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Sex Lubricant: What types are there and how to choose the bestBy Danny GarrettAugust 24, 2022 11 min read Updated: April 03, 2023
Lube is useful for just about every kind of sex imaginable. It makes sex safer, and on top of that, research suggests that the use of lube can even contribute to making sex feel even more pleasurable - which is why choosing the right type is so important.
There's actually more to choosing a lube than you might have guessed. There are a plethora of different kinds, all of which have varying advantages and disadvantages for specific situations. Some of them even have surprising risks associated with their use, such as how some lubes can actually cause condoms to physically break down!
Due to this, a bit of thought needs to go into choosing which lube is the best fit for you - with the right guidance though, this can be a breeze. To that end, we've put together this guide full of info about what kinds of lube are available and what you need to be considering to discover the perfect one.
We'll also go over some of the risks and give you some tips on lube safety, so you can rest assured that whichever lube you end up choosing, you'll be able to take full advantage of this incredible asset to your sex life!
What is lubricant?
Lube (AKA personal lubricant) is a gel or liquid, which is used to minimize undesirable friction during sex - whether that's friction between body parts, or even the body and sex toys. This makes it incredibly useful for any kind of penetrative sex, as well as masturbation. While it's true that both men and women produce at least a bit of natural lubrication, sex lubricant is always there to help things go even more smoothly - literally.
Why should I use lube?
To put it simply - you should use lube because it makes sex better! It's hard to come up with a sexual situation in which lube has absolutely no application - it's just that versatile, and can be used by anyone.
As we mentioned earlier, lube can increase pleasurable feelings during sex, but that's not all; lube can even make sex safer. The reduced friction means there is less chance of injury occurring, as well as making condoms less likely to come off, or break. This applies to sex toys as well - whether it's a standard affair, and especially if it's a more adventurous toy, lube can help you use it safely.
The friction-reducing factor of lube is also particularly useful if you or your partner's natural lubrication isn't quite enough. After all, the penis can vary in how much natural lubrication is produced, and vaginal dryness is a fairly common issue, particularly during and after menopause. Furthermore, the anus also does not produce a suitable amount of natural lubrication, so as you can imagine, lube is an absolute must for anyone interested in anal sex.
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We don't have a problem with lubrication, do I still need lube?
No one needs to use lube. There was a time before personal lubricant was invented, and people still managed. They probably experienced far more uncomfortable chafing than they desired, but they managed nonetheless.
However, the benefits of using lube mean there are far more reasons to use it than to not use it - as long as you're using a lube that you (and your partner) have deemed to be the right choice.
Making that choice doesn't have to be difficult either - it's time to get into how exactly to choose the best lube for your needs, starting with an introduction to some of the various kinds of lube that exist out there!
The different types of sex lube
Lubricant comes in many kinds, and not all of it is suitable for sex. Substances such as Vaseline, petroleum jelly, coconut oil, and even olive oil have their proponents, but it's ultimately far safer to use products that are specifically designed with safe sex in mind.
There are actually a number of varieties of sex lube, all with different benefits and drawbacks to their application - let's take a look!
Water based lubes
Best for accessibility and versatility!
Water based lubes are extremely common and very versatile, being compatible with basically every sex toy as well as condoms. Not only are they light and gentle feeling (making them perfect for anyone with skin that is dry, sensitive, or prone to irritation), they also wash away with some water, meaning cleaning them up is super easy, and they leave no marks or stains. Just make sure to keep some extra lube close by for reapplication - water based lube dries quicker than other varieties, which can lead to it feeling a little after a while.
|The most common type of lubricant||Dries up quicker than other types|
|Generally cheaper than other types of lubricant||Can get sticky and tacky|
|Gentle and natural feeling||Needs to be reapplied fairly often|
|Great for anyone with sensitive skin or vaginal dryness and irritation||Not great for sex involving water as it will just wash away|
|Safe to use with all sex toys and condoms|
|Easy to clean up, won't stain sheets|
|Easily reactivate dried-up water-based lubricant with spit or a little bit of water|
|Can be made into a natural lubricant|
Silicone based lubes
Best for longer sessions!
Silicone based lubes are great for anyone who needs lube to stay slippery for an extended period of time. These lubes have a similar level of slickness to oil based, with the added bonus of not getting absorbed by your body, making them safer for internal use. It can be slightly trickier to clean than water based lubes - even possibly leaving stains - but it's hard to deny the difference in feeling. Silicone based lubes feel luxurious and super comfortable, and are also compatible with condoms and a lot of sex toys. They're also waterproof, making them great for sex involving water!
|Easily the slickest and most slippery type of personal lubricant||It can be dangerous since it's so slippery, you can slip and fall if you step on it|
|Has a more luxurious feel than a water based lubricant||Can be difficult to clean up|
|Does not get absorbed by the body||May stain sheets and other soft fabrics|
|Lasts much longer than water based lubes||Not usually suitable for use with silicone sex toys as it can cause them to break down|
|It repels water which makes it waterproof (perfect for pools and shower play)|
|Safe to use with latex condoms|
|Can be used with most sex toys|
Oil based lubes
Best for external use!
