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Personal Lubricants (2020 Guide): Pros vs Cons for Each Type

by Dr. Robert Valenzuela

Dr. Robert Valenzuela
Dr. Robert Valenzuela

Dr. Robert J Valenzuela, MD serves as a Diplomate of the American Board of Urology and ...

Diplomate of the American Board of Urology

Promescent Water-based Lubricant

Most sexually-active people know the importance of stocking up on condoms.

A few even have the presence of mind to replace them when they expire or the packaging becomes beat up from weeks or months in their pocket, purse, or wallet.

Fewer people have the same level of education on personal lubricants and their role in a healthy sex life.  Many condoms come with lubrication, but quality varies and it usually doesn't last the whole sex session. Adding extra lubricant can be a game-changer.

Once they learn the benefits and pleasures, however, sex lube may find a permanent home in their "sexual preparedness kit," right alongside the condoms and the delay spray. 

Why Should You Use a Lubricant?

Sex lubricant has many useful applications to make sex better, including but not limited to:

Vaginal Dryness

A dry vagina can be sensitive to a female partner, especially a young adult or middle-aged partner. Society correlates it with older women and/or low libido, however, that is a common misconception.

Although less vaginal secretion does correlate with menopause, a woman can experience a dry vagina during arousal for many reasons, including:

  1. Dehydration.
  2. Not enough foreplay.
  3. Anxiety or stress.
  4. Medical conditions like diabetes or immune system disorders.
  5. Harsh soaps, chemical douches, powders, feminine sprays, or other chemical products applied to the vagina.
  6. Low estrogen levels due to menstruation, childbirth or breastfeeding.
  7. A side effect of certain medications, like birth control, antidepressants, anxiolytics, or chemotherapy.

Top 7 Causes of Vaginal Dryness

Regardless of the cause or the age of the woman, a penis in a dry vagina can cause chafing and other forms of discomfort. 

The walls of the vagina could even tear or abrade, creating pathways for sexually transmitted infections like HIV or syphilis to enter the bloodstream.

Restricted in its ability to move freely, condoms may experience increased sliding friction, possibly causing it to wear out and break.

Lubricant is an easy solution to make a sexual encounter more pleasurable and safer. 

For more in-depth information regarding vaginal dryness, we recommend following Check Ovulation. They are dedicated to researching and writing about all aspects of sexual health and fertility.

They've written a full article titled Natural Remedies for Vaginal Dryness that we suggest you read further.

Vaginal Dryness Remedies

Pain During Intercourse

Vaginal dryness is one cause of pain during intercourse for a female partner, but many other factors could be the culprit. These factors run the gamut from physiological to structural to psychological. 

Doctors group painful intercourse under the term dyspareunia. It refers to a broad range of symptoms, including:

  • Pain at the moment of sexual penetration.
  • Pain at the moment ofany penetration, including fingers or tampons.
  • Pain during deep penetration.
  • Burning or aching.
  • Throbbing which persists after sex.

Causes of dyspareunia also vary, possibly including:

  • Lack of lube.
  • Inflammation.
  • Injury, irritation, or trauma.
  • Vaginismus (involuntary clenching of the vagina).
  • Deformed or malformed genitals.
  • Emotional factors, including stress, psychological conditions, or past trauma.

If painful intercourse persists, you or your partner should probably consult a doctor. 

Enhanced Comfort

Personal lube just makes sexbetter

At least, many people agree. In a study of 2,451 women, nine out of ten respondents reported sex with lube to be better than sex without lube.

Men, Women and Lubricants Sex Study

Men often prefer sex with lube as well.

What Personal Lubricant Should I Use?

If by now sex lubricant sounds worth a try, you might wonder "What is the bestpersonal lubricant?" As usual with consumer goods, you have several options. Which you prefer will depend a lot on your personal tastes, health concerns, allergies, and what you want to use it for.

Water-Based Lube

Promescent Small Water-based Lubricant

Water-based lube is the most versatile, all-purpose sex lube. 

You can use them with condoms or without, for any sexual act. You can even use it on sex toys without damaging them.

