What's the best lube for sex?

8th March, 2021 • 5 min read

Sex should be pleasurable so when it's painful or uncomfortable it can be distressing and affect your relationships. This is where using a lubricant, often called lube, can help.

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Lubricant is naturally produced by your body when you get sexually aroused, lubricating your vagina to help make intercourse comfortable. But sometimes, the natural lubrication from your body isn’t enough – especially if you have certain health conditions or difficulties relating to sex.

In these cases, man-made lubricants can help make sex more pleasurable. Lube is also useful for some types of sex, such as anal sex, which don’t involve natural lubrication.

The best lube for sex will vary from person to person as lubricants have various features to suit different sexual needs. 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.

What is lube used for?

Vaginal dryness is a common reason 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.

You may also want a lubricant to help with

erectile dysfunction
or
premature ejaculation
.

And if you have sexual arousal disorder,

painful sex
or difficulty having an orgasm, using a lubricant may be helpful.

What is the best lube 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 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 lube

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 and menopause dryness. It can feel sticky and dry out quickly, though.

Silicone-based lube

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 lube.

Oil-based lube

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.

But this type of lube 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.

Natural lube

What counts as a ‘natural’ product is 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 lube can also include oils that aren’t specifically sold as lubricants, such as coconut oil and olive oil. These should be used with caution though – some aren’t safe to use with condoms or may cause skin reactions or increase your risk of infection.

Lube for sensitive skin

Some lubricants are designed specifically for sensitive skin by avoiding ingredients that can cause irritation such as 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.

Speciality lube

As they’re generally water-based, speciality lubricants can also offer the same benefits as the water-based lubes mentioned above.

They have added features designed to give pleasure – such as a flavour or the ability to create a tingling sensation.

Key points

  • 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 lubes work with all types of condoms
  • water- or silicone-based lubes 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

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.