Oil based lubes also remain super slippery for a long time, but since they aren't safe to use with condoms or sex toys, as well as the fact that they can lead to infections, they aren't recommended for internal use. What they are perfect for however is external use, meaning masturbation and sensual massages are just the thing for these kinds of lube! Oil based lubes share a couple of other similarities with silicone based lubes, such as being waterproof, and requiring a bit more effort to clean than their water based counterparts.
|Stays slippery for an extremely long time||Not safe to use with latex condoms as it can cause the material to dissolve resulting in a breakage|
|Great for external play and masturbation||Not recommended to be used with sex toys|
|Can be used as a massage oil as well||More difficult to clean|
|Waterproof by nature||Not recommended for internal use|
|Can also be used to give a sensual massage|
There are a few other varieties too, most of which are derivatives of the types of lube we've already covered. These varieties include:
These are usually made up of a large amount of water and a small amount of silicone, and have many of the benefits of both, including being safe for use with most sex toys (make sure to check though).
This is lube made specifically for anal sex and is usually thicker than regular lube which adds cushioning and helps it last longer
Certain lubes come in a variety of flavors, which can provide a twist to your usual oral sex
Warming / tingling lube
These lubes can introduce some pleasurably unique sensations wherever you use them on your body, ramping up the whole experience
Avid consumers of organic products have contributed to the growing popularity of organic lube, which can work well for those with sensitive skin, despite not being suitable for every scenario, similarly to oil based lubes
What lube can I use with sex toys?
Which kind of lube you can use with which sex toy depends a lot on what material the toy is made out of. Here's a rundown of what kind of sex toys you can use with the most common kinds of lubricant:
Water based lubes
Sex lubes which are water based can actually be used with just about all sex toys - if the toy is compatible with lube, water-based lube will do the trick. The only issue you might run into is the way these lubes can get a little sticky after a while, but this can be solved with a quick and easy reapplication.
Silicone based lubes
Silicone based lubes are only really safe to use with sex toys made from hard materials such as ceramic, glass, hard plastic, steel, and even wood. Though it may seem odd that using silicone-based lube with silicone sex toys would be a problem, the issue lies in how the silicones begin to bond with each other, which can lead to the toy becoming deformed. More studies are coming out that say silicone lube does not interact with silicone toys in a way that was once thought. It's always recommended to check with the toy manufacturer prior to using silicone lube with it.
Oil based lubes
When it comes to oil based lubes, it's probably best not to try to use them with any sex toy, due to how the oil will coat the toy regardless of its material. Once coated, removing the layer of oil will be difficult, which when taken with the fact that oil based lubes aren't recommended to be used internally, is bad news for your body, as it can lead to you or your partner getting an infection. Furthermore, oil can also break down certain materials such as latex, much like how silicone lube can break down silicone toys.
How to choose your perfect lubricant
Now that you're a bit more familiar with sex lubes and their uses, it's time to choose the perfect lube for your sex life. There is a multitude of factors that need to be considered when deciding on the best lube for your particular needs - here are a few tips:
Think about how you'll use it
Different lubes can work better in different scenarios. Water based lubes work well for basically every situation, and are also compatible with sex toys and condoms - but they can require frequent reapplication. It can be used liberally though, as it's very easy to clean up.
Silicone based lubes are more slippery than water based
Making them great for anal sex - but they can be trickier to clean up. Additionally, they might not be able to be used with specific silicone sex toys.
Oil based lube is also more slippery than water based
but is also tricky to clean, and isn't recommended for internal use (vaginal or anal). However, they are great for external use - think sensual massages as well as hand jobs and masturbation. Just don't use oil based lube with sex toys or latex condoms, as it can lead to breakages.
Work out your preferred texture
Water based lube is a lot lighter than both silicone and oil based lube. You might want to try out a few to see which level of slipperiness you find to feel the best. Water based lube does dry quicker, which can make result in a feeling of tackiness until you reapply it - silicone and oil based lubes will feel slippery for much longer, requiring soap, water, and possibly other chemicals to clean. Additionally, oil based lube will feel, well, oily, which you may or may not be a fan of.
