How to Use Lube for Better Sex

It can make solo play better too.

Personal lubricant, or lube, is a gel or liquid applied to the genitals during sex to help increase wetness. This helps prevent too much friction that may make sex uncomfortable or even painful, especially if you are experiencing vaginal dryness or having anal sex. But even if you don’t have dryness or pain during sex, lube can be a fun and pleasurable addition to foreplay and the main event.

So whether you're enjoying penetrative vaginal sex, anal sex, mutual masturbation, or some self-love, here's how to use lube for better sex.

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Choose the Right Lube

Depending on your sexual preferences or comfort needs, there's a lubricant for everyone. Some are better than others when it comes to using condoms or sex toys. Others can add more longevity and foreplay fun.

Water-based

Water-based lubricants are the most popular and available lube option. Women might find it less irritating to their genitals than silicone-based lube. Water-based lube can be used with condoms and silicone sex toys. 

These lubes may contain additives such as glycerin to help retain moisture and preservatives to prevent microbial growth in the product. However, these additives can cause irritation. 

Many water-based lubes won't stain sheets and are easy to wash. But some folks don't like the watery, sticky consistency. Water-based lubes also aren't as long-lasting as some other types of lube.

Silicone-based

If you're looking for a lube that can extend your romps, silicone-based lubes are longer-lasting and won't rinse off easily during shower sex. The lube is also safe to use with condoms, ideal for folks with sensitive skin, and a popular choice for anal sex.

However, you won't want to use silicone-based lubes with silicone sex toys. Silicone lubes will break down the surface of silicone sex toys. This not only destroys the toy, but also allows more opportunity for bacteria to grow in any torn or cracked areas on the toy’s surface.

Some people with vaginas also find silicone lube irritating if not washed off immediately, which can be difficult since it doesn’t rinse off easily. Like water-based lube, silicone-based lube can also include irritating ingredients like glycerin.

Oil-based 

Oil-based lubricants are long-lasting. Examples include mineral oil or baby oil. However, these types of lubes can cause inflammation and irritation if you have a vagina.

Oil-based lubes also break down latex condoms, which can increase your risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) or unintended pregnancy. You also shouldn't use oil-based lubes with silicone sex toys since oils can damage the surfaces. And if you're worried about clean sheets, keep in mind that oil-based lubes are more likely to stain. 

Hybrid Lubes 

These lubes combine water and silicone or water and oil ingredients. Combining ingredients may provide some benefits from each type of lube, but hybrid lubes are not well studied. The oil in hybrid lubes can still break down latex condoms and silicone, and silicone can still break down silicone toys.

In theory, water and silicone hybrids may help increase the longevity of water-based with less irritation from the silicone. Water and oil hybrids may help reduce the amount of oil, giving you more longevity without the mess. 

How to Apply Lube

During partnered sex, the limit on lube does not exist. You can apply any amount of lube to your or your partner's vagina, penis, or anus. Communicating what you like with your partner can help you decide where you want to use lube and how much works for you.

Apply the lube where needed. If you're using condoms or a sex toy, make sure to apply non-oil-based lube to the latex condom, dental dam, diaphragm, or sex toy (make sure to skip silicone-based with silicone toys, too).

No matter where you place lube, it will help reduce any friction. This can make sex more pleasurable and alleviate any pain you may experience during sex from dryness or friction.

Suppose you or your partner is experiencing vaginal dryness due to hormonal changes from menopause, childbirth, or breastfeeding. In that case, lube will make sex more comfortable by adding lubrication. If you enjoy anal sex but lack lubrication, you may experience anal pain or tearing. Adding lube to the anus and penis or other object being inserted will help lubricate the area and make penetration more comfortable and enjoyable.

You can also use lube for oral sex, but you'll want to check your lube to see if it's safe to ingest. Although getting poisoned from a personal lubricant is unlikely, it's best to avoid ingredients like lidocaine and benzocaine. You may also deal with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea if you ingest an oil-based lube. Some lubes may also just taste bad.

Using Lube With Condoms

Using lube with condoms may help decrease your chances of contracting STIs because it allows for less friction that can tear or break a condom. However, you must pick the right lube or you'll actually do the opposite—damage the condom. 

Oil-based lubes should never be used with latex condoms. Oil can break down the latex and weaken the condom, which increases your risk of the condom slipping or breaking during sex. For practicing safer sex, stick to a water-based lubricant or silicone lube when using barrier protection made with latex. You should also avoid using oil-based lubes with non-latex polyisoprene condoms, which are made of isoprene rubber. Oil can weaken this material as well.

If you use non-latex synthetic condoms made of polyurethane or natural membrane condoms made of lambskin, it is safe to use oil-based, water-based, and silicone lubricants.

Using Lube for Solo Sex

We often think of lubricant for partnered sex, but it can be an excellent addition for solo masturbation. Again, it's all about decreasing friction and increasing the glide. This can make self-love more wet, slippery, and pleasurable.

If you have a penis, forget going dry or using lotion. Applying any type of personal lubricant will help make masturbation slicker and faster. This is also an opportunity to use oil-based lubes since you don't have to worry about condoms breaking down. A nice bonus is that you can use some oil-based lubes for self-massage of other areas.

If you're using a sex toy, stick to water-based lubes. These will help increase the slip without breaking down your toys that can then, in turn, harbor bacteria that increase your risk of infections. If you're not using toys, choose the lube that you like best. 

Products and Ingredients to Avoid

Petroleum jelly is a thick, petroleum-based gel used to moisturize the skin that some might think of to use as a personal lubricant. However, that should be avoided. One study of 141 women found that those who applied petroleum jelly into their vagina were more likely to get bacterial vaginosis. Other petroleum-based oils like mineral oil and baby oil can also cause vaginal infections and irritation.

Within products that are strictly used for lube, there are still ingredients you may want to consider avoiding. This can include parabens, a type of preservative that may disrupt bacteria and healthy cells in the vagina.

Other ingredients you may want to avoid in lubricants include:

Glycerin

Glycerin is a sugar-alcohol added to water-based lubes to help them retain moisture and give them a thicker texture. But glycerin may negatively affect the “good” and “bad” organisms in the vagina. Research has also shown that high concentrations of the ingredient reduces the skin barrier and damages vaginal tissue.

Propylene Glycol 

This preservative is a common allergen and can irritate sensitive skin. Similar to glycerin, studies have shown it damages vaginal tissue and can reduce the skin barrier.

Chlorhexidine Gluconate 

In a lab setting, this chemical harmed "good" and "bad" vaginal bacteria and healthy cells. This could translate to greater risk of bacterial infections like bacterial vaginosis.

Nonoxynol-9 

This is a type of spermicide—a chemical that kills sperm—that some lubes might have. The chemical can be irritating and disrupt good vaginal bacteria.

A Quick Review

If you're experiecing vaginal dryness or pain during sex, lube can help make sex feel better. But lube can also be a great addition to your sex life even if you're not experiencing pain or dryness. Adding more glide to your partnered romps, mutual masturbation, or solo sessions can make sex more pleasurable. As a bonus, using lube also reduces your risk of contracting STIs when used with condoms.

Just keep in mind that oil-based lubes should not be used with condoms or sex toys. Silicone-based lubes will also break down silicone surfaces and should be avoided with most sex toys. And before buying any lube, look on the box for ingredients that may irritate your genitals.

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