Lube 201

To the average person, all lube seems pretty much the same, right? You go to the pharmacy, or maybe the grocery store, and head to the “family planning” aisle.

They might have some KY Gellee, Astroglide, maybe Durex or Wet. You might see a flavor or two, or a bottle marked “premium”. But how do you decide? I’m here to help you decode one of the greatest mysteries of the universe: “What lube do I want, and why?”

First, let’s tackle the easy part: Why. Lubricant often gets a bad rap because people assume that the body’s natural lubrication should be enough. In reality, there are all kinds of reasons you might need lube.

If you have a vagina, medications like birth control pills, antihistamines, and antidepressants can affect your natural moisture and arousal. If you’re interested in anal play, you’re going to need something to help ease things in.

And, of course, a little extra moisture can just feel great and can keep things going long past when your natural moisture might start to wane. In short, there’s no shame in the lubrication game. Now we can move onto what kind of lube is best for what you’re doing.

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Now, let’s look at what we want to avoid. If you or your partner has a vagina, you want to stay away from lubricants containing glycerin, especially cheaper lubricants. Glycerin can be irritating, and worse, it can actually cause dryness.

Many people prefer to avoid parabens as well. Parabens are a preservative that has been used for decades and are generally considered safe. However, some studies suggest that perhaps they’re not so great for the body. Many people like to avoid parabens in a “better safe than sorry” kind move. This means that Astroglide, KY, and most other drugstore brands are best left on the shelves.

Luckily, a few drugstores like Walgreens and CVS have begun carrying higher-quality brands. With higher quality, you will notice an increase in price. But peruse, higher quality lubricants can actually be less expensive. You’ll use less, reapply less frequently, save yourself from irritation and maybe even prevent a trip to the doctor.

If you’re looking for a lubricant that you can use during penis-in-vagina sex and/or with all sex toys and safe sex barriers (condoms, dental dams, gloves), look for something water-based. Pink Water is a great choice, as it’s made specifically for women with sensitive skin, and can often be found at larger drugstores.

If you don’t mind venturing to an adult store or shopping online, you’ll have a wider selection. In that case, I would recommend something made by Sliquid, Good Clean Love, Yes, or Blossom Organics. All quality water-based lubricants are compatible with latex and non-latex condoms, dental dams, gloves, and sex toys.

If you won’t be using any toys and you want a lubricant that’s incredibly long-lasting, look for silicone. Just like silicone toys, silicone lubricant is completely body safe. You can even use it with condoms. But, not all silicone lubricants are compatible with silicone toys, so it’s better to keep them apart unless you’re willing to do patch tests.

Silicone lubricant sits atop the surface of the skin, providing a thin but ultra-slick barrier. It doesn’t reduce sensation, but it does reduce friction. When it comes to silicone lube, you can find some decent picks in the drugstore, including Wet Platinum. Otherwise, I recommend Sliquid Silver, Pjur Original Bodyglide, or System JO Premium.

You may have heard before that oil-based lube is bad, full stop. That’s not necessarily true – only some oil based lubes are bad for some things. The only oil-based lubricants that are safe for vaginal use are Yes Oil-Based Organic Lubricant, and plain coconut oil, preferably virgin and organic.

Oil-based lubricants are compatible with polyurethane condoms and dental dams, nitrile gloves, and FC2 (the female condom).

Where oil-based lubes really shine, though, is during anal play. Because the anus has no natural lubrication, if you use water-based lube, you may find yourself re-applying constantly. Having to stop the play can really ruin the mood. While silicone can do the job just fine, an oil-based lubricant will provide more cushioning, protecting the delicate walls of the anus. Elbow Grease, Slam Dunk, and Boy Butter are some very popular brands (hat tip to Lorax of Sex).

So, have I convinced you of the importance of a good lubricant? What are some of your favorites?