Lube 101

This article was first published in August 2017 on Our Progress Project.

Written by Samantha Evans, co-founder of Jo Divine, former nurse and sexual health and pleasure expert.

Porn always portrays women as being aroused and lubricated as soon as they are touched, yet the majority of porn actors use plenty of lubrication prior to shooting their film, it’s just not talked about.

Sex should never feel painful, yet for many younger women it can be because they are often are taking part in sexual acts they don’t enjoy or are just not ready for sex. Even if you are ready for sex, you can feel aroused yet still feel dry. Many women, young and old, suffer from vaginal dryness at some time during their life but are too embarrassed to discuss the problem or seek help.

There are so many reasons why you may feel less wet including stress, anxiety, hormonal changes due to contraception, your menstrual cycle or pregnancy, medical interventions and side effects to medication such as antidepressants and antihistamines. Smoking can cause vaginal dryness as well so there's another good reason to quit!

Why use Sexual Lubricant?

Jozkowski et al (2013) found that 9 out of 10 women felt that sex was more comfortable, pleasurable and simply better when using lubrication. 90% also stated that they disagreed that “young women don’t really need lubes” or that “something is wrong with a woman if she needs a lube”. The benefits of using vaginal lubrication are huge and can greatly increase your levels of sexual satisfaction and pleasure.

Lube isn’t just for women. A 2013 study from Indiana University’s Centre for Sexual Health Promotion found that nearly 50% of men and women who have used lubricants say it makes it easier to reach orgasm, sex lasts longer and feels more pleasurable.


Choosing a Lube

Avoid unnecessary itching or stinging by checking the label before you buy.

When choosing a vaginal lubricant, don’t just go for the cheapest one on the shelf. Try to avoid products that contain parabens, petroleum-based ingredients (found in petroleum jelly), glycerin and glycols as these can promote yeast infections and leave your vagina feeling itchy, sore and uncomfortable.

But Flavoured Lubes taste so good!

If you're prone to sensitivity, give dyed and flavoured lubes a wide berth as many can cause allergic reactions and artificially flavoured lubes are often full of glycerin or glycols, ideal for creating a nice environment for thrush to grow so choose products that contain natural flavourings or just keep the flavoured lubes for oral sex.

What about Tingling Lubes?

Some people love them, others hate them, but I would never recommend them. Why? Because they include substances never designed for genitals, including menthol and chilli. Ouch! Always try a small amount first. If you experience burning, stinging or itching, wash it off immediately.

Glitter has no place inside your vagina

A company recently hit the headlines with their glitter bombing sexual lubricant to make your genitals prettier and give your partner a sparkly penis!

Glitter has no place inside your vagina, it embeds itself into the walls of the vagina, which leads to vaginal infections and can get inside your urethra (your pee hole) causing a urinary tract infection. The same goes for the penis as glitter can travel up inside the penis causing urinary infections.

Oil Based lubricants destroy Condoms

Some lubricated condoms can have a drying effect which can cause abrasions to the walls of the vagina, making women feel sore and sex painful or uncomfortable, so using a little water based lubricant can help. Oil based lubricants and household products including baby oil, olive oil, coconut oil and Vaseline damage condoms, increasing your risk of getting pregnant and contracting sexually transmitted diseases, so only use water based or silicone products with this kind of protection.

So can I use baby oil or Vaseline?

The vagina is often referred to being a “well oiled engine”, as it is a self-lubricating organ. It also has a very delicate pH balance, so introducing chemicals found in many commercially available sexual lubricants can actually do more harm than good.

This is also a common occurrence when people use household products as a lubricant substitute such as olive oil, Vaseline, baby oil, hand cream and moisturiser.

By upsetting the vagina’s pH balance, also known as the “vaginal flora”, common vaginal infections such as thrush and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) can develop. This is because the new environment caused by certain lubricants is more favourable for the bacteria or yeast to grow in.

What should I choose?

Water based lubricants – gentle, mild and safe to use with all sex toys and contraceptives. The best lubricant for those of you with very sensitive skin, as water-based is the purest form of lubricant. Dries with exposure to air so you’ll need to reapply or reactivate with water. If you experience vaginal infections, choose one that is pH balanced to that of the vagina such as YES Organic Sexual Lubricants and avoid those containing glycerin or glycols.

Oil based lubricants – thick and silky and lasts a long time so great for hand jobs. Don’t use it with latex products, such as condoms, as it will destroy the condom.

Silicone Based Lubricants – thicker and oily so lasts for ages but can stain sheets and clothing and is hard to wash off. Ideal for water play as it is waterproof but also great for anal play. Avoid if you are prone to vaginal infections as it can irritate sensitive skin. It’s also incompatible with silicone sex toys.

Some people find using a sexual lubricant messy, yet sex is meant to be messy, noisy, fun and sometimes embarrassing. Using lubricant makes sex feel more pleasurable, so you’ll want to have more!