Lubes make everything more slippery and more fun. Even if someone is able to produce their own lubrication, adding lube can make it even more enjoyable. Everyone can benefit! It’s also a must-have for anal play. There are multiple types of lubes and a few important tidbits you should know when selecting the right one for you.
In this section, we will discuss the different bases of lubes, specialty type lubes and potions, ingredients to watch out for for sensitivities, and various ingredients you may commonly see listed on the ingredient bottle.
Water based lube is the most common type of lube because it is the most versatile and safe on all toys and condoms. It won’t stain your sheets and it will feel similar to the bodys natural lubrication. It’s also quite easy to wash away when finished.
Things to know:
- Water based lubricant may dry out faster, requiring reapplication
- Some water based lubes can contain ingredients that can be harmful for folks with sensitivities (discussed in later section)
- Best uses: Anything
Silicone based is a long lasting lubricant and often does not require reapplication. This is also a benefit if you’re going to be playing in or around water. It feels really slippery and silkier than water based lubes. Silicone is also hypoallergenic and the molecules are too large to penetrate the skin into the blood stream!
Things to know:
- Using silicone lube with silicone toys will damage the toy. This is because silicone molecules bond to each other and it will degrade the toy’s material.
- Silicone lubricant is compatible with condoms.
- Some formulas may cause staining to sheets.
- Removing it from the skin may require soap as it tends to be more of a waterproof option.
- Some may find silicone lubricants hydrating to dry tissues.
- Best uses: Water play, long lasting formulas, anal
Hybrid lubricants are the best of both worlds: water based and silicone based. You may also come across hybrids with oil bases as well. This means they’re easier to clean up, less likely to stain sheets, and some companies boast that their hybrid silicone lubricants are safe for use with silicone toys. Thus, you get the silkier long lasting benefits of the silicone without any of the negatives of pure silicone.
Things to know:
- Straight silicone lubricant is always going to be longer lasting
- Though some companies say their products are safe with silicone toys, not all of them are. Be aware of this.
- Before using a hybrid on silicone toys, even if it says it’s safe, it’s advisable to put a test spot on the toy and see what it does. When silicone degrades it becomes sticky and “weird”. A test spot is better than damaging the entire toy!
- Best uses: Anything but especially things like anal or longer lasting sessions
Oil based lubricants tend to be the most natural option. Though you can buy oil based lubes specifically to be used for lubrication, you can also use virtually any plant based (edible) vegan formula. Coconut oil and sweet almond oil are the most popular but you can even use olive oil. Oil tends to be super long lasting and very hydrating to dry tissues. Oil tends to be a fan favorite for those who are post-menopausal. Bonus, oils can be used for massage, whether it’s erotic massage or not! The benefit of buying an oil based lubricant versus just going down to your local grocery store is that many will contain other beneficial ingredients to achieve whatever it is you’re using the lube for. For example, some may have extra skin hydrating or soothing ingredients.
Things to know:
- OIL WILL BREAK CONDOMS. It does not matter if the condom is latex free or not, it will break condoms.
- Oils that contain other ingredients like fragrance can disrupt those with sensitivities
- Oil can and will stain fabrics
- Best uses: Anal, masturbation, massage, hydration
Warming lube is any type of lube that contains an additional ingredient that produces a warm sensation when used in or around the genitals. The most common ingredient is a high amount of glycerine. This can be problematic for vaginas! Glycerine is a sugar which is like crack cocaine to yeast and bacteria, but particularly yeast. This means it can often cause some gnarly yeast infections! This is typically what they use for warming. Pepper ingredients or capsaicin may also be used, however, that is what creates the “hot” sensation when you eat a spicy pepper, thus, it can cause irritation.
Just be aware of this information if you are wanting to use anything warming. Yes, the condoms that contain “warming” sensations have the same ingredients and risks associated.
