If you’ve ever rubbed one of your arms against the other and experienced that heat-creating, skin-pulling action that happens from the force of two fleshy objects passing over one another, you’ve experienced the need for a personal lubricant.
There are many different types of lubes, each designed for a whole host of different things, but today we’re putting away the motor oil and taking out the jar of Astroglide. Because we’re talkin’ about sex, people, not vehicle repair. Va-va-voom!
What is lube?
Lube is the slidey, joyous substance that allows all those piston-like actions you do on you and your fellow mechanic to go all slippy and slidey and not create skin chafing.
Lube has actually been around for a long, long time. Like, since back in the day. The Romans, for example, used olive oil as a way of getting all up in each other's insides, and other ancient cultures had their own special brews of penetrative, fun-slide concoctions.
Choosing the right lube for you
There really isn’t the best lube overall; the right lube for you (and extra participants if you’ve got ‘em) depends on a few different factors: What kind or types of sex are you having? What types of safer sex practices are you employing in your sex life? From what materials are the sex toys you might or might not be adding into the fray made, and how much do you prefer thinner vs. thicker lube during penetration or genital play?
Lube for P-in-the-V sex
If you’re a vagina-haver and you’re being penetrated in that delightful orifice, the pH level of your sexual lubricants also matters, because if your lube prompts a change in your pH level in the wrong direction, it can lead to issues like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis (BV). A good rule of thumb is to keep the pH level of your vaginal lubrication materials between 3.8 and 4.5, and only use products that easily provide these details for your own sexual health.
Lube for anal sex (including pegging)
If you’re having receptive anal sex, on the other hand, the pH level of your anal lube should be a different level from more traditional lube, and generally should be thicker so as to protect the sensitive skin on the anal walls and sphincters. The best anal lube should have a pH level of 5.5 to 7 for optimal anal enjoyment and adventure.
Looking to experiment with pegging? If you’re using sex toys for something like pegging, the material of your toy definitely comes into play. You don’t want to put silicone based lube on silicone sex toys because (depending on the quality of the toy and the lube) silicone toy can degrade in quality and become porous. Why is porous a problem? Because bacteria can live in those little tiny pores, which can then cause infections. You want to make sure to use the right lube with the right toys as well as the right barriers (i.e. condoms or dental dams) to avoid infection and stay healthy and happy.
For sex with condoms
If you’re using protective barriers like latex condoms, oil-based lubricants are a no-go. These kinds of lubes have barrier-degrading qualities (and not like in a verbal, “Bad Barrier, Bad” S&M degrading and/or humiliating way). Silicone lube and water based lube are appropriate if this is your safer-sex practice, and you really really want to use these kinds of lubes because they also help to prevent condom breakage.
If you’ve got sensitive skin, a lube that restores and rejuvenates would be a good choice. Pick a slide-facilitating lube made from body-welcoming ingredients, like vegan lubes or organic lubes that have aloe vera as an ingredient.
For oral sex
If lube has to get into your mouth for some reason (we’re goin’ down down, baby), you might want to experiment with some yummy flavored lubricant (or flavoured lubricant, if you’re British) so it tastes as delicious as the moans of your lover. Be warned though, despite its name, many reviewers tend to think flavored lube has a bit of that Eau de Cough Syrup style taste. Designers are still working on it.
If you can’t decide between the sliding but sometimes inconveniently quick-drying quality of water-based lubes, and thicker silicone lubes, hybrid lubes have come to save the day! They take the aspects of the simple clean-up that water-based lubes are so good at, and the slick, joyous body-slide quality of silicone based lube and somehow arrive at a happy medium. Check ‘em out.
How to use lube effectively
For anal sex and vaginal sex, as well as condom sex and non-penetrative sex, there are bits and pieces of nice-to-have information that will help add exclamation points to your and your partner’s “That feels good!” sentiments.
