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There's no doubt about it; your sex life is better with lube. Whether you're having a solo session or enjoying partnered sex, the right lube can transform the sensations and your enjoyment.

The trouble is, there are so many different kinds and brands of lube on the market, it's difficult to know where to begin. Likewise, if you're already a lube user, it's tricky working out whether your current bottle is actually the best lube for your requirements.

In this guide, we'll explore everything there is to know about personal lubricant - including how it works and the benefits of lube, the different kinds available, and how to properly use it. We'll answer all your questions along the way too - even those you might be too embarrassed to ask a friend!

What is Sex Lubricant?

Personal lubricant is a product designed to reduce friction during any kind of sex play.

There are four main types of lubricants on the market:

  • Silicone lube
  • Oil-based lubes
  • Water-based lubes
  • Hybrid lubes

We'll go into detail about what kind of sexual play each of these is best suited to later in this guide - but generally speaking, different lubes are designed for foreplay, vaginal and anal sex, masturbation, and use with sex toys.

Sexual lubricant is often also used to compensate for issues that prevent people from creating their own natural lubrication. This is a common issue faced by people experiencing menopause and occasionally as a side-effect of certain medications.

How lubricant works

Lube works by creating a slippery layer on top of your skin that mimics or adds to the lubricant a body naturally produce.

Since the skin on a person's genitals is often more delicate than that found elsewhere on the body, this slick layer helps to prevent any friction or snagging - protecting the skin by helping it to glide smoothly against other surfaces.

Lube works by creating a slippery layer on top of your skin that mimics or adds to the lubricant a body naturally produce.

Whether you're using an oil, water, hybrid, or silicone-based lube, the main ingredient won't easily evaporate or be absorbed by the body, so the slippery layer will remain as you enjoy yourself. That said, most lubricants are only effective for a certain length of time - so lube is designed to be topped up as required.

Benefits of Using Lubricant

Slicker, more comfortable sex probably sounds like all the incentive most people need to invest in a bottle of lube - but lube actually has more benefits than most people first think. These benefits include:

BENEFITS

DESCRIPTION

Reduced Friction

After a long sex or solo play session, your genitals might have a pleasant ache - but they shouldn't be tender because of friction.

By creating a light coating, lube reduces friction and prevents any rubbing, pulling, or snagging sensations.

Enhances Pleasure

When you know that you're not going to experience any friction during sex or masturbation, you can afford to be more focused on the sex itself.

According to a very large academic study, this is one of the most significant ways people can improve sex - helping to make it feel more intimate, carefree, and passionate.

Makes Sex Safer

Some sexually transmitted diseases and infections develop or spread through contact with broken or irritated skin.

Since using a sex lube reduces the chance of this kind of irritation or abrasion, it also reduces the chance of exposing broken skin to harmful bacteria or viruses.

Can Stop Condoms from Breaking

Although condoms are designed to be robust, they can only stand up to so much friction before they split or break. By using an appropriate lube with a condom, you significantly reduce the chances of one failing.

In a study into condom breakage reported on by NBC News, it was discovered that between 16%-25.8% of people who'd experienced a broken condom had no used lubricant - therefore increasing the chances of friction damage.

Can Improve Foreplay

When your hands or genitals are slippery, they glide across the sensitive skin on your genitals more smoothly.

What's more, repeated stroking or tickling actions won't rub or snag in any unpleasant way when lube's involved - so all kinds of foreplay can be improved with a little lube!

Improve Oral Sex

Flavored lubes can add a new dimension to oral sex - making oral more likely and more pleasurable for everyone involved. What's more, lubricant can help to increase sensitivity for the receiver, making oral sex even more fun than usual.

Makes Sex More Fun

Some lubes are designed to simply make sex more comfortable - but others are designed to add new sensations and feelings to your play.

Warming and cooling lubes can offer feelings that natural lube simply doesn't - and numbing lubes can unlock different kinds of sex that might have previously been uncomfortable or impossible.

Makes Anal Sex More Comfortable

Since the anus doesn't create its own lubrication, the use of a sex lube is essential if you want to add any anal play to your sex life.

Specialist lubes are created with an extra thick consistency to make anal comfortable - helping the giver and receiver enjoy a whole new world of fun.

Improves Masturbation

Using a dedicated sex lube during masturbation almost always improves the experience. Personal lubricant is designed to be thin - so you get all the pleasure of masturbation with none of the sticky and thick consistency you might have with moisturizer.

In fact, lubricants are designed to transmit warmth and not reduce the texture of your hand - so a sex lube is infinitely better for masturbation than a generic moisturizer.

Can Help Combat Symptoms of Female Menopause

When a woman goes through menopause, the change in hormone levels can cause the vagina to stop creating natural lubrication.

