All you ever wanted to know about lube
Discovering lube as a grown-up is like discovering what your clit does as a kid. "Who," you think, "was the brilliant mind behind this idea? And why did I not know about this sooner? Why did I memorize the quadratic equation in high school, but not hear a word about this vastly more life-improving substance?" Below you will find an introduction to this lovely stuff.
Why use it?
Because without changing any other single thing that you do in your sex life, you will completely change the feel of most of the things you're already doing. Ever had a hard time coming because the friction of your hand on your clit left you less than excited? Ever been enjoying a nice long round of intercourse only to be stopped short by irritation? Ever ended up with a raw penis after a vigorous jerk-off session? **Ever had a condom break?** Lube, lube, lube, lube.
But not every lube is ideal for every person or every situation. Each lube has a main ingredient, and each has pros and cons. Some lubes are better for anal penetration and some are better for jerking her or him off. Some have chemicals that may be hard on sensitive skin, others are more natural.
What's the main ingredient?
The main ingredient of a lube, or its base, determines several things about how it will act in different situations.
Oil Based (e.g. hand lotion, coconut oil, Boy Butter, Yes Oil): This is probably one of the oldest lubes around, since oil based lubes can come from lots of different natural sources. They tend to be found hanging around the house in kitchen and bathroom cupboards, which makes them pretty handy and convenient. They last for a long, long time, and are excellent for giving hand jobs on a penis. They're bad for a couple of really important reasons, however. Oil and the vaginal microcosm do not go well together. Oil doesn't easily flush out of the body, and so can upset the delicate balance of the cunt's flora. Also, oil eats microscopic holes through latex, so if you're using any kind of safer sex barrier that isn't non-latex, you can end up with an STI or a pregnancy.
Silicone Based (e.g. Eros, Swiss Navy): Like oil based lubes, silicone based lubes last forever and a day. They can also be used in water, and so are great for those who like to play in the shower or tub. They're scentless and tasteless, and are great to massage with, since they let you rub a good long time There's no problem in using them with latex, so you can go right from massage to safer sex. One draw-back is that you can't use silicone lube with silicone toys; the other downside is that they last forever and a day, which can make your vagina prone to infection. Eros Woman is a lighter formulation, which may mitigate that problem for women who aren't using it with silicone toys.
Water Based (e.g. Slippery Stuff, O'My, Sliquid): This is the best type of lube for vaginas. Because water evaporates, lube with water as the first or second ingredient don't stick around to upset the vaginal flora. Because of that and their latex compatibility, water based lubes are the most common and popular kind. They come in a wide variety of viscosity and sensations, anywhere from creamy to oily. You can also get flavoured water based lubes if you're looking for something a little different.
Hybrid (eg. Liquid Silk, Sliquid Organics Silk): These lubes are mainly water-based, with a little silicone added in to make them extra slippery! Because the amount of silicone is so small, they're still safe with silicone toys, and they're much friendlier to vaginas than fully silicone-based lubes. They have a creamy, pillowy feeling, and an poaque, white, cloudy look.
Once you've decided on what the base of your lube will be, the next step is to pick what kind of viscosity you're looking for. Lubes range from incredibly thick (e.g. Maximus) to super thin (e.g. JO); one isn't inherently better than the other. Thicker lubes tend to stay put a lot better than thinner lubes, which makes them a better candidate for anal play, fisting, or any kind of slow penetration.
This is another caution for folks with vaginas: if you're particularly prone to yeast infections, avoid any lube with glycerine listed as an ingredient. Yeast loves glycerine, and will multiply happily in its presence. Some lubes that do not contain glycerine are Sliquid Organics, Slippery Stuff and Liquid Silk. If you're not particularly prone to yeast overgrowth, then a lube that contains grapefruit seed extract (GSE) may be the ticket. The GSE balances the pH of the vagina, and creates an environment inhospitable to yeast. Lubes containing GSE include Probe and O'My. An aside to vegans: unless the ingredients list specifies vegetable glycerine, it's probably from an animal source.
There are a few other things to watch out for. For example, methelparaben is used as a preservative in many lubes, and those with sensitive skin should avoid it. Look instead for grapefruit seed extract. Some of our lubes only have a few ingredients in them, but most have a very long list, so look carefully and check to see if it contains something to which you know you're sensitive.
If you're a little overwhelmed by all the choices, and don't know whether you'd like thick, thin, oily, slick or creamy, get a bunch of travel sizes ($1-2), and have a personal lubefest.
(From our May 2003 newsletter. Updated 2015).