Slick, wet, and wonderful — lubricant is a sexual accessory that should always be kept close at hand. Lube makes all sex acts frictionless and more fun, and is absolutely essential for anal sex (since the butt is not self-lubricating). But due to the variety of lubes available today, choosing one can sometimes be daunting.
Indeed, there’s a lot to know about lube — this is only the first of many future posts about lube ingredients, uses, organic certification, etc. But these are the basics, and are definitely enough to get you up and running. Remember, finding the perfect lube for you is a personal thing. You’ll have to decide which texture, consistency, and ingredient list will best suit your needs. We have lube testers at our shop so that all lubes can be felt before purchase.
Lubes are generally classified by which ingredient they’re based on: water, silicone, oil, or a hybrid mix. Further down, we’ve compiled a list of ingredients that may cause irritation.
By far the most common base for lube is water. Water-based lubes are compatible with latex and all sex toys, and they’re easier to clean off than silicone-based lubes are. Water-based lubes vary in consistency quite a bit, from very thin (Sliquid Sea is probably our thinnest) to substantially thick. Thick water-based lubes (like Sliquid Sassy, Sliquid Organics Gel, and Almost Naked) are awesome for anal sex, as the lube provides cushioning and protection for the delicate rectal tissues.
Because water-based lubes are absorbed into the skin and can evaporate, they may dry out during use — but they can be reactivated with water, or another dollop of extra lube. Also, water-based lubes are ineffective in the shower, bath, hot tub, etc. because they wash away easily.
There are several benefits to silicone-based lube: it’s silky smooth, long-lasting, and it holds up in water. Silicone lube has a velvety texture that is very pleasurable, and it’s compatible with latex (which is why it is used in the manufacture of pre-lubricated condoms!). Silicone is not absorbed by the skin, so a little goes a long way, and it never dries out. Because of this, silicone lube is amazing for water play, and it’s a trooper during anal sex. Just be sure not to spill it — especially in the shower.
Unfortunately, silicone lubes are often incompatible with silicone sex toys. The lube may stick to the surface of the toy, making it gummy to the touch and impossible to clean. If you want to use silicone lube with a silicone toy, cover the toy with a condom first. (Some brands high-quality silicone lubes are compatible with some brands of high-quality silicone toys, but you should do a test on the base of the toy to make sure. If the lube stays slick, the two are safe to use together. If the lube bonds to the toy, do not use the two together.)
Silicone lube can only be removed with soap and water, so it’s not the best choice for quickies. It can also stain sheets, so lay down a towel first.
Another hybrid lube is Liquid Silk. Although it is labeled as “water-based,” it also contains silicone. Liquid Silk has a nice creamy texture and appearance, but does contain parabens. Many people use Liquid Silk successfully with silicone toys, but always perform a test first.
Oil-based lubes are not always so straightforward. We do not recommend that just any oil product be used as a lubricant, as oil can clog pores and disrupt the natural pH of the vagina. However, we stock an oil-based version of Yes, an organic lube from the UK that contains natural ingredients such as shea butter, almond oil, and vitamin E. Yes is entirely safe for vaginal use; it absorbs into the skin and tissue. Many of our customers use Yes and love it. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can layer the water-based version of Yes on top of the oil-based for a new lube experience.
Stroke 29, a male masturbation cream which contains glycerin and parabens, is oil-based as well.
The oil-based lubes are not compatible with latex barriers, as they will degrade them. But all the oil-based lubes we carry are good for water play and safe to use with silicone toys. Yes can also double as a fantastic massage oil.
Ingredients to watch out for
Beware of these potential irritants in your lube!
Glycerin (or glycerine, glycerol): Glycerin — a form of sugar — is what makes lubes sticky, and what makes some of them sweet. Because glycerin is a sugar alcohol, it can promote or exacerbate yeast infections in those who are prone. The majority of the lubes we carry are proudly glycerin-free, with the exceptions being Stroke 29 and Boy Butter H20.
Parabens (anything that ends with “paraben,” e.g. “methylparaben”): Parabens are a range of common, synthetic preservatives used in everything from cosmetics to packaged food. Parabens have long been considered safe, but recent studies have indicated that they may cause allergic reactions and even cancer in women. Experts found that when parabens are absorbed into the body, they mimic estrogen and can upset normal hormone production; this can contribute to the growth of tumors and cancer. Additionally, measurable amounts of various parabens have been found in biopsy samples of breast cancer tumors.
Although no study has proven a conclusive link between paraben absorption and cancer, any lube we stock that contains parabens features a warning on the product page.
L-Arginine: L-Arginine is an amino acid that may initiate a herpes outbreak in those with genital herpes. It is sometimes found in warming/stimulating lubes. We do not carry any products that contain L-Arginine. However, some stimulating lubes that we carry contain menthol and peppermint; these ingredients may cause irritation, so try a sample size first.
Propylene glycol: This ingredient is used in cosmetics as a humectant, which helps to retain moisture in the skin and prevent it from drying out. It’s also a component of antifreeze, and some lubricants. Anyone who is prone to yeast infections, or those with vulvodynia or interstitial cystitis, should be wary of propylene glycol. (The similarly-named “vegetable propylene glycol” is a different ingredient, and it is safe.)