Personal lubricant can be used to help make sexual acts—like sex, masturbation, or sex toy play—more pleasurable. Lubes work to reduce friction between your skin and the person/object/or body part that you are using, which can eliminate chafing, pain, and uncomfortable rubbing.
Why use lube?
Why NOT use lube?! Lube is great! Using lube is nothing to feel shameful about—it can be a great addition to your sexual experience. You should not feel embarrassed to use a personal lubricant. Many people who produce ample amounts of vaginal fluids still choose to use a lube to further increase their sexual pleasure.
Around half of post-menopausal women tend to notice more vaginal dryness and discomfort when having sex. After menopause, the vagina and vulva may change due to the decrease in estrogen levels. Without higher levels of estrogen, these tissues become thinner, less flexible, receive less blood flow, and produces less natural vaginal fluids. Using a lubricant helps decrease the discomfort of sex when experiencing vaginal dryness, but does not prevent the underlying problem of vaginal tissue atrophy.
Some people may experience vaginal dryness, which can lead to discomfort or pain during intercourse. Every person is different. People who are taking medications (including antihistamines and antidepressants) may also often experience vaginal dryness. In these situations, a lubricant can be helpful.
How to pick a lube
Water-based lube is your safest bet to start with. It can be used for all of your sexual needs: penetrative sex, masturbation, and sex toy play. Water-based lubes are also ideal for people with sensitive skin or vaginal irritation, and can be used with condoms and sex toys. They are also really easy to clean out of sheets and clothes, and won’t leave a stain.
Silicone-based lube is slippery, long lasting, and is ideal for a longer session. It requires less lube be applied, and needs reapplication less often. Silicone-based lubes are also great for shower sex or masturbation in the shower, as they don’t wash away so easily. The catch is that silicone-based lubes can be difficult to wash off, as you will need soap and water to clean up afterward. Some silicone-based lubes may stain sheets. (Word of caution: never spill a bottle of silicone-based lube on your hardwood floors—it will stain and leave your floor slightly slippery for months.)
Silicone-based lubricants should NOT be used with silicone-based sex toys, as they can break down the rubber over time. However, this doesn’t mean all sex toys are off limits with silicone-based lubricants—there are many toys made from other materials, like hard plastic, glass, and steel.
Oil-based lube also provides a slippery feel that lasts longer than water-based lube. These lubes are ideal for masturbation (hands or toys), penetrative unprotected sex, and water-play. Oil-based lubes can also be used for a sensual massage.
Oil-based lubes (or any other oil products like petroleum jelly or mineral oil) should NEVER be used with latex condoms, as they can dissolve latex and cause condoms to break. Latex diaphragms and latex sex toys should also be also kept away from oil based lubricants. Non-latex condoms (like those made of polyisoprene) are also sensitive to oil-based personal lubricants, so check the package before use.
Another downside to oil-based lubes is that they can be more difficult to clean off of sheets and your body.
Lubes for anal sex
Personal lubrication is recommended for anal sex since the anal canal does not produce fluids to help ease penetration. Plus, the tight muscular sphincter at the entrance of the anus offers much more resistance than the vagina, which is full of folds and stretchable tissue.
Using a personal lubricant can also make anal sex safer. Using a water-based lubricant decreases the chances of condom breakage while having anal sex, in contrast to oil-based lubricants or saliva, which both increase the chances of condom breakage during sex. The chances of the condom slipping off during anal sex are also related to lubrication. Applying lubrication to the outside of the condom can decrease chances of slippage.
Good to know before you buy
In general, avoid any lubricant that contains any artificial flavors, colors, sugars, essential oils, parabens or glycerine—you never know how you’ll react to these additives. Check the ingredients list, read product reviews, or go to a sex toy shop and ask the experts there.
Painful sex—a caution
If sex is painful to you, increasing lubrication isn’t always the answer. Many illnesses or infections can present with symptoms of pain during sexual intercourse, particularly vaginal sex. This includes skin disorders, inflammation, infections, hormonal changes, trauma, and many other causes. If you do experience recurrent or worsening pain during sex, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. Most issues CAN be addressed easily.