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Personal Lubricants: Which Ones Are Safe? Silicone vs Water Based

Personal lubricant helps to reduce friction during sex to eliminate chafing, pain, and general discomfort. The result is a safer and more fun, comfortable, and pleasurable experience for all parties involved. Learn more about personal lubricants and how you can use them safely below.


Why Use Lube?

There are a wide range of reasons to use lube. With vaginal sex, the vagina does produce its own natural lubrication during the process of sexual stimulation. However, this natural lubrication is not instant. Even if you are in the right mood and state of mind, the actual physiology of this natural lubrication can take time, which is why many sex experts recommend foreplay.1

However, even with extended foreplay, not all vaginas may react the same. Vaginal dryness is common and can be caused by a wide range of issues, both mental and physiological. Menopause is one of the most common causes of vaginal dryness. Estimates suggest that about half of all post-menopausal women experience vaginal dryness.2 Menopause is marked by reduced estrogen levels, which result in physical changes to the vagina, including atrophy of the vaginal tissue, resulting in thinning and dryness.3

For women who are not in menopause yet, natural variations in menstrual cycles may also contribute to vaginal dryness. There are certain times in the menstrual cycle when the vagina will produce more natural lubrication. This usually occurs in the two weeks prior to menses, coinciding with ovulation, during which you are more likely to become pregnant following intercourse.

Certain medications can also interfere with natural lubricant production. This can include oral contraceptives and other hormonal medications that interfere with estrogen production, such as danazol, medroxyprogesterone, leuprolide, or nafarelin.4 However, even certain antidepressants and allergy medications can contribute to vaginal dryness.3

Personal lube is necessary for anal sex. Unlike the vagina, the anal canal produces no natural lubricants, and the muscular sphincter of the anus presents greater physical resistance than the vagina. Using lube also just makes for safer anal sex. Lube reduces the chances of condom breakage as well as the risk of the condom slipping off.3


Types of Lube

Water-Based Lube

Water-based lube is an all-purpose lube that you can use with condoms and sex toys. The formulation makes it good for sensitive skin and those who may experience vaginal irritation. The water-based formula also makes it much easier to wash off of your skin and on any fabric it may get on. This also means that it won’t leave any stains. The downside to water-based lube is that it tends to get sticky, and it may require more frequent reapplication.3

Oil-Based Lube

Oil-based lubes, which include mineral oils and petroleum jelly, are more slippery and last longer than water-based lube, ensuring that you don’t have to reapply as often. However, the oil-based formula makes them harder to wash off yourself and fabrics and has the potential to leave stains.

You should avoid using oil-based lubes with any sort of latex as the oil can actually dissolve latex, which can increase the chance of a broken condom or diaphragm. While using a latex alternative should help, even some non-latex condoms, including those made of polyisopropene, may be sensitive to oil-based lube.3 Be sure to check the labeling on your contraceptive devices to help you choose the right lube.

Silicone-Based Lube

Silicone-based lube is slippery and longer lasting than water-based lubes. Unlike oil-based lubes, silicone is also safe to use with latex. You also don’t need to use as much silicone lube to get the same effects, and silicone lubes require less reapplication.

However, silicone-based lubes are much more tedious to wash off, and most formulations can easily leave stains in sheets and hardwood floors. You should also avoid using silicone-based lube with any silicone sex toys as the reaction between the two will result in the rubber breaking down and degrading over time.3


Choosing the Right Lubricant

Trying to find the best lube that will work for you and your partner can seem confusing at first. Here are some simple tips to help you make your decision.

Check the ingredients

Make sure you read the label before you buy. In general, you’ll want to avoid lubes that use any additives, including artificial flavors, sugars, coloring, and essential oils. You never know how you or your partner will react to these additives, especially if you have not used a lube before. Personal lubricants can be tested on bare skin prior to see if it causes irritation.

Consider pH levels

Lubricants may cause fluctuations in vaginal pH which disturb the vagina’s microflora. Upsetting this diverse array of vaginal bacteria may result in an increased risk of urinary tract, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis.

To prevent this, try to find a lube with a pH of about 3.8 to 4.5, which is the pH range of the average healthy vagina. You can also help maintain the proper pH in the vagina by taking Probiotics for Women on a regular basis.

Be aware of spermicidal lubricants

These are essentially chemicals designed to kill sperm cells, thereby reducing the chances of pregnancy. However, these compounds can also damage cells of the vagina. While spermicidal lubricants can be helpful as an extra contraceptive measure, they can cause vaginal irritation.


How to Use Personal Lube

To use your lube of choice5:

  1. Start by laying out a towel to reduce staining and general mess.
  2. Warm up the lube in your hands before applying to make it more pliable.
  3. Apply the lubricant liberally prior to penetration.
  4. As you are having sex, reassess with your partner and apply more lube if necessary.

There’s almost no reason you shouldn’t use lube in your sex life. Lube makes sex safer and more enjoyable for you and your partner. Make sure to check the label and avoid any ingredients that may cause a negative reaction.