When one casually strolls down the drug store aisle of condoms and lubes, they’re likely entering the experience with little knowledge. When choosing from the selection of boxes strung side by side, we’ll usually stop on the most colorful package promoting something flashy like an “intense tingle,“ then casually toss it in our carts, along with unnecessarily large condoms so the cashier knows what’s up. (Wink, wink.)
This is the wrong way to approach lubricants. Thankfully, Clue, a period-tracking app, recently shared the spoils of its latest research with Playboy, and with that info, we want to guide you away from this package-based shopping and toward more informed choices. Rest assured, the next time you’re shopping for a lubricant, you’ll do it with much more savvy and your sex life will reap the benefits.
But first, if you’re really new to lubes and aren’t quite sure what it’s needed for, its purpose is simple: Lubricants help make sex (solo, with a partner, or a toy) more pleasurable by eliminating any unwanted chafing, pain or uncomfortable rubbing. A 2013 study of almost 2,500 women felt sex was better with lubrication. A nickel-sized dollop will do the trick, and lubricants are best applied to the male genitalia prior to intercourse.
While many women produce ample amounts of vaginal fluid on their own, a good percentage still reach for the wet stuff to enhance the experience. For others, its inclusion is more necessary. According to the app, nearly half of post-menopausal women experience vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex. Without higher levels of estrogen produced in the body, their tissues become thinner, less flexible, receive less blood flow and therefore produce less vaginal fluid.
Water-based lube is the most widely available and safest lube to start with.
Let’s kick things off with lubricants produced by the body. Menstrual blood, for instance, can be used as a lubricant. Ideally, menstrual lubricant is best utilized during the beginning of the cycle, as it offers a more slippery glide. If you’re not looking to conceive, however, use protection: Sex during ovulation has the greatest chance of pregnancy.
Saliva can be used as lubricant as well. However, experts advise using the woman’s own saliva as infection is less probable. But, if you’d rather use no lube at all, indulge your partner in some prolonged foreplay to promote the production of vaginal fluid.
Before we get into the specifics of lubricants not produced by the body, avoid lubricants containing artificial flavors, colors, sugars, essential oils, additional additives and glycerin, as you can’t be sure how your body will react to them.
Some of those extra sensations like “warming” or “tingling” can be overwhelming to the body, so your best bet is to begin with something basic. “The verdict is still out on whether there is a link between glycerin/glycerol-containing lubricants and the health of the bacteria in the vagina,” the app explains. “Some evidence suggests lubricants containing glycerin may increase the chances of vaginal infections, while others actually find that glycerin makes no difference to the microflora of the vagina at all.” Clue notes that more research is needed to find out for sure.
Water-based lube is the most widely available and safest lube to start with. It can be used for penetrative sex, masturbation and sex toy play. Water-based lubes are ideal for people with sensitive skin or vaginal irritation. Plus, it’s really easy to clean off and won’t stain the sheets.
However, water-based lubes aren’t great for water-play/shower sex, as the fluid will rapidly wash away. Even out of water, water-based lubes tend to get sticky and require re-application. Clue advises when selecting a water-based lube, you try to pick one that reflects the acidity of a healthy vagina (around pH 3.8 to 4.5) to prevent increased risk of bacterial vaginosis. The anus, on the other hand, has a more neutral acidity level (pH 5.5 to 7), so try to pick an appropriate lube here as well.
Silicone-based lubes last longer than water-based and prove more slippery. For these reasons and more, they’re recommended for sex in water. However, it happens to be more difficult to wash off, requiring a rigorous scrubbing with soap and water. It might also stain the sheets, and, if it’s spilled on hardwood, it will not only stain but also leave your floor slippery for months. Another word of caution: Silicone-based lubes should never be used with silicone-made sex toys, as it can break down the rubber.
Oil-based lubes also last longer than water-based lubes and tend to be more slippery. These lubes are ideal for masturbation, unprotected sex and water-play. It’s also a good option for massage. This lube shouldn’t be used with latex condoms (or any condom, really), as it can dissolve latex and influence breakage. Diaphragms and sex toys should also be kept away from oil-based lubricants.
Now, which lube is best for anal? Since the anal canal doesn’t produce fluid to ease penetration like the vagina does, it’s definitely necessary. Water-based lubricants decrease the chances of condom breakage while having anal sex, in contrast to oil-based lubricants or saliva, which increase chances of condom breakage. Silicone-based lubes are a smart option as well, as the lube tends to remain slippery for longer. The chances of the condom slipping off during anal sex are also related to lubrication, so be careful.
Armed with this guide, you hopefully can now stride into the nearest drug store and chose the lubricant best suited for your next bedroom romp. If you’re still overwhelmed with the options, just go for coconut oil when in doubt. It’s what most porn stars do anyway.