If you aren't using lube already, here's why you should be
Let’s talk lube.
Lube is sexy. It can reduce friction and discomfort, ease penetration, and increase pleasurable sensations. Now, who could say no to that? Not only this, lube reduces the risk of tears or abrasions to the vulva and vaginal tissues, which can not only be painful but can also increase your risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So basically, what we are saying is that lube is your super-powered sidekick. Yes, really.
Why aren’t you using lube?
Unfortunately, there remain many misconceptions around lube – such as the idea that not being “wet” equates to not being “turned on” and that you shouldn’t need to use it. Well, we are here to call bullshit. The truth is that “wetness” is not a fool-proof indication of whether or not you’re ready to get down and dirty.
Wait, what? Wetness isn’t a reflection of how turned on I am?
Do your genitals indicate how turned on you are?
While desire (or being turned on) and “wetness” can happen at the same time, this isn’t always the case. In fact, even if you are extremely turned on, sometimes our genitals don’t reflect this - and that is okay. This mismatch between how someone feels and how their genitals are behaving is called arousal non-concordance and it is more common than you might think…
For those with vulvas, there is only about a 10% overlap between how you are feeling and how your genitals are responding – whereas, in penis owners, this increases to a 50% overlap. Meaning that the only way you can truly know if someone is ready to get it on is to ask them. While arousal non-concordance might feel frustrating at times, your trusty friend lube is there to help.
Who should be using lube?
Literally everyone. Despite what you may have heard, you do not need to be in menopause or to have a “problem” with sex to use lube. Everyone is different and no matter how much natural lubricant you produce, lube can help prevent that nasty friction and increase enjoyment. And even if you are “wet”, often this is only sufficient for a few minutes of lubrication, so why not throw in some lube. Of course, if you are suddenly struggling with vaginal dryness, it might be worth speaking with your healthcare provider to rule out any other causes. Lube is nothing to be ashamed of, embarrassed about or hide – it is no reflection of how turned on you are or how “hot” you might find a partner.
What types of lubes are out there?
1. Water-based lube
(always a good place to start)
- Friendly to all condoms and sex toys
- Gentle on the skin
- Easy to clean
- Can dry out more quickly than other lubes (so reapply when needed to keep the party going!)
- Not great for water/shower play (can easily wash away)
- Can get “sticky”
2. Silicone-based lube
- Friendly to condoms
- Good for water/shower play
- Can be used with toys made from hard plastic and glass
- Harder to clean
- Not compatible with silicone-based sex toys (so check what your vibrating friends are made of)
- May be more irritating to the skin
3. Oil-based lube
- Longer lasting (meaning longer enjoyment)
- Good for external play/body massage
- Not compatible with some condoms
- Can increase the risk of infections (by trapping bacteria)
- More difficult to clean
What lube should I buy?
Good question! While picking the right lube ultimately comes down to personal preference, it can be difficult to choose a product amongst the masses on the market. Fear not, we are here to help. A few things to consider:
- Not all lubricants are compatible with condoms. For latex condoms, water-based and silicone-based lubricants are generally safe to use, but you should stay away from anything with oil such as oil-based lubes, coconut oil, baby oil or Vaseline as these can break down the latex and cause breaks (nothing you want to have to deal with).
- Not all will be kind to your sex toys. If you’re not sure what your sex toys are made of, it’s always a safe option to choose a water-based lubricant as this is generally compatible with your vibrating friends.
- Certain lubricants are better for your body. Lube that is kind to the body can help keep the vaginal pH and microbiome in check (preventing infections) – plus they're often less harsh on the skin, reducing the risk of dryness and irritation. In general, avoid anything that contains flavours, colours, sugars, glycerin, additives, or preservatives (including parabens).
- Be mindful of lubes that promote a “warming”, “tingling” or “cooling” sensations. While these can be fun, they may also cause burning, itching or irritation - so use them wisely. Try testing them out on another body part before applying them to the genitals.
The bottom line:
If you want your sex life to improve, experience more pleasure and less friction and discomfort, use lube. There is nothing wrong or shameful about it, remember the genitals don’t always reflect how turned on we are – & that’s okay. Picking a lube might take some trial and error as each person is likely to respond differently to different ingredients. Take the time to know what is compatible with your condoms and sex toys, check lube ingredients and be conscious about what you are putting down there.
Zoe Sever is Unfabled's Clinical Lead. Zoe brings a wealth of knowledge from her broad spanning background, having started her career in Nursing and transitioning to Sexology and Research. She holds a Master’s in Sexual and Reproductive Health and is currently pursuing a PhD in Women’s and Reproductive Health at Oxford University. On a mission to empower individuals with cycles to better understand their bodies, Zoe is helping us to banish shame, stigma and demystify reproductive health.