Inexpensive, non-staining, and non-toxic when ingested in small amounts, water-based lube is the most popular form of sexual lubricant. 

The downside is that the water tends to evaporate, dissipate, or absorb into the skin quickly, leaving a residue sticky of glycerin that impedes friction rather than enhancing it.

Fortunately, if you keep a little spray bottle of water by the bed, this is easy to fix. Spritz a little water on the lubricated surface to reactivate it, then go to town.

Is it right for me?

Water-based lubricants are perfect if you have sensitive skin or a low budget.

If you or your partner are prone to yeast infections, however, be wary—many water-based lubricants contain glycerin, a potential food for yeast colonies. 

Silicone-Based Lube

Promescent Small Silicone-based Lube

Pricier than water-based lube but superior in many respects, silicone based lube is slippery, stable, and will last the entire sex session. 

Thick and viscous, it can provide a wonderful "slippery sensation" but also reduce the feeling of "skin-on-skin" contact, which some men who suffer from premature ejaculation prefer. It also makes a great lube for anal sex.

Silicone-based lube also stays put if you take your sex session into the water or the shower. 

These sex venues are hot in theory, but in practice the water tends to dry the vagina out and wash other kinds of lube away.

Silicone is safe to use with latex and polyurethane condoms, butnotwith silicone sex toys. The lube will break down the silicone in the sex toy over time.  

Is it right for me?

Silicone lube is great if you use condoms, enjoy anal sex, and are not allergic. Beware—silicone may stain your sheets or clothes. 

Oil-Based Lube

Oil-based lube is silky-smooth, creamy, and long-lasting. It can be used in concert with water-based lube and for water-play. Especially good for masturbation, unprotected anal sex, or sex toys.

The category is also broad. Oil-based lube may contain petroleum jelly, baby oil, or vegetable oil. Make sure to check the ingredients if you are concerned.

IMPORTANT: Oil-based lubricants can break down latex,so it is not safe to use with latex condoms or diaphragms.

Is it right for me?

If you don't use condoms, oil-based lube can be a great choice. Note that it is likely to stain your sheets, like a silicone lube, and certain oils may cause irritation or allergic reactions on your skin. 

If you start to develop a rash or other reaction, discontinue the use of the lube immediately.

CBD Lube

CBD-based Lubricant

CBD is in everything now... is it any surprise that you can now buy CBD lube? 

The popular, all-natural, recently-legalized cannabis product known as cannabidiol (CBD for short) has made headlines for its supposed ability to reduce inflammation, fight free radicals, stabilize the mood, fight cancer, alleviate certain seizure disorders, and regulate internal homeostasis.

Note; that none of this is proven scientifically. 

Early studies have shown promise, but much more testing must be done before you can expect doctors to recommend CBD as a prescribed treatment for anything.

Regardless, oil-based lube containing CBD is out there. It contains little or no THC, the ingredient in cannabis that gets you high. Its defenders claim that its knack for balancing the system leads to enhanced libido, increased vaginal tensile strength ("tightness"), and better sex. 

Are they right? Give it a try. 

CBD has never shown to be toxic—in fact, it's popular among people with sensitive skin.

However, no proof exists that CBD lube leads to better sex, more so than any other oil-based lube.

Is it right for me?

CBD is all the rage right now. 

Whether or not the fad lasts is anybody's guess. Still, if you are looking for an all-natural plant-based lube with antioxidants and suitable for sensitive skin, CBD lube might be the way to go. 

How to Use Lubricant

There are many ways to use sex lube to enhance your enjoyment of sexual activity. Consider the following:

  • Masturbation or a Handjob. Apply some lube to your hands or directly to your genitals. Go to town.
  • Protected Intercourse. No oil-based lube with condoms.Apply lube with your hands or directly from the bottle to the outside of the condom when it is on the penis. You can also try applying lube onto or into the vagina or anus.

PRO TIP:Try adding a few drops of silicone-based lubeinsidethe condom to create silky friction for the penis against the inside of the condom. Great for men who find condoms too desensitizing. Beware of puttingtoomuch lube inside the condom, though—it could slip off.

