Lube gets a lot of unnecessary flack. Even though research has shown that 65.5 percent of women and 70 percent of men have used commercial lubricants, there are still many folks who have the attitude that if you are sexually lacking if you need to use additional lubrication.
Short of me saying those people are flat out wrong, here’s the thing — lubrication isn’t just for people who lack natural moisture. As Vice aptly states, “having high-quality lube is kind of like putting high-quality gas in your car: Everything runs a lot better.”
A great lube can greatly enhance a sexual experience for anybody. Yes, you can alleviate symptoms like vaginal dryness and pain if you have it, but you can also enhance sensations with your newfound lack of friction, become more intimate with your partner, and add some variety to your sexual experiences. Also, if you’re interested, it can make anal sex much (much) easier — plenty of lube is basically a requirement for that since your body doesn’t naturally lubricate there.
Having a bottle (or two!) of good lubricants for different occasions is essential in anyone’s nightstand. But there are so many with different ingredients...how do you know which one is right for you?
I’ll give you a brief introduction on the world of lubricants, some considerations for choosing ones that are right for you, and what to avoid. We’ll talk about FAQs, considerations, and even provide recommendations to help get you started.
A very rough approximation of how I feel when the lubrication is 👌
What are common lubricants?
Most lubricants you’ll see out there are either water-based or silicone-based.
Water-based lubricants you can use with any sex toys, with au natural masturbation, with partners—it’s pretty much your all-around solid lube that can be used for pretty much anything. If you were to pick just one lube for everything, get a high-quality water-based lube.
Silicone-based lube is risky to use with some sex toys (avoid using it with anything “rubber-looking” is a good rule-of-thumb) because it can rub off the surfaces, or in worse cases with lower-quality products, interact with materials and actually melt them. However, the pros of silicone-based lube are fantastic — they last much longer than water-based lubricants. That means that you probably don’t need to add additional lubrication during your play session, so a little bit of silicone lube can take you further.
There are some other varieties of lubricants I’ll get into in the recommendation list, from organic to ones specially designed for vaginal dryness/menopause/anal sex and even cannabis and CBD lube!
Is lube FDA approved?
Most personal lubricants are classified as medical devices—specifically Class II, putting them in the same category as condoms, acupuncture needles, and powered wheelchairs. They require agency approval and safety testing before being sold in stores.
There are discussions about whether the FDA’s specific stance on sex lubricants is sound — while the FDA is supposed to keep consumers safe from potentially harmful products, their policies end up barring lubricants for niche audiences from going through, and a number of products that do end up in stores end up being questionable anyway. As always, listen to your body, do your research, and use your best judgment.
Are there any types of lubricants or ingredients I should avoid?
There are in certain situations. Besides the cons of silicone-based lubricants with certain products, you should also be aware of the potential drawbacks of mineral oil-based lubricants, coconut oil, and lubricants that contain glycerin/glycerol and/or parabens.
Mineral oil-based (baby oil, lotion, massage oil)
Although mineral oil-based lubricants such as baby oil, body lotion, or massage oil can make things feel slicker, it’s advised to avoid using them with latex or sex toys, as they can have significant degrading effects on different materials (e.g. breaking condoms, ruining surfaces of sex toys, all sorts of things you probably wouldn’t want).
All-natural is the best policy, right? Well, like with all hot fads, it depends. Like the aforementioned mineral oil-based lubricants, coconut oil shouldn’t be used with latex condoms. Also, if you are prone to vaginal infections such as yeast infections, steer clear of coconut oil as lubricants. The reasons for this are not clear, but some doctors have hypothesized that because coconut oil is antibacterial and antifungal, it can disrupt the natural pH of your vagina.
Update: If you're curious to learn more about how to use coconut oil as a lubricant for sex, you can read our article on the topic here!
Parabens are suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which have been suspected to be associated with altered reproductive function and a variety of other health risks. It’s also a common ingredient in many sex lubricants. Especially given that the vagina, vulva, and rectum can rapidly absorb chemicals without metabolizing them, we recommend steering clear of any products that include parabens.
Glycerin (glycerol) is another common ingredient in most lubricants, and there has been much discussion on whether it’s safe for that ingredient to interact with the body, especially when it comes to vaginal infections. Research has shown conflicting data on this—one work in the 80’s showed that ingredients like glycerin can damage or irritate vaginal and rectal epithelial cells, possibly resulting in increasing the transmission of STIs like herpes or HIV. Another study showed no obvious damage to the vaginal flora of rhesus monkeys from using a warming gel that contained high glycerin content. If you’re curious for yourself, you can dig into the issue more over here from an article written by Nicole Wendee in Environmental Health Perspectives.
Finally, your own body/allergies/flora/preferences
And depending on the person, it’s possible that people have different allergies and reactions to any chemicals or materials, so if you have any sort of skin reaction to anything you’ve used, follow your own body’s personal cues. In some cases, the cons can outweigh the pros for certain products (since sex with no lube can be painful/dry/etc without any lubrication), so again, do your research and use your best judgment for what’s best in your situation.
Certain kinds of lubricants may be better depending on what you’re looking to use your lube for.
Are you using it with sex toys? What kind of materials are those sex toys made out of?
Depending on the materials, we recommend water-based lubes for most toys. If in doubt, always use water-based. If you have metal or glass toys, you can use silicone-based lube with those, too.
