By Nicole Guappone
For generations, it was common for folks with vaginas to believe that needing lubricant to facilitate more comfortable penetrative sex meant something was wrong with them—especially if they were younger (i.e. not menopausal) or had never given birth (which we know can affect the vagina, vulva, and surrounding areas). But this is simply not true! Anyone can benefit from a great lube! Even if your body produces a lot of natural vaginal lubrication, lube can still be a great addition to your sex life. Adding it to your foreplay and fun can help you stay wetter longer and you may find that it even increases pleasure overall.
I was in pelvic physical therapy for a hypertonic pelvic floor last year, and recently went back for a tune-up. Lube was one of the first things my pelvic floor PT suggested when I brought up re-introducing my body to penetrative sex. We are lucky enough to live in a time when lube options seem countless. One of my favorite questions to answer at the sex shop where I work is, “Do you have any lube recommendations?” My mother is so proud. (No, really, she is! She thinks what I do is super cool.)
There a few categories of lube—water-based, silicone, oil-based, and hybrids. Let’s take a closer look at all of them.
This is what I like to call your all-purpose lube. It’s safe for vaginas, butts, condoms, and toys. If you don’t want to have to worry about whether or not the lube you have is compatible with whatever it is you want to do, look no further than a good water-based lube. The first ingredient will be—you guessed it!—water. My advice is to stay away from mass-market drug store brands. They typically have ingredients that can irritate vaginas, like glycerin, which can cause yeast infections for some people.
You usually can’t go wrong with all-natural water-based lubes like those from Sliquid or Sutil. Each have multiple formulas, though. Go with Sliquid Sassy if you want a more gel-like lube (great for anal play, as the gel will add a bit of “cushion” for that extra-sensitive tissue) and Sliquid H2O for something thinner.
Pro-tip: sometimes, an “all-natural” label is a better choice than an “organic” label. Sliquid’s organic line has a lot more ingredients than its regular formulas. If you’re especially sensitive, more ingredients means more potential irritants.
A little less multi-purpose than water-based lubes, silicone is the best choice for extremely sensitive bodies and for folks with pelvic pain, as it tends to be more slippery than its water-based counterpart. The one downside: silicone toys and silicone lube typically don’t play well together, though professional opinions vary. The reason silicone lube is so great for sensitive bodies is because the body doesn’t absorb silicone, so there’s nothing to react to (silicone allergies are very rare, but do exist) and it doesn’t dry out like water-based lube. Silicone lube is compatible with condoms and is safe for both vaginal and anal sex. Uberlube is my favorite lube ever, but JO Premium Jelly is one of the few gel-like silicone lubes on the market, so it can add that extra “cushion.”
Oil-based lube is not compatible with latex condoms. It’s probably one of the least popular types of lube for this reason, but has seen a resurgence lately after coconut oil became a popular “all-natural” lube for some folks. Most CBD-infused lubes are coconut-oil based and CBD is an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever that can be great for folks who experience painful sex. (There are a few water-based CBD lubes available now, too, which is great news for people who want the effects of CBD but also use latex barriers or don’t want to use oil.)
lube for daily dryness
Sliquid Satin is a water-based formula with aloe, carrageenan, and Vitamin E that can be used not just as a sexual lubricant, but a moisturizer for daily dryness. It’s especially great for folks going through menopause. Sliquid also created Buck Angel’s T-Lube. Like Satin, it’s a daily moisturizer and lube designed specifically for trans men.
Hybrid lubes are water-based with a tiny bit of silicone — a small enough amount that hybrids are safe for silicone toys! It lasts longer than regular water-based lubes.
A lot of folks don’t realize how many different types of lube there are or that a lot of mass-market brands contain known irritants like glycerin, nonoxynol 9, petroleum, and benzocaine to name a few. If you look beyond drug store shelves, though, there is an array of body-safe products available!
Do you have a favorite lube? More specific questions about the ones we mentioned? Share in the comments below!
Nicole Guappone is a freelance writer living in Chicago, previously published by Rolling Stone, Glamour, Allure, The Establishment, and more. Much of her writing and research focuses on sexual health, sexuality, and kink from a pelvic pain perspective. She also writes sex toy reviews for Chicago-based feminist magazine Rebellious. Read more of her work here and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.