If you've never used lube before and want to give it a try, let us be the first to say: Lube is a magical sex accessory that enhances your comfort and pleasure in just about every sexual scenario. "When you use lube, your options for sex positions, techniques, and even duration of sex expand exponentially," says Jess O'Reilly, PhD, resident sexologist at Astroglide. And while lube amplifies your pleasure, it can also reduce friction during sex, which helps make penetration easier and more comfortable with vaginal dryness and anal play, says Jerome Chelliah, MD, MPH, vice president of clinical operations at HerMD.
While using lube might feel unnecessary at first, rest assured that it's as common and important as using condoms. With some practice, you'll soon be using lube like a pro to get the most out of every sexual experience. And if you don't currently have a tube on your nightstand, this guide will inspire you to run out and get one ASAP.
Types of Lube
There are countless brands and textures to choose from, but lube falls into three main categories: water-, silicone-, and oil-based. Figuring out which one works best for you will take a bit of experimentation, but here's what you should know about your options:
- Water-based lube: "Water-based lubes are great because they can be used on any surface and to satisfy any need," Dr. Chelliah tells POPSUGAR. "They are pH-balanced, won't leave a sticky residue, and won't lead to staining." You can use water-based lubes with the majority of sex toys without worrying about the lube breaking down the material, he adds. Water-based lubes are not as long-lasting as some other options, though, so keep the bottle nearby in case you need to reapply.
- Silicon-based lube: "Silicone-based lubes have a very unique, silky feel that can be soothing to the skin and leave it feeling soft and smooth," O'Reilly says. These lubes are very long-lasting, often hypoallergenic, and are easy to use in water. But you won't want to use silicon-based lube with a silicon sex toy, O'Reilly says, as it can cause the surface of the toy to degrade over time. That said, silicon-based lubes are safe to use with toys made of hard materials, including plastic, aluminum, ceramic, steel, glass, and marble. Note that silicon-based lube can also leave a sticky residue behind. If you're someone who is prone to vaginal dryness, silicon-based lube would likely be the best option for you.
- Oil-based lube: Oil-based lubes tend to last the longest, and are often used for massages or sensual touching on the skin. Oil-based lubes can cause latex condoms to deteriorate faster than other types of lubes, Dr. Chelliah says, so it's best to avoid oil-based lube if you're using a condom. Using oil-based lubes in your vagina may also lead to higher rates of yeast infection, according to some research, but Dr. Chelliah notes that the data is conflicting. That same research also suggests that using petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) in your vagina can also lead to higher rates of bacterial vaginosis. Oil-based lubes may also stain surfaces and can be harder to clean up afterward.
Some people also use household items, like coconut oil or olive oil as lubes, which could be considered oil-based lubes, as well. However, it's important to note that using these products comes with a risk of vaginal infection when you use these products in your vagina, so your best option would be to opt for a different lube — even if you already have this in your pantry. However, if you do choose to use these products, Dr. Chelliah says, "Make sure you purchase unrefined coconut oil, which is less processed and contains less preservatives than refined coconut oil." For olive oil, go for 100 percent olive oil that's virgin and first-pressed, as it won't have added chemicals.
For coconut oil in particular, O'Reilly has a few tips to keep in mind.
- Don't use coconut oil with latex condoms, as it can increase the risk of breakage.
- Using coconut oil as lube may increase your risk of yeast infection due to its high pH, which can disrupt the pH balance of your vagina.
- Coconut oil might clog your pores. "Some of my clients have found that it . . . results in little bumps on the skin," O'Reilly says.
- Coconut oil can be messy to use as lube and "can leave stains or cause dyes to bleed from sheets and clothing made of certain materials," O'Reilly notes.
- Don't use coconut oil if you're allergic or sensitive to coconut, as it might irritate your skin.
- If you do use coconut oil as lube, remember that you'll need to warm it up in your hands first. "Most coconut oils have a melting point of 76 degrees Fahrenheit," O'Reilly says. "It needs to be warmed in your hands before it becomes liquid and some people complain that if you rub it directly on the skin when it's still in solid form, it can be uncomfortable and even a little rough. It does, however, feel lovely once melted into its liquid form."
How to Use Lube on Yourself, Your Partner, or a Sex Toy
There's really no wrong way to use personal lubricant. "Lube should ultimately be applied as needed," Dr. Chelliah says. "You can apply it prior to receiving or giving oral sex, during solo play, in the shower, with a lube applicator, and to a condom." If you're using lube for the first time, he recommends starting with a small amount to see if you like it, then adding more based on your comfort level. To avoid a cold shock, rub the lube vigorously in your hands before application. And if you're using a new brand of lube, O'Reilly recommends rubbing a small amount on your inner thigh and monitoring it for 24 hours to make sure you don't have a reaction.
Once you have your lube warm and ready to go, you have lots of options. If you're looking for easy, slippery penetration, a few pumps of lube applied directly to your clitoris, vulva, vagina, anus, penis, balls, fingers, toy, and/or partner will do.
Of course, there are a ton of sensual and satisfying ways to use lube besides penetrative play, though. The only limit is how adventurous you want to get. A few ideas to ignite your imagination:
- Lube makes for a great oral sex assistant when applied to the lips. O'Reilly recommends dripping it into your mouth or polishing your lips with it and spreading it across your partner's body while working your way to their genitals.
- Use lube to stimulate erogenous zones by placing it the nipples, neck area, chest, etc.
- Spread it on your hands to add a sexy factor to a massage.
- Cool your lube in the fridge before use to play with temperature.
Important Tips on How to Use Lube
Make sure to check out the ingredients, as not all lubes are created equally. Steer clear of brands that contain glycerin, parabens, scents, or sugars. These chemicals can easily disturb the delicate Ph balance in the vagina, which can result in allergic reactions, bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections.
Don't just opt for a natural lube because it says "natural." After all, a natural lube is not always the best option. "Some people assume that 'natural' ingredients are healthier, but many people have allergies or sensitivities to a range of ingredients from nature," O'Reilly points out. "Everybody is different, so pay attention to what works for you." In general, if you're prone to skin sensitivities, leave behind any lube that markets itself as "tingling" or "warming." These lubes tend to contain irritating ingredients.
For added safety, buy your lube from reputable sex shops where products tend to be higher quality than what you find at the drugstore. And while it's smart to take precautions, don't let this intimidate you from giving lube a try. "Generally, lube is very safe and can be used to enhance all of your sexual needs," Dr. Chelliah says.
Bottom line: Lube is an unrivaled asset when it comes to foreplay, arousal, and marathon-length sex. Even research shows that lubricants are associated with significantly higher reports of sexual pleasure and satisfaction. If you have any questions about lubricants, stop by a reputable sex shop or talk to your doctor.
— Additional reporting by Maggie Ryan