A Comprehensive Guide to Lubricants

A Comprehensive Guide to Lubricants

The wonderful, slippery world of lube can be overwhelming. That's why we're here to break down the ins and outs ;) of ingredients, pH and all the different types of lube out there.

By: Arielle Aquino

Lube has a bad rep. For whatever reason, (ahem... patriarchy!) lubricant seems to have a stigma surrounding it: that needing lube must mean you have a “problem” or aren’t turned on. Not true! While some people may produce more vaginal lubrication than others, there are times in our cycle when we could all use a little extra lubrication. Vaginal lubricant may decrease due to the use of certain medications, depression, birth control pills and a range of other factors.

Lube is also super necessary for anal play and to reduce friction if you experience pain during sex. Lube is great for everyone, so let’s stop the misconceptions about lube once and for all! More is more when it comes to lube and even if you’re producing a lot of vaginal fluid, lube can always be added to increase sensitivity and provide a longer-lasting slip. 

Unfortunately, like most sexual wellness products, there isn’t much information out there about the things you should be aware of while shopping for lube. We’re here to give you a complete guide to everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the wonderful world of lube.

pH

A lot of lubricants don’t list their pH and simply say “pH balanced”, but that doesn’t tell us anything since the pH of the vagina and anus are quite different. You’ll want to have different lubricants for these two different uses.

The pH of the vagina is between 3.8 and 4.5 (it fluctuates throughout your cycle), so choose a lubricant that’s somewhere in the middle of that range. Using a lubricant with a higher pH can cause itching and even infections.

The pH of the anus is around 5.5-6.7. Choose a lubricant with a pH within this range, or choose one that has a neutral pH of 7 (Uberlube is great for this!)

Ingredients to be aware of

Read the ingredients of every lube before purchasing and look out for ingredients you may be allergic to. It’s always a good idea to do a patch test before using a product on your genitals. Simply squeeze a generous swipe onto the inside of your arm, wait for 10 minutes then observe the skin. If there are any red dots, itching, swelling or irritation discontinue use. If there is no reaction, wait another 10 minutes for good measure and check again.

Ingredients are SO important in lubricant because the tissue of your anus and vagina are the most permeable tissue in your whole body. You want to be sure that the ingredients your body absorbs are completely safe. A good rule of thumb is to look up anything you’re unsure of on EWG.org/skindeep

The main ones you want to avoid are: 

  • Glycerine and Propylene Glycol
  • Sugar and sugar alcohols
  • Benzocaine
  • Alcohols
  • Petroleum & Mineral Oils
  • Nonoxynol 9
  • Flavors/scents

Types of lubricant

There are different types of lubricants for different purposes and preferences. When you’re first starting out, it’s nice to have a few different types to compare and determine which you like best.

Water-based

Water-based lubricants are exactly as they sound. These are mostly water with thickeners like plant cellulose or guar gum added. These are compatible with all toy materials and are great for multi-purpose use. They usually don’t last as long as silicone or oil-based lubricants so you may need to reapply throughout use. Our favorite general purpose water-based lubricant is from Sliquid. It is pH balanced to match that of the vagina.

Silicone-based

Silicone-based lubricants are great for that extra long-lasting, extra-slippery result. We love them for anal play because they are longer lasting than water-based lubricants. Silicone lubricants are not compatible with silicone toys simply because they will bind to the material and change the surface of the toy. It’s not harmful, just will make the surface of your toy a little undesirable. Use water-based lubricant for silicone toys and silicone lubricant for plastic, steel, glass and crystal toys.

Oil-based

Oil-based lubricants are mostly oil and include the addition of ingredients like aloe and beeswax. Check the label though, because often oil-based lubricants also include parabens as preservatives and glycerine (which is known to cause yeast infections).

To note: a massage oil is not the same as an oil lubricant. Most massage oils include essential oils and perfumes and should not be used internally. Also to note, oil-based lubricants - including coconut oil! - degrade the efficacy of condoms so they are NOT safe to use with condoms.

Pure oils like virgin, unrefined coconut oil are also popular choices for lubricant. Some people experience an increase in yeast infections while others swear by coconut oil’s natural anti-microbial properties. It’s a personal choice, so go easy with coconut oil and pay attention to any changes in discharge or itching.

Hybrid

Hybrid lubricants are a mixture of water and silicone. They are a great in between option if you need a little more slip, but not as much as a pure silicone-based lubricant. Depending on the concentration of silicone, you may be able to use these with silicone toys. Just be sure to test with a tiny amount of the lubricant on a part of the toy that doesn’t go inside your body. Observe any changes to the surface of the toy for 30 minutes before washing off. If it looks and feels fine, you’re good to go!

Organic options

There are also a number of amazing organic formulations on the market. We carry an organic water-based lubricant by Ah Yes which is mostly aloe-based with the addition of guar gum (a thickener from guar beans) for added thickness and longevity. As always, be sure to read the labels of everything - organic does not necessarily mean body-safe.

Remember, using lube doesn’t say anything about your arousal (or lack thereof). It’s all about what makes you feel more comfortable and relaxed during sex so use as much lube as you want, as often as you like.