Personal lubricants are perhaps the greatest unsung sex toy. While it’s true that lubricant can be used to solve a sexual problem, like vaginal dryness, lube is much more than something to use only when you 'need' it.
The right personal lubricant can:
- Intensify and enhance sensations (for solo or partner sex).
- Change the way that sex feels.
- Help you have sex longer.
- Make safer sex safer by reducing the chances that a condom will break and friction that can cause small cuts in the skin.
- Eliminate pain associated with intercourse that comes from vaginal dryness.
Figuring out which is the right lube for you usually involves some experimentation. But there are some things to consider, and questions to ask yourself, that can help narrow the choices.
Should You Choose Water or Silicone Based Lubricant?
Both water based and silicone based lubricants are safe to use with condoms (it's only lubes that have oils that you need to avoide). The main difference between water based and silicone based lubricants are:
- flush out of the body, and off the body easier than silicone
- are more widely available
- are available in flavored and warming variations
- are less expensive
- will be less likely to stain sheets (but not always!)
- contain no water, so they never dry up or evaporate
- require soap and water to come off the skin
- do not absorb in the skin
- are more expensive, but less is required
The right lube depends in part on how you want to use it. If you're looking for a lube to take skinny dipping in the lake, silicone is the way to go. If you want something that won't damage your new 1,000 count sheets, better to stick with something water based.
What Kind of Sex?
Personal lubricants are great to use for all kinds of sex play, alone or with one, or multiple partners. But some lubes are recommended for some kinds of sex play. Here are a few tips:
Most people agree that thicker lubricants are easier to use with sex toys mostly because they don't slide off sex toys as easily.
Thicker lubes are also easier and more comfortable for anal sex. Again, because they are thicker they stay on fingers, toys, and penises better, and with anal penetration, which is a slower kind of sex play at first, having something that stays put is helpful. Some people suggest that a thicker lube also provides a cushion feeling in the rectum.
For vaginal intercourse consistency is a personal preference, but women who are prone to yeast infections or allergic reactions should keep reading.
Health and Safety Concerns with Personal Lubricants
Unfortunately, there is practically no research on personal lubricants and allergic reactions or health risks. But there is information about the ingredients in personal lubricants, and over the years, some of the better sex stores have identified anecdotal concerns about using some lubricants. The concerns tend to fall into four areas:
Do Lubricants Cause Yeast Infections?
There is no conclusive research that demonstrates that lubricants can cause yeast infections but many water based lubricants contain glycerin, and people who are prone to yeast infections are probably wise to avoid these products. If you're prone to yeast infections, consider choosing a glycerin-free lubricant.
Is My Lube Giving Me a Rash?
You may react to any of the ingredients in a lubricant (including ingredients that are marketed as 'natural'. Always read the ingredient list before using a lubricant (and if you’re shopping on line only buy from a site that lists the ingredients). If you have sensitive skin you should avoid warming and flavored lubricants. One common ingredient in lube that can cause an allergic reaction are parabens, which are used as preservatives in many water based lubricant. For this, and other potential concerns, more people are choosing paraben-free lubricants.
Can I Use Lubricant When Trying to Conceive?
It isn’t often talked about, and there are many physicians who aren’t even aware of it, but most commercial personal lubricants harm sperm and can get in the way of trying to have a baby. This doesn’t mean that lubricant can be used as a form of birth control, but it does mean that if you’re trying to conceive, you should make sure you’re using a sperm friendly lubricant.