The Basics of Lube

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Let’s kick off with this: sexual lubricant is fucking amazing. There is a common misconception that lube can only be used between couples and in instances where self-lubrication is difficult or impossible. This combined with the performance stigma about being unable to get wet, or being unable to get your partner wet, means that there are a ton of people out there missing out on the magic of good lube. Sure, lube is great for bringing moisture into dry situations, they even make lubricants for daily use when vaginal dryness is ongoing, but it’s also super useful for masturbation, quickies, and plain old delicious slipperiness. Many people report that they come much more easily with lube than without. You really have to try it to find out what you’re missing.

Another common barrier to using lube is not knowing what the different options are or knowing that there are options but not knowing what they’re for. That’s where we come in. So, there are four basic types of lube and a few variations on those four: water based, silicone, oil based, and hybrid.

o   Water Based Lube is the most common and most multipurpose of all the variations. It is good for genital or anal use and is safe for use with toys and any type of condoms or barriers. It washes off easily, which is great for easy clean-up, but also means that it doesn’t work well for shower or tub sex. It’s also usually cheaper than other types of lubricant and doesn’t stain so you can go crazy between the sheets without fear of ruining your bedding. The downside to water-based lube is that it dries quickly and can become sticky. Though, you can always reapply and/or add water or saliva to freshen it up.

o   Silicone Lube is another common option in stores. These lubricants are good for anal or genital use and are safe for use with condoms and other barriers. They’re safe for use with some sex toys, like ABS plastic, glass, or metal, but should never be used in combination with silicone toys. Because silicone doesn’t absorb into the skin or evaporate, it lasts much longer than other lubes. It is also great for use in the shower or tub. The downside to silicone is that it can be messier and more difficult to clean up afterwards. 

o   Hybrid Lube is basically what it sounds like, a hybrid between water-based and silicone lubricants. These have the benefit of being thicker and easier to clean up than straight silicone, while also being longer lasting than water-based. The downside to hybrids is that they don’t tend to feel that much different than other lubes and you still have some of the same issues, like not being able to use them with silicone toys.

o   Oil Based Lube typically refers to petroleum-based products. These lubes are super slick so they can be nice for male masturbation and anal sex, but petroleum also coats the skin and can block pores. On the other hand, natural oils like coconut oil are safe for internal use and are commonly used vaginally. No oil-based lube is safe for use with condoms since oil breaks down latex.

And now for the variations; anal, spermicidal, sperm-friendly, warming/cooling, and flavored/edible.

o   Anal Lubes are usually either thicker, water-based lubes or silicone lubes for their lasting quality. There are also anal lubes with numbing agents, but it is best practice to avoid these if you can help it, so you can hear what your ass is trying to tell you.

o   Spermicidal Lubes contain nonoxynol-9 and are used to kill sperm and avoid pregnancy. Many condoms come pre-loaded with spermicidal lube. The downside to this is that nonoxynol-9 can actually leave abrasions in the vagina and can break down the protective rectal lining in the anus, both of which could potentially increase chances of getting AIDs, STDs and skin irritations, leading to infections.

o   Sperm Friendly Lubes have a pH and osmolality similar to that of sperm, so they are ideal for use when trying to conceive.

o   Warming Lubes are great for added sensation, but often use glycerol to create the effect. Glycerol is related to glycerin which can instigate UTIs or yeast infections in those who are prone to them.

o   Cooling Lubes are another sensation creator, but many of them use menthol which can have a drying effect, particularly in the soft tissues of the genital area.

o   Flavored Lubes are cool when oral sex is involved, not so much to change the taste of the person you’re with (humans are pretty delicious), but to make the lube itself a little tastier. The big downside is that flavored lubes often contain sugars that can cause UTIs and yeast infections.

Once you’ve decided what kind of lube you want to play with, the next step is to look for a high-quality and body-safe version. Here are a few basic things you might want to avoid or look for.

Avoid

o   Glycerin which, as we’ve already mentioned, can cause UTIs and yeast infections.

o   Parabens which is a group of preserving ingredients common in many beauty products, that are absorbed through the skin and metabolize in the body, particularly in the breast and ovaries.

o   L-argenine is used in arousal lubes and can encourage and aggravate an oncoming herpes outbreak.

o   Menthol which is used for tingling and cooling properties, but, as already mentioned, can also have a drying effect.

o   Polyquaternium-15 is a common cosmetic ingredient, that not only damages the rectal lining cells but actively increases HIV replication.

o   Nonoxonyl-9 is the active ingredient in spermicide, and as previously mentioned, can cause abrasions in sensitive vaginal and anal tissue, making them more susceptible to disease and infection.

o   Petroleum is common in oil-based lubricants but can smother the skin by blocking pores.

Look For

o   Natural and Organic versions of lubricants will often be free of some of the more irritating and damaging ingredients. The same goes for Sensitive and Non-Irritating versions.

o   Aloe Based Lubricants can be used for a soothing effect when irritation is already a problem.

o   Coconut Oil can be used as a vaginal lube all on its own and is great for sensitive bodies. Again, oil-based lubes can’t be used with condoms or other barrriers.

o   Carageenan is a seaweed derived ingredient that can help fight infections and is naturally moisturizing.

o   Guava bark has soothing properties.

o   Jojoba Oil has anti-fungal properties but is also not safe for use with condoms or other barriers.