Let’s kick it off with vaginal penetration
If everything is going well and everyone is in good health, this explorative sex cavern should self-lubricate, meaning vaginas frequently generate their own natural lube. Now, that isn’t always the case; some vagina-havers lose their ability to get slick naturally as they age, for example.
So sometimes it is nice to already have some friction-removal lube on hand, as your vagina-having partner’s sexy insides are getting warmed up. Additionally, if your body (or that of your partner) has difficulty getting wet for medical reasons and you still want to experience penetrative sex, an additional vaginal lubricant product is a great option to keep that partnered or solo connection alive and add a little sex monsoon to the mix to cast out that vaginal dryness.
If you’re the penetrative, penis-owning partner and you’re protecting both yourself and your boo and/or boos by using a condom, you doing two things can make a world of difference in your own sexual pleasure:
1. Make sure to have the correctly-sized condom (you’d be surprised by how much this matters)
2. Put a little lube inside the condom.
The fact is, every bit of comfort and ease that arrives in the sexual realm, from sex positions to mood, to energy level makes it that much easier to stay in the experience with your partner. After all, the goal is almost always fun, connective, joyful, raunchy, silly, ecstatic, or any/all of the above sex. Try and set yourself up for success here (and by the way, avoid pre-lubed condoms — the lube is generally low quality) so that you and your partner can have sex long into the night and chat about it over brunch the next day!
If anal play is in your sexual activity repertoire
Some sort of way to get that booty-slidin’ sex lube all up in there is also very helpful. Anuses don’t offer any of their own natural lubrication, so you’ve got to kindly provide it. There are both metal and plastic lube applicators you and your partner can enjoy, which you use by inserting up into the anal canal a few inches, such that you can get the lube into just the right spot. This is all so that when Penetration Paul sticks their head up in there, all the safety gear the anus needs is present.
As a kindness to the bottom, you should also know that sometimes lube, toys, or lube applicators can be too cold, rendering them uncomfortable. Heat those things up to a comfy room temperature level, so that when the lube is in that booty your fleshy sexy receptive bottom doesn't become chilly. It’s harder to stay aroused when you’re cold and it's just best avoided.
Oils like coconut oil can also be a great choice for lube, given they’re used in the correct context (i.e. not with latex condoms, since the oil will degrade the latex). Lubes like coconut oil has been used by ancient cultures for quite some time, plus coconut oil itself has the added advantage of being both antibacterial and antiviral. Gone are the days of solely relying on things like KY jelly; sex tech has improved a lot, and with it our grasp of healthy sexual medicine.
Speaking of oils, they can be fun to use topically, over the skin, and externally on the genitals for some fun sexy massage time. Some may be okay to use internally, but you should do your own body-safety tests on those. It’s also important to know that an oil based lube can clog pores, which can trap bacteria against the skin and lead to — you guessed it — infection and thus unhappy skin. Simply wash them off after using them.
What not to do when it comes to lube
First and foremost, never ever ever use a toy or a penis that has been in an anus and then put it into a vagina. Don’t do that. You could lose your sex license. But really — it can lead to dangerous infections. Porn is not real life and vagina-having partners can get UTIs and other issues, and those really aren’t fun.
Here’s another thing to know:
If you’re at a sex party and are peggin’ up a storm, bring along condoms to cover that pegging apparatus, and/or be prepared to thoroughly clean and disinfect it between partners. If your bottom (meaning the partner you’re penetrating) hasn’t agreed to be pegged by a dirty silicone sex toy, you’re taking away their ability to consent to a sex act and that’s not the vibe we need right now (or ever. Choice is sexy). So, be sure you know how to clean sex toys properly.
If you want some fun, sexy massage time, and want to use the same substance for both massaging skin as well as penetrating your partner, there are silicone lubricant or water based lubricant options that can also be used for massage. You can also just get some massage lotions/oils and swap to the sexy stuff when the proper time comes; that’s an equally good option.
Whatever lube you choose, know that you’re doing the right thing. Lube is life! ;)