What is personal lubricant?
Lubricant, also known as “lube” or by any of the popular brand names, is a (usually) fluid substance that reduces friction. In other words, it makes it easier to insert things into other things, and move them around vigorously once they’re there.
Which is good.
That popular repository of human knowledge, Wikipedia, has this to say:
“Personal lubricants (colloquially termed lube) are specialized lubricants used during human sexual acts such as intercourse and masturbation to reduce friction to or between the penis and vagina, anus, other body parts, or applied to sex toys to reduce friction or to ease penetration.”
Who needs lube?
The female body comes purpose-built with the nifty little feature of generating its own natural lubricant. It’s 100% organic and, while we can’t guarantee that it’s vegan, we can assure you that no animals were harmed in its making. Unless you’re into that. Which is also cool.
So, in theory, for your common-or-garden-variety sex (as if that was a thing), lube shouldn’t be a problem. Friction is part of the fun, and everything just works itself out swimmingly.
Except when it doesn’t.
First of all, not all of us are having common-or-garden-variety sex. There are as many variations on the theme of intercourse as there are personality types out there – and then some. But even for those who do, things don’t always work the way they were designed for. Vaginal dryness is a real thing, and it’s one of the reasons lube was invented in the first place.
What cause vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness is a lot more common than many people realise. It can be caused by a range of factors, including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, menopause, menstruation, some medications, cancer treatment, and stress. And even when everything is in balance, some women’s bodies just don’t produce lube – or they do, but not enough for their needs.
Of course, vaginal penetration is not the only kind of sex out there. Different couple configurations and even solo sorties can all benefit from a little lube every now and then.
We couldn’t agree more with Astroglide’s views on the subject: Life is too short for bad sex.
In fact, even if your sex life is pretty good, a personal lubricant can take it to the next level. Ask Men sums it up perfectly:
“Quickies can actually be quick, long time love-making smooth, and you and your partner will avoid any post soreness that you might have otherwise experienced from all the friction.”
How to choose your lube
The joy of sex is in the exploration. Experiment. Don’t just stick to what you know – you may not know what is the best for you. How do you know you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it … or if you don’t even know it exists? Rather experiment and explore different sensations until you make your match.
Types of lubricant
Personal lubricant comes in different types:
These lubes are the most widely used and the most commonlyknown. Many of them have different agents added to change the way they spread, how liquid they are, and how resistant they are to contamination of any kind.
Pros of water-based lubes
- Water-based lubricants are best when you’re using silicone sex toys. Silicone in the silicone-based lubes can dissolve the silicone in the toys, and make them sticky and just generally icky. Non-water-based lubes are harder to remove, which can create a breeding ground for germs and disease.
- These lubes can be reactivated using water or saliva if they dry out.
- They’re easy to clean.
- Water-based lube doesn’t stain the sheets.
- Some modern water-based lubes are made with carrageenan:
- Carrageenan is moisturising
- It’s less likely to dry out
- It leaves little to no residue
- It can be a potent inhibitor of HPV
- Water-based lubes are often recommended if you’re prone to yeast infections. This is because products made with glycerine (a sugar) can actually feed the yeast causing the infection.
Cons of water-based lubes
- Water-based lubricants are easily absorbed by the skin and by mucus membranes and tissues (you wanted to know that, right?), so they evaporate or dry out.
- That means they need to be reapplied during the course of things – and sometimes the interruption isn’t helpful. (Sometimes it is, of course. I see you shivering with antici ….. )
- Another side effect of being easily absorbed is that some of the added agents that make water-based lubes what they are don’t dissolve or disperse, and may leave a sticky residue.
- Water-based lubricants are not ideal for sex play in water, as they dissolve.
The beauty of silicone-based lube is that it stays slippery for longer. Because it doesn’t get absorbed by the body, you don’t need to make any pit stops in the middle of the race, so to speak. These lubes are also ideal for water play and for toys that aren’t made from the same stuff (in other words, non-silicone-based toys).
Pros of silicone-based lubes
- They usually have fewer than four ingredients (which means you’re likely to be safer with a silicone-based lube if you’re prone to mystery allergies).
- They don’t dry out easily or get absorbed by the body, so you get more bang for your buck, so to speak.
- They usually work well with condoms.
- These lubes are ideal for water, and just the ticket for toys not made from silicone.
Cons of water-based lubes
- Some research shows that sign silicone-based lubes can aggravate yeast infections in people already suffering from these, or prone to them.
- There’s also a small body of evidence to suggest that silicone-based lubes increase the spread of HIV. Having said that, condoms drastically decrease the spread of HIV, so on balance, a condom with a silicone-based lubricant is infinitely better than unprotected sex.
We don’t recommend using an oil-based lubricant (like petroleum jelly) for a number of reasons. The main challenge is that the stuff is devilishly difficult to clean and has been linked to the transmission of almost every imaginable STD. Our advice? Stick with the purpose-built stuff and throw your lot in with the science of sex.
Organic lubricants are becoming more commonly available overseas, although the SA market has yet to catch on. Here in South Africa we have the popular Pjur range of lubricants, designed to be kind to bodies and the environment.
Once you’ve got a feel for how these things work, why not try something new? Play around with different lubes before settling on one (or more) that works for you. Often lubes are available in smaller bottles, so you can try out a few options before investing in 100mls of something that might not be right for you.
Some lubricants are sold together, such as “hot and cold”, or are marketed for a specific use or effect.
Flavoured and edible lubricants introduce a range of different options into your sex play, and can be a whole lot of fun to try. Most edible lubricants are water-based, as silicone is not considered safe to eat. We recommend trying a few samples as not everyone likes the taste. This also gives you the freedom to vary the tastes, so that you’re not stuck with the same flavours every time.
A word to the wise
Lubricants are usually designed with specific purposes in mind. While most lubricants are safe for vaginal sex, use with sex toys, and masturbation, not all of them work as well with oral or anal sex.
In fact, when it comes to anal play we recommend stick with anal lubes when exploring anal play. They have a slight mild numbing quality to help.
For oral sex, your best bet is to go for an edible lube … or nothing at all. (If you have any food allergies, just remember to check the ingredients, to see if the lube contains something you can’t tolerate. An allergic reaction certainly won’t enhance the experience.)
If you’re trying to fall pregnant, Wikipedia points out that there’s research to show that lubricants can impair your chances of falling pregnant. In fact, the online encyclopaedia explains that “human saliva and olive oil have been found to be detrimental to sperm function. Certain commonly used commercial lubricants, although labelled as non-spermicidal or spermicidal agent-free, have been found to impair sperm function.”
This can be useful if you’re not planning to fall pregnant. But if a baby is the goal, it might be wise to consider a more creative alternative.
Which lube is best for you?
With so many options available, it can be difficult to know where to start. We have a wide range of lubricants: silicone- and water-based; edible and sensitive; warming and cooling … at prices to suit every budget.
Find the right lube for your adventures at Matilda’s.