these ingredients.

She recommends treating a new lube like you’d treat a new facial moisturizer. “Spot test it on your skin, and if there is no reaction within a couple of hours, you should be good to go,” says Jeffcoat.

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

Discontinue use and consult a healthcare professional if you experience any of the following:

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

Consult a clinician if you develop more frequent yeast infections when lubricant is a part of your routine.

If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, opt for silicone- or oil-based lubricant. You won’t have to reapply as often.

No, using lube doesn’t affect your body’s natural lubrication process.

“There is no evidence to support that your body will produce less of your natural lubricant if you use a commercial lube,” says Jeffcoat. “Our bodies just don’t work that way.”


Commercial lubricant adds wetness to your vagina during sex — and only during sex. Vaginal moisturizers are designed to moisturize the vaginal canal tissues over time.

With daily use, vaginal moisturizers can help remedy and prevent general itching and irritation, explains Jordan Soper, a sex therapist certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and medical reviewer at Promescent.

Vaginal moisturizers aren’t designed with penetration in mind and usually don’t provide enough wetness to prevent discomfort during penetrative play. Moisturizers, unlike lubricants, are absorbed into the skin.

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

Just keep in mind that there are several reasons why you might be experiencing dryness, itchiness, or vaginal pain.

“It’s recommended to rule out other root causes of these concerns rather than just trying to increase moisture,” says Soper.

Older research suggests that some lubricants can negatively impact sperm motility. So, if you’re trying to become pregnant, choose a lubricant that says it’s “sperm friendly” or “fertility-friendly” on its packaging.

There 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.
  • Apply the lubricant to the place being touched and to the thing(s) doing the touching.
  • Be liberal when applying so that your vulva and vagina are sufficiently wet.
  • Reassess how much lubricant is still on as you go and reapply as needed.

Baby oil isn’t the best choice to use as lube for vaginal or anal sex for a number of reasons. It can stain sheets and clothing and can destroy sex toys made from latex, silicone, rubber, or plastic.

Like other oil-based lubricants, older research has shown that baby oil can destroy latex condoms.

Research also suggests using baby oil as lube is linked to higher rates of rectal infection and can increase the likelihood of developing bacterial vaginosis.

It’s always a good idea to talk with a healthcare professional about dryness if it’s negatively affecting your quality of life or you can’t figure out the root cause.

You should also reach out to a healthcare professional if you experience pain during sexual activity or bleed after penetrative sex. They can help diagnose any underlying conditions, recommend treatment, and advise you on any next steps.

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

When deciding between lubricants, keep your personal pleasure preferences, body, and safety in mind.

Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.