  • Unprotected Sex. Apply lube from the bottle or by hand to the penis, vagina, or anus before penetration.
  • Oral Sex. Givers may find that they easily run out of spit during a blowjob, leading to a sore jaw, dry fellatio, and less fun for everyone. Edible lube could make the blowjob go down much more smoothly. Flavored lube may make the experience of oral sex more pleasurable, but be careful—the sugars in flavored lube may cause a yeast infection.
  • Sex Toys. Apply some lube to the outside of the sex toy from the bottle or by hand. Go to town. No silicone-based lube on silicone sex toys.

Are there Different Types of Lube for Women?

Yes and no. Certain sex lubricants are marketedas "lubricant for women." There's no reason to avoid these gender-branded lubes if you like them.

The thing is, the products are negligibly different. First, consider what you needthe lube for. Men with sensitive skin would benefit from mild lube just as much as women with sensitive skin.

Also, if the woman is heterosexual or bisexual, chances are a man will come into contact with that lube eventually... and vice versa.

What to Avoid when buying Lubricants 

Choose your personal lubricant with care. Certain lubricants contain ingredients that may cause unpleasant consequences. It may be fine for one user, a disaster for others.

Remember the "personal" in personal lube. Choose the lube that is right for you, not for someone else.

Here are some red flags to look out for...

1. Parabens

These hotly-debated chemical preservatives, found in many food and cosmetic products, get a lot of ink for their alleged role in disrupting the endocrine system.

The dangers of parabens have not been proven. If you don't want to risk it, check the label, as many sex lubes contain parabens.

It won't just say "parabens." The offending ingredients to look for are:

  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Isoparaben
  • Butylparaben

2. Glycerin

The mineral glycerin is found in many water-based lubricants, especially "warming" lube. 

One of the advantages of oil and silicone over water-based lube is that water tends to make you cold. Glycerin gets added to warm you back up.

Glycerine is not toxic topically or ingested in small amounts, but it may serve as a food source for yeast. If you are prone to yeast infections, give glycerin a pass.

3. Nonoxynol-9

Most "spermicidal" products contain the chemical nonoxynol-9. Yes, nonoxynol-9 kills sperm. It also kills much of the good bacteria that helps a vagina maintain its pH balance, a crucial guard against infections by badbacteria.

With more effective methods of birth control widely available, antibiotic nonoxynol-9 should be dropping off most peoples' list of acceptable products to put in a vagina.

4. Petroleum

Vaseline, baby oil, and petroleum-based lube may be acceptable in small amounts, but if allowed to stay in a vagina they can also throw off its pH balance, inviting bacterial infections.

5. Propylene Glycol

The preservative and humectant propylene glycol may cause vaginal irritation. Look out for this ingredient if you or your partner has a sensitive vagina.

6. Chlorhexidine Gluconate

This antibacterial may be caustic. Not for everybody, but if your genitals wind up inflamed or irritated after sex, chlorhexidine gluconate might be the culprit. Seriously, who even wants something with that name on their penis?

Conclusion

With so many options to choose from and benefits ranging from safer sex to better sex to reduced pain, some type of personal lube belongs in everyone's sexual go-bag. 

Experiment with different varieties to find the right one for you. Remember:

  • Water-based lubeFine with condoms and toys. "Warming" or flavored lube may cause yeast infections. 
  • Silicone-based lubeFine with condoms, bad for silicone sex toys, may stain sheets or clothing.
  • Oil-based lube. Fine with sex toys, bad with condoms, may stain.

CBD lube.Trendy, probably harmless, but unproven in its benefits.

Dr. Robert Valenzuela
Dr. Robert Valenzuela

Dr. Robert J Valenzuela, MD serves as a Diplomate of the American Board of Urology and is the Director of Penile Prosthesis Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. He specializes in male sexual dysfunctions and practices at Washington Heights Urology in New York. He founded and is President of the Northeast Mission of Hope, an organization which provides free surgical care to those in need around the globe.


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