Are you using it with a partner? Are you using it with a condom or other latex protection?
If you’re using condoms or sex toys with them, we recommend water-based lubes. If not, silicone and mineral oil-based lubes are a possibility, depending on your own personal allergies and preferences.
Have you recently experienced dryness, pain, or difficulties becoming aroused?
There are certain products that are designed specifically for vaginal dryness, which we’ll go into in our picks!
Brands that make water and silicone-based lubes
Good Clean Love is well-known for creating lubricants that are organic and use natural ingredients. Like many of the brands you’ll see here, they make both high quality water-based and silicone-based lubricants. One of the ones I recommend here is their BioNude line for ultra-sensitive skin. It’s made of 100% isotonic water-based formula, is pH balanced, and is unscented and unflavored, so it can blend in seamlessly into your sexual routine. Buy on Amazon.
Sliquid has been in the business of making a variety of top-tier lubricants for nearly 20 years. While they make both silicone-based and water-based lubricants, one of my favorites from them is their H2O lube, which is a very simple water-based lubricant that is glycerine and paraben-free. Buy on Amazon.
Uberlube is designed and manufactured in the U.S.A. It’s highly engineered for a premium product experience. Since silicone lube is supposed to be long-lasting, sometimes it’s too long lasting since your body doesn’t absorb it in the same way it would with water or mineral oil-based lubes. Uberlube can dissipate and leaves your skin soft and moist, so you can avoid some of the common silicone lube stickiness. It also comes in this Class AF bottle that makes you feel glamorous.
Fun fact: Some sports players use Uberlube to prevent chafing — sex stuff has a lot of uses besides just for sex. Imagine that! Buy on Amazon.
Known for their Yves Behar designed sex toys, I got the tip from a Pleasure Chest employee that JimmyJane has also created some amazing personal lubricants, and upon looking into it more, I agree with them. It’s the best overlooked lube out there. They use all natural ingredients including carrageenan and aloe and are non-toxic free of glycerin, parabens, petrochemicals and alcohol. It also comes in this Classy AF (™) bottle that you can easily leave on your nightstand. Buy on Amazon.
While many of the lubes below can also be used like your regular lubricants too, these are specially designed for certain occasions and experiences. If you’re looking for something specific, some of these might do the trick!
Vaginal dryness / menopause / hormone changes / cancer treatment
Genneve has developed a formula specially for women going through hormonal changes, vaginal dryness, or post-cancer treatment. It is pH-balanced and free of glycerin, parabens, oils and fragrances. They have water-based, silicone, and hybrid formulas depending on your preference and purpose. Buy on Amazon.
YES VM is more of a vaginal moisturizing gel rather than your typical lubricant. But for people who are especially sensitive and deal with symptoms such as vaginal atrophy, dryness, itching, burning, or tears, this gel is specially designed for them. It is designed to alleviate day-to-day discomfort and can be used to aid in lubrication.
YES is designed to match the typical vaginal environment, lasts up to 3 days per application (for the discomfort symptoms mentioned above), doesn’t include harmful ingredients, and is compatible with latex condoms and toys. Buy here.
For folks who hate reading names of chemicals they don’t understand, there’s coconut oil...ingredients include...coconut oil. Pretty straightforward, right? While at first sight, it might seem like a welcoming choice, don’t put it in your nightstand just yet.
It’s antibacterial and antifungal, so it could disrupt your vagina or body’s natural pH balance and cause an infection like flavored lubes. It’s also not safe to use with condoms.
I don’t want to rain on folks’ parade TOO much—it is a cheaper option than a lot of speciality lubes, it works pretty well, and it is pretty discreet (well, maybe less if it’s sitting on your nightstand)—but there’s been so much unmitigated and (incorrectly) unconditional promotion of it that I feel I need to balance it out. Buy on Amazon.
Lubes for anal play
Lubes for anal play are absolutely essential, since the rectum is not self-lubricating like the vagina is. My co-founder Anna wrote an entire article dedicated to anal lubricants, including explanations on different types and recommendations. Go over here to check it out!
Weed lubes are usually considered “pre-lubricants”, meaning that it takes some time for the body to absorb the ingredients before you feel the intended effects. Depending on your body and ingredient amount, you may also feel a bit of the cannabis effects beyond where you apply it (no joke, we’ve had office arguments about this).
Some of the lubes we recommend here are Foria, Quim Rock, and Velvet Swing. My co-founder Anna also wrote an article documenting the effects of her experience with Foria (with real data!). You can read more about her experience and these lubes in detail here.
If you’re in a state where cannabis products are not legal, you may want to give CBD lubricants a try. While they don’t have the same effects from THC and other ingredients derived from marijuana, they may have pleasant and beneficial effects for you. Like weed lube, CBD is also considered a pre-lubricant that takes time to go into effect. We recommend Foria Awaken for this, which you can check out here.
You might be considering flavored lube to jazz up oral sex. I will tell you right now, especially if you or your partner are prone to infections, I’d give it a second thought and do your research accordingly. Many flavored lubes include sugary ingredients (or glycerin/glycerol) that could stir new infections for people with sensitive skin or pH...so while you might be enjoying some Key Lime Pie lube with your genitals-of-choice, you or the recipient might regret this decision later. Check the ingredients, get to know your body and your partner’s body, and make your decision accordingly.
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