Vaginal dryness is thought to affect 50% of women beyond menopause age - but personal lubricant can help to combat the associated discomfort and help people keep enjoying a fulfilling sex life.

The Different Types of Sex Lubricants

Diagram of the Different Types of Sex Lubricants

Water-Based Lubes

  • Best for: Penetrative sex, Sensitive skin, Use with TPE or silicone toys, Use with condoms

As you can tell from the name, water-based lube is created with water as its main ingredient - making it extremely skin-friendly and safe to use with virtually all sex toys and latex condoms.

Since it is made using water, it's easy to clean up, doesn't stain, and leaves no sticky residue.

This makes it a popular choice for bedroom sex - since it'll wash out of sheets with very little effort. As well as being easy to clean, water-based lubricant is a great choice for people with sensitive skin or people who have previously had a reaction to silicone or oil-based lube.

Although it sounds like a perfect product, some people find that water-based lubes tend to dry up quicker than other options. This means you'll generally use a little more water-based lubricant in your sessions - but it can be 're-activated' with a little plain water or even saliva if you don't have the bottle to hand.

Silicone-Based Lubes

  • Best for: Long-lasting sessions, Use with condoms, Anal penetration, Sex around water

Silicone-based lubricant uses a special blend of silicone polymers to create an ultra-slippery thin gel. Since silicone cannot be absorbed into the skin and will not dry when exposed to air, silicone lube tends to be very long-lasting.

A big benefit of silicone-based lube is the fact that it is waterproof. This makes it ideal for sex in the shower, the tub, or any other environment where water or steam is present.

A downside of even the best silicone-based lube is the fact that it reacts with the materials used to make silicone sex toys. This means it is not suitable for use with silicone toys - as it will almost always shorten their lifespan and could possibly lead to harmful bacteria being difficult to clean away.

Despite not being suitable for use with most toys, silicone-based lube is safe to use with latex condoms - and it's ultra-slick feel makes it ideal for comfortable anal play.

Oil-Based Lubricants

  • Best for: Massage oil, Masturbation, Moisturizing the skin

Oil-based lube use oil or oil-derived ingredients as their main ingredient. Since there are so many different oils available, you'll find a huge range of oil-based lubes, including some using petroleum jelly, mineral oil, coconut oil, and almond oil.

Like silicone products, oil-based lubes are very long-lasting - again, because the oil does not absorb into the skin as water does.

It's important to note that oil-based lubricant is not condom safe. The oil will break down rubber latex, polyisoprene, and polyurethane condoms often in less than 60 seconds - making breakages much more likely. The same can be said for most toys too - oil can damage silicone and latex toys, shortening their life significantly.

Cleaning oil-based lubricants can be a little tricky. It will often stain sheets and clothing, and when used intimately, it can harbor bacteria if not cleaned totally.

While it sounds like oil has a few significant downsides, it's still a very popular product. It feels luxurious, and as long as you're not using condoms and you're confident you're not sensitive to any of the ingredients, it offers a very slick and slippery experience.

Hybrid Lubricant

  • Best for: Anal sex, Shower or tub play, Longer sessions, Sensitive skin

Hybrid lubricants are a lesser-known option when compared to the others we've talked about here - but they're a fantastic best-of-both-worlds product that blends the benefits of water-based lube and silicone-based lubricant.

Like water-based lubricant, a hybrid lube is body-safe - but the addition of a little silicone means hybrid lubricant is even more slick and longer-lasting than water-only alternatives. Although not totally waterproof, hybrid lubes do offer a little more staying power in the tub or the shower.

A hybrid lube isn't quite as easy to clean up as a pure-water-based lube - but still a lot easier than a pure-silicone lube. This makes it safe to use on sheets and near clothes.

Generally speaking, the small amount of silicone in a hybrid lube means these products are safe to use with condoms and sex toys. However, as each product contains a different amount of silicone, it's important to check the usage instructions on your chosen lube and your toys before you do.

How to Properly Use Personal Lubricant

Ready to open your first bottle of lube? Or maybe you're a pro lube user who wants to make sure you're getting the most from your lubricant. Either way - we've got you covered!

1. Don't Apply Directly to Your Genitals (Pour into Your Hands)

If you apply lube directly to your genitals, it can be difficult to judge how much you're using. Instead, apply it to your hands and gently rub it into the area you'd like to lubricate. A little goes a long way!

2. Don't Use Too Much

Although lube is great at removing friction, it is possible to decrease friction too much - removing the sensation from your play. To make sure you don't overdo it with the lube, start with a little and add more if required.