Cooling lubes offer a “cooling” sensation, typically caused by peppermint or menthol. Like warming lubricants, these can also contain a lot of glycerine which can lead to yeast infections or irritation, so be cautious! They tend to have a lot less risk than the warmings but depending on the brand and ingredients, they can be just as risky. Always read your labels!
Numbing products tend to use benzocaine or lidocaine as their active ingredients. These are mainly used for two reasons: for penises to “last longer” or for more comfortable anal play. If it’s being used for anal play, it’s recommended that only experienced users use this. If you’re brand new and do not know what your limitations are, the numbing effect could mean you are totally numb to potential damage occurring to the anal tissues. This is dangerous! It’s important to be able to feel when you’re experimenting, as nothing should ever hurt. If it does, it’s too much. You need to be intune with this!
Also important, numbing agents need to soak into the skin for at least 5 minutes before their full numbing benefits are working. It’s also important to wash it off or wear a condom over the numbing lube as the partner would then be impacted by the numbing agents as well, which they may not want!
Another common use for numbing agents are for throats. The numbing throat spray is intended to help alleviate the gag reflex. Neurologically, it’s challenging to get rid of the gag reflex (it’s an important survival reflex), but these products help reduce it while the numbing agent is active. While it’s active, try to avoid eating or drinking, a numb throat can cause you to aspirate (which leads to pneumonia) or choking!
Flavored lube is typically designed just for external use during oral play. It’s designed mainly for the giver and make the experience more enjoyable. The biggest thing to be aware of is that these flavored lubricants use sugar. Lots of it. Typically it comes in the form of sucralose, honey, or glycerine. Sugar will make the yeast that naturally lives on the skin and in the vagina to go haywire, which can lead to yeast infections. Make sure it is all washed off and do not use it for penetrative sex.
Note, there are some brands of flavored lube that ARE safe for general use, however, they are few and far between.
Ingredients To Be Aware Of For Sensitivities
GLYCERINE: Glycerine is found in a lot of lubes, unless otherwise specified. This is because it helps keep the lube moist and doing it’s job. It’s also very cheap for manufacturers to use. Though it’s in smaller quantities than it’s found in warming or flavored lubes, it’s still present. This can be particularly bad for those who are prone to yeast infections or diabetic.
PROPYLENE GLYCOL: This is a common additive in foods and lubes. It has a sweet taste! But it also has the same effect as glycerine, it keeps things moist. It’s also very cheap, so easy for manufacturers to use as an ingredient. It has the same risks, however, associated with irritation and yeast infections.
Note: Propanediol is the same exact chemical as propylene glycol. The only difference is how it’s made.
PARABENS: Unfortunately, parabens are found all throughout the cosmetic industry and adult industry. They are added as preservatives to make products last longer on the shelf and avoid growth of bacteria and fungus. On the ingredient list, they may be in the form of methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben…anything that ends with “-paraben”. In recent years, there have been many studies on parabens. They are able to cross the skin barrier into the blood stream. But is that bad? It might be. Not only do some people have sensitivities and allergies to parabens, but they have also been found to sit and linger in breast tissue. They also seem to have an effect on estrogen production, which has linked them to breast cancers and fertility issues. Parabens are hard to avoid in our society, as they are in almost everything we put onto our skin. But it’s very common to find them in lubes as well. If you’re having mysterious sensitivities, the parabens can be a culprit!
SUCRALOSE: This is SUGAR. See above for the tirade on sugar in lubricant.
PEG/ PEG 90M/ POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL: This is a common solevent/thickener that you’ll find in a variety of body products, including personal lubricants. This is an ingredient that should be avoided if seeking out a higher quality lubricant. This is because they can actually draw a lot of moisture out of tissues and lead to dryness. It can also allow other harmful ingredients to absorb better into the body.
Misc. Common Ingredients
SILICONE: Silicone is a synthetic ingredient, but is biologically inert. This is why most medical implants are made of silicone! Silicone ingredients will generally be anything that ends with “-cone”. Common silicones in lubes are dimethicone, vinyl dimethicone, cyclomethicone, and phenyl trimethicone.
