Lubricants are used to reduce friction. Personal lubricants, usually shortened to “lube,” are used to reduce friction in sexual activities. Reducing friction can ease penetration, prevent uncomfortable chapping, and generally make everything wetter and more comfortable. Vaginas (unlike anuses) are generally considered self-lubricating, but that isn’t true for everyone all the time. There are many women who do not produce very much natural lubrication, for whatever reason. The hormonal shifts associated with menopause are pretty common cause, though. So, if vaginal dryness is ever an issue for you, and that can vary day by day for women at any stage of life, lube could be your best friend. A friend with benefits.
So what kind of lube should I get?
It depends what you’re going to do with it and how sensitive your body is. I’ve only linked to stuff that I like, but your body could be different.
The oldest lubes were probably all oils, because oil is slippery. Things like olive oil, butter, Crisco, and Vaseline have all been used as lube. But oils can degrade latex condoms, so, if you are using a condom, either use a different kind of lube or a different kind of condom. They can also stain and if the oil isn’t absorbed, need to be washed off, which isn’t easy on some toys. Many are also petroleum based, and don’t clear out of the vagina easily. When they stick around, they create an environment that encourages infection. Some plant oils do, as well, but coconut oil and jojoba oil seem to be absorbed fairly quickly.
Oils are great for massage, and are very common in lubes intended for use on a penis, where there is little risk of oil accumulation. Most oils, though, aren’t great for vaginas, though there is still a lot of debate about plant-based oils. Coconut oil is generally considered vagina-friendly, and can be found as an ingredient in some natural lubes, or can used by itself.
Good Vibrations has a couple of options I like:
- Love Balm is a great, general purpose lube that melts at body temperature
- Vulva Balm is more of a moisturizer. It has beeswax in it so it won’t melt on a hot day.
Water-based lubes are the most versatile lubes available. They are safe to use with latex, safe to use with silicone, and easy to clean up. They are not nearly as old as oil-based lubes (unless you count spit), but have been around a while. K-Y Jelly was developed over 100 years ago, and was standard in OB-GYN offices for years. It is easy to find in drugstores and supermarkets.
And if you want to make the alien in your film look really slimy, or a fake wound look fresh and wet, K-Y is definitely an option you should consider. But it is full of chlorhexidine, which is drying and can destroy healthy vaginal bacteria. In fact, most of the lubes sold at drugstores can actually cause dryness and irritation, or increase the risk of infection. There are much better, safer options available for sexual lubrication. I look for water-based lubes that are free of chlorhexidine, parabens, glycerin, propylene glycol, and most alcohols, including sugar alcohols like sorbitol. I don’t need it to be gluten-free, vegan, or organic, but you might. Read the labels if you have specific needs.
You should also consider how thick the lube is. Thinner lubes are often a bit slicker, but thick ones offer a big more cushioning, which can be important if your vaginal walls are thinning or if you plan to use it anally.
And I should warn you that many water-based lubes (especially those without glycerin) don’t taste very good, so if that matters to you, keep it in mind when you buy it.
My favorites, none of which taste completely horrible:
- Sliquid H2O, a good general purpose lube, Sliquid Sea which adds carrageenan as a thickener and (possibly) defense against HPV, and Sliquid Sassy, a gel that’s thicker and better for anal use. Good Vibrations Early to Bed SheVibe Peepshow Toys
- Sliquid Organics Natural and Organics Gel are the equivalent of Sliquid H2O, and Sassy but with some organic ingredients. Good Vibrations Early to Bed SheVibe Peepshow Toys
- Good Clean Love Almost Naked is aloe-based. For me, it feels very natural. Good Vibrations SheVibe Peepshow Toys
- Please Liquid and Please Gel are available at Good Vibrations.
- Aloe Cadabra is sold in some health food stores. Early to Bed
If you want something actually tasty, Good Clean Love, and Aloe Cadabra are your best bets unless you want an overtly flavored lube.
If you really want all the science of lube (which is very interesting), I recommend you spend some time at Smitten Kitten’s BadVibes.org or reading some of Dangerous Lily’s work on the subject. They are incredibly thorough.
One thing to keep in mind with all water-based lube is that it can dry fairly quickly and you may need to reapply or reactivate it with water or saliva.
