Lubricants increase pleasure.Your genital skin is very sensitive. It cradles the nerve endings that allow you to experience touch and other sensations. And although the skin is strong, it can be irritated by vigorous rubbing.
Sexual intimacy usually includes friction, and often the body doesn’t have enough wetness or protection to last for an entire intimate episode. Lubricants can make sexual experiences more slippery, cushiony, comfy, tasty, and pleasurable.
Personal (sexual) lubricants
allow you the touch satisfaction you want while preventing skin abrasion and dryness.
allow you to have pleasurable stimulation of all your nerve endings, whether or not your body produces its own lubricants.
are lots of fun—our patients who are reluctant to try lubricants come back to tell us how much more pleasure they enjoyed after they tried out their lube samples.
moisturize sensitive skin and increase circulation and skin strength with regular massage.
increase pleasure while using latex or non-latex condoms—a dime-sized dab of lube transmits heat and sensation and keeps the material from breaking.
Moreland OB-GYN offers a few varieties of lubricants that are recommended by our doctors. We sell these discreetly in our office—talk to your provider about what lubricant is right for you.
Choices, choices. There are thousands of personal lubricants on the market, so choosing the right one for your needs can be tough. Every person has different behaviors, different tolerance to friction, different biologic environments, and different moisture needs. It’s also hard, if not impossible, for
manufacturers to formulate “the right lube.” Here we’ve collected our recommendations for the following features:
Reduces the friction of sexual play and stays slippery to touch
Water-base & silicone blend (moisturizes and seals) OR silicone-only base (seals in moisture)
Works with condoms and toys
Available in sample sizes (for testing and travel)
were designed as medical lubricants, not sexual lubricants (KY Jelly)?
were designed for rocket ships, but not the human body (Astroglide)?
are very difficult to remove from the body (those with purified mineral oil like Replens)?
increase friction when rubbed against the skin (warming sensation lubricants)?
Heavy advertising doesn’t make something good. Using bad lubricants on your genitals can lead to skin irritation, and hurting the skin’s natural barrier defenses can lead to unnecessary pain and disability down the road.
Lube Ingredients or Features to Avoid
Polyquaternium 7, 10, or 15. This synthetic polymer (in all Astroglide products) is associated with severe irritation and disruption of skin surfaces; it also increases replication of viruses, including HIV.
Nonoxynol 9. This oil-dissolving spermicide severely irritates skin surfaces; increases transmission of viruses, including HIV.
Menthol. Often used either as a “cooling” or sensation enhancer—menthol is an alcohol that may severely irritate the skin causing long-term skin pain.
Lidocaine. This numbing product irritates skin surfaces, and because it lowers pain perception, lidocaine dramatically increases the risk of skin trauma and longer-term damage.
Capsaicin. Usually found in warming, sensitizing, or “arousal-enhancing” lubes, capsaicin is the oil of very hot chili peppers. Once applied, nerves begin reacting in pain that may last far longer than any intimate episode. Also may be difficult to remove from the skin once applied.
Chlorhexidine. This preservative found in many medical lubricants (KY Jelly, Surgilube) completely destroys normal, protective genital bacteria that help fight infections and maintain genital health.
Known Allergens and Skin Irritants.
For some people, herbal extracts and raw, unprocessed aloe gel can provoke allergic responses. For others, ingredients like propylene glycol, and preservatives like phenoxyethanol can physically irritate and disrupt skin function. We recommend that anyone with known skin sensitivities test out any personal care products on the inside of their arms (easier to wash off and/or treat) before applying it to their genitals.
Glycerin.Glycerin is a good lubricant ingredient for many people. But some lubricants containing glycerin—including KY Jelly, Astroglide, ID Glide, and flavored lubes—may act as a food source for yeast. If you or a partner are prone to yeast infections avoid lubricants containing glycerin.
Oils.Oils are fine for external use, and some men find that self-pleasuring with an oil or cream creates a slippery, cushiony experience. However, the vagina is a sensitive environment that cannot easily clean out oils, so using them vaginally may cause irritation or infection. Also, petroleum-based oils (mineral or baby oil) break down latex products. If you enjoy the feeling of oils, silicone lubes are a vagina-friendly, condom-compatible choice that still provide a slippery, long-lasting feel.
Parabens.Parabens are found in nature and have weak estrogen in them. While there is no evidence of it, some people are concerned that this may cause problems for people with estrogen-sensitive cancers. We understand that some people will choose not to use products preserved with parabens, but when formulated responsibly, we think paraben preservatives are not a negative ingredient in sexual lubricants, and here’s why:
While parabens are mildly estrogenic, their effect is only 1/1000th the effect of natural estrogen.
When used in small quantities, methyl-paraben shows superior antibacterial and antifungal preservative abilities. This helps you avoid using a contaminated product that can cause skin infection.
For anyone considering using topical estrogen, we think that lube with parabens is a better choice. The far lower effect of a paraben preservative is the least potentially harmful when choosing between the two. For others, we believe the long track record of safety and effectiveness of parabens outweighs a theoretical concern.
