Let's start with some common myths that tend to crowd out the truth.
Myth #1 - I shouldn’t need lubrication if I’m turned on
This is a common idea in partnerships. Sometimes using lubrication can feel like an offense to the lover because of the myth that being turned on automatically means natural lubrication. On the flip side, couples often wonder if an absence of natural lubrication means the partner is not turned on. This is FALSE! Arousal and desire don't always line up – and it's absolutely normal if they don't.
Remember, arousal is a physiological response in our bodies. Blood flow increases to the genitals, pupils dilate, and heart rates increase. Arousal is a body's response to sexually relevant material – a literal state of being physically aroused.
Desire is what we feel. It's what we want or don’t want. Sometimes arousal and desire match up and other times they don’t. Our bodies can be aroused even when there is no desire, and we can have strong desire but not be aroused. When bodies don’t lubricate we might feel like it implies something about our partnership or our body, but there are so many factors that impact our arousal. Pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, stress, not enough foreplay, hormones, age, and medical conditions. It's natural and normal – and we're all super lucky to have access to body-friendly lubrication! When you use lotion to support your skin you probably don't assign much emotional value to it – it's what lotion is for! What if we start thinking about body-friendly lubrication the same way?
Myth #2 - All lubes are created equal
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration regulates foods and drugs that go into our body, right? Not lubrication! Even though lube goes inside our bodies, there are no general regulations to keep ingredients and chemicals in check. Most brands are pretty responsible, of course, but this means a brand can put in whatever ingredients they want to use in their lubrication and market it however they want. This usually means cheap ingredients and questionable marketing messages to help increase their profit.
If it seems like I'm a lube snob, well, just wait until you read the rest! Common store-bought lubrications we tend to give at wedding showers usually do more harm than good. Really. If you can buy your personal lubrication while also shopping for milk, eggs, and cheese, I am super confident this page is about to improve your life!
When people come to me with a variety of symptoms such as burning sex, painful sex, itching, rashes, yeast infections, and other sexual complications, my first question is always what kind of lubrication they are using. Water-based lubes that aren’t formulated for bodies can mess with our pH levels and create all sorts of issues. There’s a whole branch of scientific study behind lubrication, and an excellent summary over at Badvibes.org.
Long story short? Friends don’t let friends use KY Jelly.
Lubrication supports sexual health in more ways than simply the act of sex itself. Lube is great for penises, vaginas, anuses, toys, fingers, and anything where there could be potential friction. Think about getting a back massage and how a little lotion goes a long way in increasing the pleasure. Lubrication helps to reduce friction and increase pleasure – and it can also make it easier to insert tampons and menstrual cups.
It matters what we put inside our bodies! So how can we know which ones to choose? I’m so glad you asked because lube really is one of my favorite topics.
Four types of lube and how to use them
Water-based lube is one of the most common lubrications with its main ingredient being water. Water-based lubes can pair with most toys and condoms, won’t stain sheets or clothes, and, when made with body-friendly ingredients, supports sexual health and wellness. Water-based lube has a looser consistency and tends to absorb a bit more quickly – especially with a ceiling fan nearby.
Water-based lube is the BFF of lubrications because it can be used in most situations, with most people, and with most tools and toys. A dab of water-based lube can help folks insert a tampon or menstrual cup and could be used to provide vaginal or vulva moisture.
The downside of water-based lube? It doesn't have a lot of staying power staying power, and if you're planning time in the shower or tub it's going to leave you wanting.
If you're looking for a longer-lasting lube, you might be surprised how silky and smooth oil based lubrication is. My first thought? It reminded me of the oil I use when I cook, so I expected it to be super loose, messy, and, well, oily! But the right brand of oil-based lubrication is formulated to be smooth, not drippy and tends to provide more staying power than its water-based friend. Oil-based lube is NOT the right choice for latex condoms – in fact a condom paired with oil-based lube can break down in just 30 seconds! You can use oil-based lube with silicone or other toys and tools – just be sure you give it any silicone surface good wash with regular dish soap to prevent the oil from breaking down your toys over time. Oil-based lube can also stain sheets or clothing, so if you don't want your favorite leopard print satin sheets to look like that great blouse you can't wear after dripping melted butter down the front, be careful!
If you think of lubrication as your friends (and come on, you really should!) silicone lube is the friend who arrives to a party first and is the last to leave. It has incredible staying power, is made with ingredients that support sexual health such as silicone and vitamin e, and doesn't leave much mess behind. It’s the lube that rarely needs to be reapplied, even when you're in water, and you can use it in a variety of experiences, including vaginal and anal sex play. Its big downside is that silicone lubrication should be used with caution with all silicone toys, and silicone is a super common component in vibrators and sex toys. High-quality silicone lube paired with high-quality silicone toys do better, but pairing an Amazon sex toy with low-quality lube can easily break down your toys and really shorten their useful lives. Silicone works great with other toys made with other materials such as ceramic, glass and plastic.
Flavored lubrication is great for our mouths and downright terrible for vaginas and anuses. Our tongues may delight in sugary-sweet lube, but our bodies? Well, they're not so fond of sugar. Flavored lubricants can lead to yeast infections because to the warm, moist environment. If you use flavored lube for oral sex, remember to wipe off your body parts and use a different lube before moving to vaginas and anuses.
Some lubes are now being offered as hemp- or CBD-infused lubricants. These products combine the lube qualities from above with the known benefits of hemp to soothe your body before, during, and after play. To clarify some commonly asked questions, hemp or CBD products do not induce the sensations of being high, they focus on the relaxation and restorative benefits that some experience from the natural CBD oil. I'm also asked often if these products have a pungent or earthy smell, and I'm happy to report the Coocnu product does not. If you're looking to combine a measure of additional relaxation with your lube use, this is one option to consider. Remember though, it's best to anticipate some amount of time for the CBD to really work it's magic so spending a longer time with these types of lube for massage or foreplay is a great way to get their full benefit.
Let's go hands-on with a quick video!
I'll go over the different consistencies and suggest some tips on applying lube.
So how should we use lube?
So far we've debunked some common myths and learned the ins and outs of the different types of lube (yes, that pun is on purpose) so let's talk about how to put it to use.
4 tips to keep in mind:
- Apply lube directly on the genitals or anus using clean hands. Try thinking of this as an important part of your connection, not something you have to check off your list in order to start the connection. You'll lubricate the body and start heating things up through erotic touch.
- Put a bit directly on a toy and enjoy! You may want a tissue or hand towel nearby – lube is slippery, of course, and a lot of toys have curves that don't exactly invite it to stick around.
- Put a dab on the top of a menstrual cup or tampon to help with insertion. This is a lifesaver for some clients. You may wonder why you hadn't thought of it sooner!
- Self-apply to pre-lubricate. It's kind of a like a tailgate party for one – and learning about your body is a big win for you and your partner!
Worried you may be doing it wrong? There's no wrong way to learn! The goal is to apply enough lube in the right places so you reduce friction and increase pleasure. We all learn as we go. Even sex therapists!
What can you do with lousy lube you already have?
Waste not, want not, right? I never recommend substandard lube to my clients, but that doesn't mean you have to toss it into a landfill! Thanks to The Krazy Coupon Lady, here are 9 ways you can put lousy lube to good use. I may even feature some of these on Instagram, like a sex crafts with Kristin kind of thing.
- Shine up your leather shoes
- Use as a lip moisturizer
- Make a holiday snow globe!
- Loosen stuck rings
- Unstick stuck zippers
- Unlock frozen doors and locks
- Use it as shaving gel
- Tame frizzy hair
- Use it to prevent chafing for workouts