Consider the ingredients
It's always good to be conscious about the ingredients going into the products you use, especially when they're going in your body. Some lubes attempt to spice up your sex by including flavors, and even giving a warming or tingling feeling wherever you use them. In order for lube to accomplish these feats, certain ingredients are necessary - and these ingredients aren't always good for people with sensitive bodies. These ingredients include glycerine (and similar sugar alcohols) as well as flavorings, colorings, essential oils, and other additives
Take your sexual health into account
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Genital-related health issues can often cause irritation and sensitivity, and vaginal dryness is common for women during and after menopause. Gentler, water based lubes can be a good choice if you or your partner experience these issues.
Make sure whatever you buy is designed specifically for sex
While you may have heard claims that non-sex-specific lube can work just fine, it's honestly just not worth the potential risks, which can include nasty infections in areas you really don't want an infection. You wouldn't use sex lube for cooking, so why use cooking oil for sex? It's always the best course of action to seek out lube made for sex and sex alone.
Are there any risks when using lube?
Many of the risks associated with using lube comes from using the wrong lube at the wrong time. Using oil based lubricants internally can cause them to coat wherever they end up, which can lead to irritation and infection. To add to this, oil based lube can lead to condom breakage, as it can dissolve the material.
Silicone based lube can have similar bad interactions with silicone sex toys, causing them to become deformed
Silicone based lube can have similar bad interactions with silicone sex toys, causing them to become deformed. Both oil and silicone based lubes can also cause floors to become extremely slippery if spilled upon, which can be hazardous depending on what you might be getting up to.
The ingredients that go into lubes can sometimes post health risks as well. If you have allergies or medical conditions which cause dryness, irritation, or sensitive skin, it's important to always check the label so you know what you're putting into and on to your body. You might find a natural lube will be your best choice.
Then there's the question regarding ingestion - is lube safe to swallow? Ingesting lube generally won't result in anything worse than a bit of an upset stomach, but once again, it really comes down to the ingredients, as well as how much gets swallowed. Thicker lubes can cause issues if they get into your airway, and oil based lubes can have a few worse side effects than other lubes if swallowed, such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Make sure to always check the label for guidelines and directions for use. Additionally, make sure your lube can't be accessed by children or pets.
Make sure to always check the label for guidelines and directions for use. Additionally, make sure your lube can't be accessed by children or pet
The World Health Organization (WHO) published an Advisory Note in 2012 which includes a couple of other things to look out for when it comes to risks associated with certain lubrications. In it, they recommend that if you're having vaginal sex, you should use lube with a pH between 3.8 and 4.5, as a pH higher than this can increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis. For anal sex, they recommend lube with a pH between 5.5 and 7.
WHO also has recommendations regarding osmolality - the ability to draw moisture from cells and tissue. They argue that if you're having vaginal sex, you're better off choosing a lube with a lower osmolality, as an osmolality higher than vaginal secretions can damage tissue and mucus membranes, making infections more likely.
Finally, WHO suggests avoiding lubes which contain ingredients such as chlorhexidine gluconate, cyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclotetrasiloxane, parabens, glycerin, and undisclosed flavors and fragrances, as they can be harmful to people with vaginas. Moreover, they mention that some lube contains spermicides known as Nonoxynol-9, which can cause irritation, as well as make them unsuitable if you're trying to have a baby.
Safety tips while using sex lubricant
While certain lubes may have some risks associated with their use, it's worth remembering that there is a huge amount of perfectly safe lubes out there, all of which can make your sex better, and make it safer. It's hard to go wrong if you take the time to choose the absolute best lube for your sex life, especially if you follow these top tips for lube safety:
Use lube liberally - there's a reason the phrase 'the wetter the better' pops up so often in conversations about lube. The only real issue with using 'too much' lube is that you might have a little extra cleaning up to do afterward. Of course, you should be mindful that silicone and oil based lubricant can take a little more effort to clean, but aside from that, there's no reason not to keep the lube flowing.
Use appropriate lube for what you're doing - these can mean various things. Having penetrative sex? Try water or silicone based lube, especially if you're using a condom. Using sex toys? Avoid oil based lubes, and avoid silicone based lubes too if your toys are also silicone. Just wanting to give (or receive) a sensual massage, or use lube externally? Oil based lube would work well. There's plenty more info on this topic higher up in this article.
Don't use oil based lube with condoms - this could probably go in the previous point, but it needs emphasizing. Oil based lube can break down the latex condoms, rendering them ineffective. If you're wearing a condom, stick to water or silicone based lube.
- Always check the label - this is crucial. Checking the label will let you make sure your lube doesn't contain any ingredients that you want to avoid as you may find them harmful, or for any other reason. You will also most likely be able to find directions for use on the label as well, which can let you know where you're safe to use the lube on (or in) your body.
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