For skin-to-skin contact involving rubbing or motion
Any time—during solo or partnered play—when the friction of a hand, vibrator, or other toy is uncomfortable rather than pleasurable
When touching involves the genitals, including the opening of the vagina or anus (even when penetration is not the goal)
When you think you might prefer a more slippery feeling against your genital skin
Before anal or vaginal penetration (with fingers, toys, or other body parts)
When you experience regular discomfort or pain from vaginal dryness, even if you’re not planning on having a sexual encounter
Where do I put the lube? The easiest way to handle lubricant is to put some lube on your fingers first. After that, it depends on what you’re doing.
To put lube on a vulva, use a pressing or stroking motion with your lubed thumb and forefinger to massage the clitoral hood, the clitoris, the vulva lips, and the vaginal opening with lube.
To put the lube in a vagina, rub or press your lubed fingers all around the opening of the vagina, then gently insert them.
To put lube on a penis, wrap your lubed fingers around the shaft and use your hand to move the lube around. Apply a little directly to the head (and foreskin, if the person is uncircumcised).
To put lube on an anus, use a finger to gently massage the lube onto the anal opening and the perineum.
If you’re putting lubricant on someone else’s genitals, ask what feels good and how much is enough. Everyone is different, so don’t expect to know what works for your partner. Likewise, if someone else is putting lube on your genitals, tell them what you like. For ongoing penetration, apply generous amounts of lube to anything you want to penetrate your body or a partner’s body.
Lubricants With Condoms and Toys
Using condoms on a penis:
Remove the condom from its package and roll the condom to the base of the penis. Apply water- or silicone-based lube to the outside of the condom. This increases pleasure for the receiver.
If the condom is slipping, try using a stretchy silicone erection ring at the base of the penis, over the condom.
Using a condom or toy cover on a dildo, vibrator, or plug:
Roll the condom onto the toy.
Apply lube to the outside of the condom.
How Much Lubricant to Use
Because there are many different skin types and diverse sexual uses, experimentation is your friend. Self-pleasure is a great way to try samples of different lubes and see how long a quarter-sized dab will last. You may like a different lube than your partner does, so communicate about how it’s working for you. Lube is supposed to increase sensation and pleasure, not reduce it.
For water-based lubricants, start with a quarter-sized dab on your fingertips, and then put some on the genitals, hands, toys, or other body parts that will be touching you. If there is too much friction, add more lube. Because water-based lubes soak into the skin over time, you may need to reapply at different points during the experience.
Forsilicone lube, start with a few drops. Since silicone stays slippery for a very long time without soaking in, less is more. If there is still too much friction, add a little more.
Oral-genital contactmight not require much lube, but sometimes it gets a little dry when saliva dries out. Some people like to put a dab ofsiliconelube on the surface receiving the attention to keep things moist. You can also choose a flavor (or not); select a tasty or taste-free lube to add or change up the taste. If you’re using condoms or barrier sheets, remember that the level of friction can be uncomfortable on the mouth-side, so add as much as you want.
For vaginal penetration, use enough lube for comfort. No matter how much natural lubrication a person produces, lube can make the experience more slippery and pleasurable for all involved and reduce the chance of irritating the vulva and vagina. Use less if you want to feel more friction.
For anal penetration, use lots of lube. Unlike the vagina, the rectum doesn’t make its own lubrication, so friction against those tissues can cause irritation, pain, or even long-term damage.
If you’re usingtoys of soft materialssuch as silicone or elastomer, use more lube. These types of toys can drag against the skin and create more friction than toys made of hard plastic, glass, ceramic, or metal. If your toy is silicone and you want to use a lubricant—know that silicone lubes can ruin the surface of silicone toys. Just cover your toy with a condom and apply the silicone lube to the outside. If you only use toys externally, experiment to see if you like the feeling of lube or not.
If the lube you choosesoaks into the skin quickly, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the wrong lube for you. It may mean that your skin is dry or that you didn’t apply enough at first to get you through a whole session. If you’re choosing a moisturizing lubricant for vaginal dryness, use enough lubricant to coat your skin and to ease the irritation caused by dryness.
Some brands print a “Best Used Before” date right on the bottle, but it’s safe to assume that an unopened container of commercial lubricant will be good for several years. Once you open a bottle, it should be good for six months to a year (longer for silicone).
It’s time to throw out your lube container if your bottle has been opened and hanging around for more than a year, you notice that it has changed color or taste, it starts to cause irritation though it didn’t before. If you only use lube occasionally, consider getting a few smaller bottles instead of a larger one.
Choose your dispenser wisely:
A pump top or “hands-free” dispenser is best for home use, since it’s easy to use and won’t allow flow back into the bottle after touching your hand.
A re-closable flip-top container is good for travel; however, lube can flow back in, contaminating your bottle.
Single-use sample packets are great for times when you’re on the go or for people who only use a little lubricant occasionally.
Put your lube away carefully:
If you use silicone lube or if your bottle doesn’t close, protect your other belongings by storing the container(s) in a zippered plastic baggie. There’s nothing worse than opening the drawer of your nightstand and finding a slippery mess.
Store sample packets away from sharp objects.
Shade and cool conditions are always a good idea. Although lube isn’t usually affected by light or heat the way that barriers are, it is best not to expose your lube to extreme conditions.
Traveling with Lubricants
This is the perfect time to stash a few sample packets in your bag, preferably inside a protective case so they don’t get punctured and leak.