3. Use More Lube for Anal Sex

The skin and tissue around a person's anus are very sensitive - so it's a good idea to use extra lube if you're going to enjoy any kind of anal play. Start with double the amount you'd use for other kinds of play and apply to the anus and your penis or toy to make sure everything is silky smooth before penetration.

4. If You Use Condoms or Sex Toys, Make Sure Your Lube is Compatible

The wrong kind of lube can seriously damage condoms and sex toys. Don't take the risk with your health - check the compatibility before you order. If you buy new lube, condoms, or a toy, carefully check the manufacturer's recommendations before you apply any lube.

5. Don't be Shy to Reapply

It's possible that your sex play will cause your lube to dry up slightly or become displaced. If you feel like this is happening, don't be afraid to add more. Lube is generally a very cost-effective product - so it's far better to buy another bottle rather than suffer from uncomfortable intercourse.

6. Test for Allergies Before Use

Sometimes, even the most sensitive water-based lubricant can cause a slight reaction in some people. Because of this, it's always a good idea to 'spot test' your chosen lube before using it for sex. With just a small dab over a few days, you can make sure there's going to be no reddening or irritation. If there is, it's a good idea to try a different brand.

7. Follow Storage Recommendations

Lube is a fairly hardy product, but you still need to make sure it's kept according to the manufacturer's storage recommendations. This generally means keeping it someone away from direct sunlight, at a normal room temperature, and away from heavily scented products that could contaminate it.

8. Use the Right Clean-up Method

The best way to clean up after using lube will depend on the type of lube you're using:


LUBE TYPE

SKIN

SHEETS/CLOTHING

Water-based lube

Water, mild soap, or gentle hygiene wipes

Shouldn't stain - any slight staining will come out in a low-temp machine wash

Silicone-based lube

Warm water and soap. May require a slightly textured washcloth or sponge

Warm machine wash should remove any residue

Oil-based lubes

Warm water and soap. May require a slightly textured washcloth or sponge

Specialist oil stain remover, hot wash for cotton sheets

Hybrid lubricant

Warm water and soap or hygiene wipes

Shouldn't stain - but a warm machine wash should remove any residue

Safety Considerations When Using Lubricant

Most lubes are safe for the vast majority of people - but not all products are created with sensitive skin in mind. Some manufacturers use ingredients that are known to be unsafe - or may inspire allergies/intolerances in some people.

Avoid the Following Elements in Lubricants

There are some ingredients that some people will want to avoid altogether:

INGREDIENTS TO AVOID

NOTES

DMDM Hydantoin

DMDM hydantoin is added to extend the shelf-life of many cosmetic and skin care products - including some lubes. As it breaks down, it releases a small amount of formaldehyde - a toxic chemical that stops bacteria and molds from developing.

This is a product that can cause an allergic reaction in some people - including redness, swelling, itching, and fluid-filled blisters - so it's a good idea to avoid it.

Petrochemicals (Propylene glycol, Polyethylene glycol, Petroleum)

Petrochemicals (products that come from petroleum or crude oil) are considered 'endocrine disruptors' in the medical world. This means they can impact our bodies natural ability to produce certain hormones.

Alongside this possible hormone impact, they are sometimes linked to itchy rashes, inflammation, and issues with the immune system - so they are another good substance to avoid.

Parabens

Parabens are another ingredient designed to improve the shelf-life of lubes. The problem is, our bodies absorb them - and it's thought this could be harmful in the long term.

Results from FDA testing are inconclusive about whether or not parabens are dangerous - but if you want to be sure, you might want to check your lube doesn't include any.

Be aware of the following ingredients in lubricants

The following ingredients are ones to be aware of - that is, they might inspire a negative reaction in some people, so it's good to check your tolerance before you apply the lube.

INGREDIENTS TO AVOID

NOTES

Benzocaine

This is a mild anesthetic that can cause an allergic reaction or discomfort. Found in many numbing lubes.

Flavors, Colors, and Fragrances

Some additives designed to make lubes look, smell, or taste nicer may cause irritation or allergic reactions.

Glycerin

If you or your partner are susceptible to yeast infections, glycerin (a kind of sugar alcohol) should be avoided as it is a good energy source for yeast to use to grow.

Propylene Glycol

Designed to help maintain moisture in cosmetics products (including some lubes), propylene can cause irritation, especially in the vagina.

Chlorhexidine Gluconate

This is a type of antiseptic compound that reduces the chance of bacteria in lube. Since it can cause allergic reactions and irritation, you may want to avoid using it internally.

Phenoxyethanol

This is another kind of preservative that is thought to cause allergic reactions in some people.

Choosing Your First Lubricant

Even with all the information in this guide, it can be difficult to decide which is the right lubricant to choose if it's your first purchase.

