F or many couples, personal lubricants, more commonly known as lube, can be an excellent way to add a little excitement to bedroom playtime. While traditionally thought of as an aid for older women, modern lubes provide a wide array of sensations, textures, and flavors, making them a perfect way to spice up a session between the sheets.
Here’s what you need to know about lube: what it is, how to use it, and why it can make a difference for your sex life. Below are the main topics we will be covering in this guide, click on a question below to jump directly to the answer.
What Is Lube?
In essence, lube is the general term to describe lubricants used to facilitate sexual activity. Designed to improve sexual pleasure and comfort during sex, lube can add an extra level of sensation during penetration, provide varying feelings like warming, cooling, or texture, and increase moisture levels.
Lube is available in a number of different forms, with options differing based on base material and intention. Whether for use with condoms and anal penetration or for enhancing natural vaginal lubrication, lube can cover a wide range of purposes to meet your sexual needs.
How to Use Lube
Lube can be used on a wide variety of body parts and items during sexual activity, but quantity and application can affect efficacy. How much lube you should use will depend on numerous factors, including:
- The current level of natural lubrication
- Use of condoms
- Sex acts to be performed or considered; anal sex always requires sufficient lubrication
- Personal preferences
Start with two to three drops on your fingers and apply it to the part of your choice. If this is adequate, proceed; if not, continue to apply lube in small amounts until both partners are satisfied. Note that some lubricants will not last indefinitely, so lube may need to be reapplied in the future to avoid discomfort.
Types of Lube
All lube is not made equal, and the differences go far beyond brand. The product you use can actually have a strong effect on both success and safety, so understanding the various options can be very important.
Water Based Lube
Water-based lubricants are among the most common options for lube and are made from gel-forming hydrophilic ingredients. As water-based lubes are compatible with most sex toys, condoms, and even diaphragms, they are often seen as safe options for most common sexual activities.
Due to the use of water in water-based lubricants, they may dry out after a period of use and will require reapplication. Some forms may also leave a sticky residue on the skin, but this can be easily removed with soap and water. Most people have no negative reactions to water-based lubes and find them easy to use.
Water-based lubes should not be used during sex acts that occur in water, like in a shower, pool, or hot tub.
Silicone Based Lube
Silicone-based lubricants are among the newest options on the market and can be used safely with condoms and non-silicone sex toys. Unlike water-based lube, however, silicone-based lube lasts the duration of most sessions and should not need to be reapplied unless initial application was inadequate. Many lubricated condom brands are manufactured using silicone-based lubricants. Most flavored lubes are also of a silicone variety.
Silicone-based lubes should never be used with sex toys made of silicone, as the formula may dissolve the surface of the toys, leading to a sticky feeling and potential degradation over time. Another downside of silicone based lube is that it can potentially stain your sheets if your not careful.
Oil Based Lube
Oil-based lubricants like Vaseline or lotion are generally not appropriate for penetrative sexual activity due to the increased breakage or slipping of latex condoms and the potential for vaginal irritation. However, oil-based lubes may be preferred by some monogamous partners who do not use condoms and are not concerned with STD transmission, or during solo male masturbation.
Within the broader categories of lubricants, specialty products exist to facilitate particular sexual experiences. These products may be preferred by some partners, or used as a part of sexual experimentation.
Due to the strong necessity of lubrication during anal sex, anal lubes are often thicker and longer-lasting to best facilitate comfort throughout the act. Some anal lubes include numbing agents to minimize pain, making them appropriate for first-time users.
Warming lubricants utilize ingredients designed to create a warming effect on the skin. While the specifics vary from brand to brand, many use capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers.
Cooling lubes are similar to warming lubes, causing the opposite sensation. Many use peppermint to elicit a tingling effect.
Organic lubricants are made from natural ingredients and certified organic products. Many of these products do not include parabens, glycerin, DEA, or animal-based ingredients. Unlike organic food, however, the FDA does not permit certified organic labels on personal lubricants.
CBD-infused lube is created with cannabidiol, a key component in cannabis. While it does not provide a high like other kinds of cannabis use, CBD lube can increase arousal and cause a warming sensation. Not all forms are compatible with condoms, so be sure to do due diligence before use.
Why Use Lube?
Lubrication, whether natural or supplemental, is a big part of sexual enjoyment, helping to prevent injuries and prolong activity. This can be particularly important during longer sessions, when natural lubricant is inadequate, or during any activity that may require additional moisture.
Lube can be used occasionally, during specific sex acts, or at all times, depending on personal preferences. For example, women who are experiencing shortages in natural lubrication may choose to use lube in these times, while some individuals feel more comfortable with improved lubrication at all times. Lube can also be important during long sessions with condoms – condoms can dry out and lose their lubrication after extended use – or during anal sex, where no natural lubricant is present.
Lube by Usage
Some lubes are better suited for specific sexual acts. While not necessary for enjoyment, couples planning these forms of activities may benefit from specialty lube.
Vaginal lubricants are designed to mimic the feel of natural vaginal lubrication, replacing dryness for maximum comfort. Vaginal lubricants are safe for internal use and can improve sensations for both partners. Both silicone-based and water-based lubes can be used in and around the vagina.
Anal lubricants are intended for anal penetration and are often thicker and heavier than other forms of lube. As the anus is not self-lubricating like the vagina, adequate lubrication is absolutely necessary for anal sex. Anal lube is often specially labeled for this purpose and is generally compatible with sex toys.
Lubricants for Masturbation
Both men and women enjoy the use of lubrication for masturbation. Men who choose not to use toys can often use oil- or silicone-based lube; water-based lube can begin to dry before a session is complete. Some women also use lube during masturbation but are encouraged to use water-based or silicone-based lubes for internal penetration, and water-based lubes for use with sex toys.
Does Sex Lube Expire?
Yes, all personal lubricants have an expiration date. Typically lube has an expiration window between 2-5 years. The duration will be based on a few factors, such as if it’s a water based lube or a silicone based lube.
Water based lubes will have the shortest shelf life, this is due to the preservatives used and this can vary between different manufactures. Silicone based lube has the longest shelf life, so if your worried about the longevity of your lube, silicone might be a better choice for you.
In any case, be sure to check your bottle of lubricant for the expiration date, as all lube manufactures are required to have an exact expiration date stamped on the bottle.
How to Choose the Right Lube
It cannot be stated enough: all lubes are not the same. Before hopping into bed, you need to be sure you have the right lube for your anticipated activities. When choosing a lube, keep these points in mind:
- The acts planned
- The primary ingredient
- Condom usage
- Sex toy usage
- Oral sex plans
- Interest in warming or cooling sensation
- Duration of sexual activity
Lube can be a thrilling addition to your sex life, increasing sensations between you and your partner and facilitating pleasurable activity. With an understanding of the kinds of lubes available, which lubes are best for which purposes, and what advantages different products have to offer, you can stock your bedside table with confidence.