The best part about silicone is that it’s typically non-comedogenic (it will not clog pores) and it’s inert to the body. Some folks may state that they are allergic to silicone. While it’s possible, it’s very uncommon. Do note, if someone is prone to allergies, they are more likely to react to many different chemicals, including ones that are biologically inert. If someone has had an allergic reaction to something silicone based, they were likely reacting to something else added or it was a poor quality product.
CARBOXYMETHYLCELLULOSE and HYDROXYETHYLCELLULOSE: These are thickening agents and generally have a gel like consistency to them. These are typically vegan friendly and body safe.
Anything that has “cellulose” in it is a starch that is derived from plants. Cellulose is just the structural protein of plants, but there are different types of cellulose that can be used for different purposes. You’ll find some sort of cellulose on the ingredient list of virtually anything that goes in or on the body.
Similar ingredients to this are xanthan gum, pectin, and/or maltodextrin. Note, maltodextrin is sugary and may carry gluten.
SODIUM BENZOATE and POTASSIUM SORBATE: Very common in foods as well, these are harmless preservatives that extend shelf-life of products.
SODIUM HYDROXIDE: This is actually lye! It is used to alter the pH of the lube. It is body safe!
Each lube has their pros and cons, meaning they typically have specific things that they’re good for. Here’s some general tidbits.
Water based is generally the go-to, unless there is vaginal dryness involved or they need the specific long-lasting or waterproof effects of silicone. Water based is the safest choice here because it’s compatible with all toys and condoms.
You must use lube for anal. The anus does not naturally lubricate. Some may argue that saliva is sufficient, though this is not the case! Saliva dries very quickly. Similarly, so does water-based lubricants. For anal play, silicone or oil is the best option, but with enough water based lube, it can work too!
Though not really a big requirement like it is when playing at “the rear", some enjoy lubes for oral. Especially flavored lubricants and numbing agents. Avoid any flavored and/or sugary lubricants if the lube may later come in contact with a vagina. It must be washed off to avoid the high risks of yeast infections or UTIs.
Oils are great! There’s a reason when you go to a massage parlor, they tend to rub you down with oil. It is long lasting and hydrating! Important, however, that oil is removed before using a condom or barrier method as it will break down and/or destroy condoms!
If the toy is made of silicone, it’s recommended to only use water-based lubricants, though oil is also an option. Silicone, when in contact with other silicone, will melt and fuse together. This will destroy the toy! There are exceptions, however, if using a very high quality silicone lubricant with a similarly high quality silicone toy, it is less of an issue, but still a risk. If someone decides to take this risk, it's advised that they immediately wash all toys with soap and water to remove any residue of the silicone lubricant from the toy. A small test area can help determine if it's a safe lube + toy combo.
Vaginal Dryness Problems
Dryness occurs at any age and can have many causes. Many folks will feel embarrassed about this issue but it’s common and normal. In some cases, the vulva and vagina may be irritated and uncomfortable, thus, some lubes may burn and feel uncomfortable. In this case, a water-based lubricant for sex is best, especially if it’s pH balanced. Bonus points if there’s aloe vera in it (very soothing!). Many folks will find that a high-quality silicone lubricant is particularly helpful as well, as the silicone helps coat the irritated tissues and can also be soothing. While they should visit their doctors or OB/GYN for particularly bothersome dryness, there are some things that can help. Plant-based oils can help as a daily application, such as shea butter or coconut butter. There are oil based lubricants that can be applied as a moisturizer. These are body friendly and non-toxic. If this is recommended, it’s important to re-emphasize that oils will break condoms. Oil moisturizers can also stain underwear and sheets. Pantyliners can help with that!
Did we overwhelm you? That was not the intention! We are here to provide as much information as possible. If you have further questions regarding lubes and the right ones, feel free to reach out to us. We are happy to help! It can be very confusing, especially if you're looking for something specific. Let us know!
Stay educated <3