When it comes to making sure you and your partner are ready for some real good sex, lube is your best friend. Though many put it in the category of something you only need when there’s a problem, lube is actually a really helpful, fun addition to all types of sex — regardless of your age or whether you have a partner.
“There’s a lot of controversy surrounding lube and women,” Jenny Block, author of The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex, tells SheKnows. “Like it’s either for old ladies or bad girls.”
Some people with vaginas ooze lubrication, and that’s great — but that’s not the case for everyone. “Lacking personal lubrication during sex can not only cause discomfort for both partners, but can also be a major source of self-consciousness for women,” Alice Wood, a sex and relationships coach, tells SheKnows. “Using lube is the easy answer to this issue, plus it adds an extra bit of sensation for both partners and may help prolong intercourse.”
If your vagina and vulva area doesn’t get wet naturally, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. For sex after menopause especially, a good lube is crucial for a good time!
Also, if you haven’t found a lube that feels good, you haven’t found the right one — yet. Hit up your local sex store, see how different products feel and buy a few samples. Several lube companies sell sample packs online as well, so you can try a variety of types before committing to a large quantity.
The first thing you need to decide is whether you want a water-based or silicone-based lubricant.
“Water-based lube is lighter, generally suitable for sensitive skin, easily cleanable with water and compatible with silicone sex toys,” Wood explains. “If you are looking for some particular brands, pay attention to Sliquid’s and LELO’s products — they are hypoallergenic, unscented and comparatively longer-lasting.”
Wood notes that silicone-based lube is considerably thicker and better suited for shower sex or anal play.
Here’s the right kind of lube for a variety of sexy situations:
Sugar & your natural pH levels don’t play well
Dr. Pari Ghodsi, an OB-GYN, recommends that people steer clear of flavored lubricants for intercourse since the sugar in these products tends to throw off the pH balance of your vagina, which can lead to yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
Silicone lube makes silicone sex toys deteriorate
When you are playing with a toy made from silicone, avoid using lubes that contain silicone. “Silicone plus silicone-based lube always equals a farewell party for your favorite sex toy since it gets covered in a sticky residue you cannot clean off,” says Wood. Also, silicone tends to compromise the integrity of softer sex toys made from silicone. When in doubt, water-based lube is always a safe bet.
Silicone is perfect for water play
Silicone lube isn’t water soluble, which means it has staying power for sex play in the bath or shower. “Be careful not to get it on the floor though, because it’s super slippery!” Lanae St.John, a board-certified sexologist, tells SheKnows. Safety first!
Don’t desensitize for activities like anal sex
St.John advises against using lubes that are desensitizing for activities like anal sex. “Using a desensitizing lube to reduce pain during anal won’t allow you to be aware if any tearing is happening,” she says. “That puts a person at risk of long-term damage, getting an infection transmitted to them, etc.”
Silicone lube is best for butt fun
Unlike the vagina, the anus is not self-lubricating. A lot of people have anal sex horror stories because they weren’t properly slicked up before a partner tried to insert a toy, finger(s) or penis. When it comes to anal sex, you can never have too much lube. Silicone works best IMO, but again, opt for a water-based anal product if you’re using a silicone toy.
Beware of lubes with nonoxynol-9
It’s also important to pay attention to the ingredients list of your lube. “Lubes with the spermicide nonoxynol-9 can cause tiny micro-tears in sensitive tissues,” says St.John, “which also puts a person at risk for getting infections.” There are a lot of good options out there, so no need to go for this one.
Step away from the petroleum jelly
Do not use Vaseline or baby oil for lube if you’re using condoms, gloves or dentals dams. Ditto for olive oil, coconut oil and Crisco. Although some of these products are perfectly safe to ingest, they’ll deteriorate barrier methods. That said, I’m a big fan of using almond oil and coconut oil for manual play (on myself and others) if toys and barrier methods aren’t involved.
My personal go-to for solo sex is Überlube. This silicone godsend is the slickest lube I’ve encountered and has incomparable staying power, so you can take your sweet ole time without having to reapply. And if you do, it comes in a glass pump bottle that’s a sexy, always-within-arm’s-reach addition to any nightstand.
So there you have it — there’s no reason not to invest in some lube. It’ll only make things better (and wetter).
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A version of this story was published April 2018.