Health Vagina Sex Periods Std Feminism

Meet Your New Best Friend: A Guide to Personal Lubricants

It doesn’t matter what your gender is or really what kind of sex you are engaging in. Lube does not fall under the “too much of a good thing is bad '' category. Here are some tips and suggestions on how to pick your new best friend (you can’t see but I am winking at you).

Common Excuses Misconceptions:

There are many excuses used to justify not using lube that branch from common misconceptions. The one I have heard many times is, “I eventually get a flow going, I don’t need it.” There is no shame in reaching for a bottle of lube! Even if you eventually get a flow going, if you engage in sex without one you are putting yourself at risk for vaginal tears or skin irritation that could expose you to infections and general discomfort. Believe it or not there is much more to natural lubrication than being turned on and being attracted to someone. Some of us can experience vaginal dryness due to medications we are taking such as oral contraceptives (ironic, I know), antihistamines or antidepressants. Vaginal dryness can also be a result of dehydration or if you have a history of certain medical conditions such as breast cancer, Sjorgren’s syndrome, etc (1). Sometimes it just takes the body some time to catch up to our brain. This is because, “sex is [sometimes] more than just a physical response. Your emotions have something to do with it, too. When your mind is too stressed out to focus on sex, your body can’t get excited either” (2). This has no correlation to how attracted you are to your partner, your downstairs may still be, in simple terms, still loading.


Personal lubricants can be and should be used by everyone, regardless of whether you produce your own. If you don’t believe me, I am here to convince you, not only because I am using this as a form of homework procrastination, but because there are actual sexual health benefits to using lube. While I can’t promise that personal lubricants can prevent all common sex injuries, I can promise that it can most definitely prevent the most common ones.

Using lube can prevent things like post-sex tenderness, aching, and stinging that comes from friction. It can also prevent things like *shudder* vaginal tears. Vaginal tears are surface cuts to the sensitive skin in or around your vaginal opening. The tissue in this area is elastic, but when it isn’t lubricated enough for the activity you’re engaging in, tears can occur (3). Another similar injury can occur in or around the anus because it is not self-lubricating. These tears can heal on their own, but if they persist past a few weeks, are particularly painful, or are a frequent occurrence, check in with your doctor or make an appointment at Fenway Health, Planned Parenthood or any other free clinic near you.

Types of Lube:

So even if I have convinced you to start using lube you might be asking yourself “what kind do I even buy?” I know the rows and rows of condoms and lube in the darkest, most hidden corner of the store can be a bit intimidating so I’ll give you some guidelines on how to choose which kind is best for you!

Water-based lubricants are your safest bet and the most commonly used. It is good for those with sensitive skin or those that are prone to vaginal irritation. Water-based lube is safe to use with latex and nonlatex condoms as well as sex toys. This kind of lube is also highly recommended for anal sex especially if you are using condoms. This kind is very easy to clean up and will not stain your clothes or sheets. Some downsides to water-based lube are that it is not good for water-play as it is easily washed away by water. Water-based lube also requires frequent reapplication if you will be using it for an extended period of time (4).

Silicone-based lubricants are long lasting and require less frequent reapplications as well as a smaller quantity in general. Silicone-based lube is recommended for water-play because it will not wash away as easily with just water. Some downsides to silicone-based lube includes messier clean up! You need soap in combination with water to wash this kind away. This type of lube may sometimes stain clothing, sheets and interestingly enough, can even stain hardwood floors. It is advised to stay away from silicone sex toys when using silicone-based lubricants because it breaks down the rubber over time, but is safe to use with latex condoms, plastic, steel, etc (4).

Oil-based lubricants are longer lasting than water-based lubricants. Oil-based lubes are best for masturbation and safe to use with certain toys as well as good to use during water-play because water does not wash this kind of lube away. Oil-based lube should not be used with latex or polyisoprene condoms because they dissolve the condoms causing them to break. With that said, latex toys should not be paired with this kind of lube either. This kind is also difficult to wash off skin and clothes/sheets (4).

Before you buy:

Some things to keep in mind is that there are many, many variations of these lubricants for sale and not all of these are regulated in terms of safe ingredients. “In general, avoid any lubricants that contain any artificial flavors, colors, sugars, essential oils, additional additives, or glycerine—you never know how you’ll react to these additives” (4). I recommend getting a simple lube before you experiment with warming or tingling lubes as you don’t know how intense of a reaction you will have with those either. These effects are induced through high amounts of added glycerol which, “can actually have a negative effect on anal and vaginal tissues, by causing damage and dehydration to these tissues [which] is not only uncomfortable, but can also increase the risk of STI transmission” (4). Warming or tingling lubes are also not recommended for those suffering from dryness or those that are prone to yeast infections (5). It is also recommended to stay away from lubricants that contain spermicides due to the chance of extreme vaginal irritation that it can cause and especially if you are trying to conceive (not sperm friendly). Make sure to read the ingredients on the bottle and read the reviews before you make your purchase. It is also completely valid and recommended that you consult your doctor about how to pick a safe and effective lubricant for the kind of sex you may be engaging in.



  1. Mac Bride MB, Rhodes DJ, Shuster LT. Vulvovaginal atrophy. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010 Jan; 85 (1):87-94 View PubMed