Silicone lubes are extremely slippery and water-resistant. If you want a lube to use in water, silicone is the way to go. It is also very popular for anal use. There are some people who believe that since silicone isn’t natural, it isn’t body-safe, but pure, high-quality silicone is completely inert internally. It shouldn’t be able to interact with your body at all. It’s probably the best choice for people with chemical sensitivities. It can damage some silicone toys, though, so keep it away from your pricey playthings, or test it on a small area that won’t affect use. Also, it can stain your sheets, so you might want a towel.
Silicone lubes can also be used for non-sex purposes. Do you get chapped on your thighs in the summer or when you run? Silicone lube! Is your hair frizzy and tough to smooth? Silicone lube! Sticking hinge? Silicone lube! It’s the all purpose lubricant. It’s often more slick than I like, though, and I don’t like to get it in my mouth. It makes me feel like a dog drying to get all the peanut butter out of my mouth.
Great silicone lubes only have a few ingredients. I like:
- Überlube looks super classy and has added vitamin E. Good Vibrations Early to Bed SheVibe
- Sliquid Silver is as great as all the Sliquid lubes. Good Vibrations Early to Bed SheVibe Peepshow Toys
Hybrid lubes are my favorite. They last longer than most water-based lubes because of the addition of a small amount of silicone, but are not as slippery or hard to clean up as pure silicone lube. They are also usually safe to use with silicone toys.
I really like:
- Sliquid Silk is available at Good Vibrations, Early to Bed, SheVibe, and most other shops.
- Sliquid Organics Silk is available at Early to Bed, SheVibe, Peepshow Toys and some other shops.
- Please Cream is available at Good Vibrations.
There are also lubes available that have special features in addition to slickness (I would call them “special effects,” but given the K-Y uses I described, I think I won’t). There are warming, cooling, and tingling lubes. There are lubes with special flavors. There are lubes like Hathor Aphrodisia that claim aphrodisiac properties. Thanks to Foria Pleasure, you can even get lube with THC oil, to enhance your cannasexual experience.
I don’t really love the sensation lubes. Most of them are far too strong for me and I wind up washing them off as fast as I can. The only one I really like is silicone-based Wicked Ultra Heat, and I can’t use that as a lube, just externally.
- Wicked Flavored Lubes are full of glycerin, so they don’t play well with many vaginas. But they are so delicious that they are worth keeping around if you like flavored lubes for oral sex. Salted caramel is my favorite. I could eat it on ice cream. Early to Bed SheVibe
- Sliquid Swirl flavors are more subtle, and they are glycerin-free, so they are more versatile, too. I especially like green apple. Good Vibrations Early to Bed SheVibe Peepshow Toys
There are also lubes with not-so-special features. Numbing lubes are a horrible idea. Lubes that contain lidocaine or benzocaine reduce sensation, either to delay ejaculation or reduce discomfort. But that discomfort is there for a reason; if you are tearing vaginal or anal tissues, you should be aware of that. If you are numb, you won’t get that information and could experience more serious damage. Please don’t buy it.
Still don’t know how to choose?
If you aren’t ready to take the plunge and buy a bottle or two, you still have choices. If you live near a decent sex shop, go there. Many of them have large displays of lube options with tester bottles available. To test on your HAND. You can get an idea of how different lubes feel, smell, or taste that way. Many brands of lube also have sample packets available. These are usually cheap and it gives you a chance to try the lubes on something other than hands before you decide which bottle to buy.
You can also order a lube sampler online. This should give you a chance to test some of your options and make an informed decision.
- Sliquid Lube Cube is a variety of Sliquid’s lubes. Early to Bed, SheVibe
- Sliquid Lip Lickers is a collection Sliquid’s flavored lubes. Good Vibrations, Early to Bed
- Wicked Teasers is a sample set of their flavored lubes. SheVibe
- Good Vibrations sells a sampler set of all four types of Please lube.
- Early to Bed has two different 5-sample sets – one multi-purpose and one “stroke sampler,” which contains some lubes that are not intended for intercourse. But both of them contain high-quality, glycerine-free lubes from a variety of manufacturers.
Many other independent shops have sample sets available, as well. If you look around, you should be able to find something you like. And when you do, you can super-size it.