Lubricant, often called lube, is naturally produced by your body when you get sexually aroused to help make sex possible. But sometimes, this natural lubrication isn’t enough – especially if you have certain health conditions or difficulties relating to sex.
In these cases, manmade lubricants can help make sex more comfortable and pleasurable. Lube is also useful for some types of sex, such as anal sex, which don’t involve natural lubrication.
Lubricants have various features, which will suit different people depending on their sexual needs. Read on to find out more about what to look for in a lubricant, as well as the pros and cons of 6 common types, to find the right lube for you.
Who benefits from using lubricant for sex?
Vaginal dryness is a common reason for people with a vagina to use a lubricant. There are many possible causes of vaginal dryness, including lack of arousal during sex, the menopause, breastfeeding, contraceptive pills and sexual or other medical conditions.
And if you have sexual arousal disorder, painful sex or difficulty having an orgasm, using a lubricant may be helpful.
What is the best lubricant for sex?
Water-based or silicone-based lubricants are generally recommended if you use condoms, as they work well with all types of condoms. Oil-based lubricants can damage some types of condoms and may cause them to split.
When choosing the best lubricant for you, here are some things to consider:
- the type of condom you use – oil-based lubricants shouldn’t be used with latex, polyisoprene or lambskin condoms, but can be used with polyurethane (latex-free) condoms
- the type of sex you have – the best lubricants for anal sex are water- or silicone-based, as they reduce friction and therefore the risk of a condom breaking. The lubricant should be used all over the condom and inside the anus (but not inside the condom, as this can cause the condom to slip off). For vaginal sex, it’s worth noting that lubricants don’t make sex safer, and can actually increase the chance of a condom slipping off – even though they can improve pleasure and comfort
- your personal preference
Water-based lubricant is widely available and relatively affordable. It can be used with all types of condoms and feels like natural lubrication. Plus, it washes off easily and won’t stain fabrics. For all of these reasons, it’s considered to be one the best lubricants for sex, and is often recommended both for anal sex and people with vaginal dryness. It can feel sticky and dry out quickly, though.
Examples of water-based lubricant include:
Silicone-based lubricant works with all types of condoms, can be used underwater and is long-lasting and non-sticky. It’s also not absorbed into the skin, so it’s unlikely to cause skin irritation.
It’s often recommended for anal sex and is another generally recommended lubricant.
Examples of silicone-based lubricant include:
Oil-based lubricants are widely available, long-lasting, non-sticky and can be used underwater. They can also be used with polyurethane (latex-free) condoms
However, this type of lubricant can damage latex, polyisoprene and lambskin condoms. This increases the chance of condom failure, so it’s not recommended if you’re using these – particularly for anal sex.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that oil-based lubricants that aren’t specifically designed for sex – such as baby oil – may cause skin reactions.
Examples of oil-based lubricant include:
- Johnson’s Baby Oil
- Vaseline Protecting Jelly Original
- Yes OB Natural Plant Oil-based Personal Lubricant
What counts as a ‘natural’ product is somewhat debatable and open to interpretation. But natural lubricants are generally made with ingredients from nature – such as aloe vera – and without harsh chemicals, synthetic fragrances and preservatives such as parabens.
Natural lubricants can also include oils that aren’t specifically sold as lubricants, such as coconut oil and olive oil. These should be used with caution, however – some aren’t safe to use with condoms or may cause skin reactions or increase your risk of infection.
Examples of lubricants that are marketed as natural include:
- Durex Naturals Intimate Gel Moisture (water-based)
- Durex Naturals Intimate Gel Pure (water-based)
- Sylk Intimate (water-based)
Lubricant for sensitive skin
Some lubricants are designed specifically for sensitive skin, perhaps by avoiding ingredients that can cause irritation. Such ingredients could include glycerin, petroleum jelly, nonoxynol-9 and propylene glycol.
Lubes that contain perfumes, flavours or ingredients to create cooling or warming sensations (see below) may also be more likely to cause irritation. So read the label carefully if you have sensitive skin.
Examples of lubricants that are marketed for sensitive skin include:
- Astroglide Ultra Gentle Gel
- Durex Naturals Intimate Gel Extra Sensitive
- Good Clean Love BioNude Ultra Sensitive Personal Lubricant
As they’re generally water-based, speciality lubricants can also offer the same benefits as the water-based lubricants mentioned above.
They have added features designed to give pleasure – such as a flavour or the ability to create a tingling sensation.
Examples of speciality lubricant include:
- Durex Play Tingling Water-based Gel Lube
- Durex Warming Water-based Pleasure Gel Lube
- Lovehoney Strawberry Flavoured Lubricant
- your body makes lubricant when you’re sexually aroused, but for various reasons it’s not always enough
- some types of sex, such as anal sex, don’t have natural lubrication
- water- or silicone-based lubricants work with all types of condoms
- water- or silicone-based lubricants are recommended for anal sex
- the type of lubrication that’s best for you depends on the type of condom you use, the type of sex you’re having and your personal preference
All links to third party products referred to in this article are being provided as a convenience and for information purpose only, and do not mean that the writer favours some products or companies over the others, nor does this constitute our sponsorship or endorsement of, or affiliation with, or responsibility for these companies.