With this in mind, we've laid out some important things to think about - as well as links to our in-depth buyer's guides - to help you select the right lube for you.

Consider how you are going to use it

This first question is pretty simple - what would you like to use your lube for?

Your answer will help to steer you in the right direction.

If your lube is going to be used just for masturbation - either alone or with a partner - then you might want to try an oil-based lubricant. This will give a glorious, luxurious, moisturizing experience and can help most people achieve powerful orgasms.

This first question is pretty simple - what would you like to use your lube for?

If you'd like a lube that's going to be used for penetrative vaginal sex, either with or without a condom, then opting for a water-based product is a great choice. You're guaranteed a lube that is safe to use in sensitive areas and won't damage any condoms you're using.

If anal - either alone with toys or with a partner - sounds like your idea of fun, then consider using silicone or hybrid lubrication. The next-level slickness is fantastic for comfortable anal sex, and it should be suitable for use with any anal toys you have. These lubes are also great for shower and tub fun too - if you enjoy getting wet as you play!

Make sure it is compatible with your toys

If you're one of the 74% of men or 82% of women who owns sex toys here in the U.S., then it's useful to have a lube that's going to enhance your pleasure without any risk of damaging your toy.

Since most toys are made from either silicone or TPE, silicone or oil-based lubricant is a definite no-no.

As we've already mentioned, the oil breaks down the silicone or TPE polymers very quickly and will ruin your toy often within minutes.

Instead, find a good water-based lubricant. Water-based lubes are perfect for use with toys of all shapes and sizes - providing safe slickness that's also easy to clean, no matter how worn-out or lazy you're feeling after a fantastic orgasm!

Lubricants FAQ

It's absolutely normal to have questions about the use of lubricant! We've answered some of our customer's most common questions here:

Are there alternatives to using lubricant?

There are a host of different products that people say are effective as sexual lubricants. Options include organic aloe vera gel, coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, and vitamin E oils.

Remember though, effectiveness will vary - and just because these are not sold as sexual lubrication doesn't mean you should exercise the same caution as you would with a dedicated personal lubricant. Spot test first to check for intolerances and allergies - and don't ever use oil-based products with condoms or sex toys.

Will numbing lubricant affect my partner?

If you use a numbing lube, it's going to desensitize any skin it comes into contact with - whether that's yours or your partner's.

If you'd like to avoid your partner coming into contact with the lube, you might decide to use a condom.

If you're using numbing lube to combat premature ejaculation, applying some and then putting a condom on will make sure only you get the numbing effect. Alternatively, if you're using numbing lube to make anal more comfortable, then asking your partner to wear a condom will mean you get the benefit without them feeling any numbing effect on their penis.

Do Lubricants Expire?

Yes, all lubricants have an expiration date, and it's important to check this and only use lube if it's within its recommended life.

If you use a lube that's expired, you may find it's lost some of its slickness and may become overly tacky and uncomfortable. What's more, some of the chemicals used to preserve the lube may have broken down - making it more likely that you'll experience an allergic reaction if you're sensitive.

Do Lubricants Affect Fertility or Sperm Health?

The world of science is now fairly convinced that lube does impact fertility. The good news is, there's no evidence to suggest female fertility is impacted by the use of lubrication. Instead, lube can prevent sperm from acting naturally and traveling as they should toward a possible egg.

Despite these studies, fertility clinics will always point out the importance of having regular sex when a couple has a fertile window.

Given that 88% of women say vaginal dryness impacts intimacy through this period, it's perhaps understandable why the right lube can be an important part of conceiving.

If you're hoping to conceive, you should seek advice from your doctor or physician. Everyone's bodies and circumstances are a little different - so it's important that you seek personalized advice from a medical professional.

Summary

Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand a little more about what lube is, how it works, and which lubes are suitable for the kind of play you're interested in.

Lubricants really are one of the best additions anyone can make to their sex life. The reduced friction they create enhances pleasure, makes sex safer, stops condoms from failing, improves masturbation and oral, makes for great anal sex, and even helps to combat symptoms of menopause.

Lubricants really are one of the best additions anyone can make to their sex life.

It's important to understand the differences and associated pros and cons that go with oil-based lubricants, water-based lubes, silicone lubes, and hybrid lubes - so you can choose the one that's right for you. That said, if you're just keen to get naked and let the action commence - choosing a water-based product is always going to be a safe and suitable choice.

Always check to make sure you're not allergic or intolerant before use - and if you're using sex toys or condoms, make sure your lube is suitable for the job.

When you've ticked those boxes, it's time to pop the lid off that bottle and lose yourself in the glorious slickness of your favorite lube. We promise you won't look back!

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