What is personal lube?
Lubricants (no matter their composition) mimic and/or supplement the vagina’s natural lubrication (aka ‘getting wet’) to make you more comfortable during sex and intercourse.
Personal lubricants aren’t “just for comfort, but it actually makes your sexy time more pleasurable.”
More than anything, lube (aka personal lubricant) is a lifesaver.
Risks of Sexual Activity When You are Experiencing Dryness
Other than mild to extreme discomfort, you can actually cause microtears in vaginal and/or anal tissues which can be painful and take time to heal. You can also experience irritation, burning, and chafing… all of this can be avoided with a little lube!
Cases Where You Might Consider Using Lube
Vaginal dryness is incredibly common in vulva owners of all ages and orientations. Natural lubrication relies on estrogen levels that vary during menstrual cycles and as you age (especially during perimenopause and menopause). Furthermore, lubrication is impacted by medications you take (including oral contraceptives) and by hygiene practices (douching is a big no-no if you are trying to prevent dryness).
Studies show that lube use “was associated with significantly higher reports of sexual pleasure and sexual satisfaction. Plus, the majority of American women report using lubricant. Of course, this makes sense: if you’re comfortable, you can enjoy yourself more; but comfort is the bare minimum!”
When Your Eyes are Bigger than Your
Another reason to use lube is (A) if your partner has a large penis or (B) if you are using a large dildo or toy for penetration. Lube will make things go a lot smoother (pun intended) when you are trying to accommodate and/or acclimate a large ‘guest.’ Lube also minimizes the likelihood of microtears in your vaginal/anal tissue.
YOU NEED TO USE LUBE EVERY TIME YOU PARTICIPATE IN ANAL PLAY. I cannot emphasize this enough.
The anus, anal canal, and rectum are NOT self-lubricating like the vagina is. Not using lube will lead to microtears and anal fissures, both of which, I can assure you, you do not want. The lining of the rectum isn’t very pain-sensitive, but the nerves in the anus and skin surrounding it are extremely sensitive.
Fact or Fiction: Lube Edition
Fiction: If you aren’t wet, you aren’t aroused (turned on) and you aren’t attracted to your partner.
This myth is just that – a myth. You could be the most turned-on you’ve ever been in your life and simultaneously be as dry as a desert. This is called arousal non-concordance. Arousal non-concordance is when your mind and genitals aren’t on the same page. You might be spontaneously very wet while you’re cleaning the bathroom, and another day, you could be bone dry when you are having the best sex of your life. This isn’t uncommon! Dame reports “that [cisgender women]* only experience complete concordance about 10% of the time and [cisgender men]* experience complete concordance about 50% of the time.” Dame continues, “Arousal non-concordance affects pretty much everyone. Experiencing non-concordance is a completely normal part of human sexuality. However, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.”
* Cisgender means that your gender identity aligns with your sex assigned at birth. A cis-woman is someone who is born female and identifies as a woman. A cis-man is someone who is born male and identifies as a man.
Fact: Using lube increases pleasure for everyone involved.
As aforementioned, lube use is associated with much higher reports of sexual pleasure and satisfaction.
Things to Consider when Buying Lube
- Will this be used for vaginal or anal play?
Thicker lubes are better for anal sex because rectal tissue is more delicate than vaginal tissue.
- Will you be using this lube with silicone sex toys?
Using silicone-based lubes with silicone sex toys is harmful to the toy, and eventually to you. The lube breaks down the toy material making it more porous. Bacteria and germs hang out in these pores and can lead to infection and irritation.
- Will you be using this lube with condoms (internal and/or external*) or dental dams?
Not all lubricants are suitable for use with condoms and/or dental dams.
* External condoms, often referred to as male condoms, are worn on the penis. Internal condoms, often called female condoms, are placed inside the vaginal canal.
The Different Types of Lubes
- Very easily cleaned up because they are water-soluble
- Great for people with sensitive skin
- Can be used with silicone toys
- Can be used during bath/shower play
- Can be used with condoms
- They require more frequent reapplication
- Tend to become a bit sticky (that’s when you should reapply)
- Require less frequent reapplication
- Do not become sticky, and are very “glide-y”
- Can be used with condoms
- Ideal for bath or shower play
- They are not water-soluble, meaning they are not as easily cleaned up as water-based lubes
- Should not be used with silicone sex toys
- Often more expensive than water-based or hybrid
- Long-lasting and require less frequent application
- Cannot be used with condoms
- More easily stain sheets and clothes
- May put you at a higher risk for vaginitis (like bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections)
Hybrid Lubes are made with a combination of water, oil, and/or silicone bases.
- Very slippery and smooth
- Require less frequent reapplication compared to water-based lube
- Often water-soluble
- Usually cheaper than pure silicone lubes
- If it contains silicone, it shouldn’t be used with silicone sex toys
- If it contains oil, may put you at a higher risk for vaginitis (like bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections)
- If it contains oil, it can stain sheets and clothes more easily
FAQ: Is coconut oil a safe alternative to personal lube?
Yes, but you should know that the natural sugars in coconut oil and the fact that it’s oil-based can increase your risk of bacterial vaginosis or yeast infection.
FAQ: Can you use Vaseline or petroleum jelly as lube?
I don’t recommend it. “In a 2-year study of 141 sexually active women between the ages of 18 and 65, researchers found those who used petroleum jelly intravaginally increased their risk for bacterial vaginosis by 22%. Similarly, those who reported using oils inside the vagina had a 32% increased risk for yeast infection.” (Prevention)
Rythm Recommended Non-Toxic Lubes
Gillian ‘Gigi’ Singer, MPH
American Board Certified Sexologist, Sexuality Educator, and Sex Ed Content Specialist