Understanding Lubricants

When it comes to sex and masturbation, often wetter is better. Reaching for the lubricant doesn’t have to mean that you’re not aroused or even that there’s something wrong with you - it’s really just to make things more fun and less likely to do any harm.

Lubricant can be extremely beneficial in adding extra moisture and making your sexual experiences more pleasurable whether used in partnered sex or solo. But shopping for lubricant can be an overwhelming experience when you’re faced with a plethora of options. Choosing the right category of lube for your sexual needs is important and may require some trial and error. However, not all lubricants are made equally and there are some ingredients you might want to watch out for.

Lubricant can help make sex more comfortable but it's also a key factor in safe anal sex and sex toy play. There are water-based lubes for silicone toys, lubes specifically designed for anal play, ones that come with added ingredients to stimulate and increase the pleasure experience or just simple, pure oils.

Here’s a guide on choosing which one is most suitable for you:

Water Based Lubricant

  • Can be used with latex and non-latex condoms and sex toys

  • Are the easiest to clean up and won’t stain your sheets

  • Are not as slippery as silicone or oil based lubricants

  • May dry out quickly and will need to be reapplied more frequently

  • Can be used for all sexual play including anal sex

Silicone Based Lubricant

  • Have greater lubricity than water-based and are silky soft and slippery

  • Can be used for all sexual play including anal sex

  • Should avoid being used with sex toys as it can break down the silicone in sex toys causing your toys to become less sanitary. This is because it creates abrasions in the silicone where bacteria can grow

  • Doesn’t dry up as easily as the other varieties do so will last longer

  • Harder than water-based lubricants to clean up and may need soap to remove

  • Typically have the same basic ingredients: cyclomethicone and dimethicone

Oil Based Lubricant

  • Are on parr with silicone lubricant in terms of how slippery they are

  • Can be used as a massage oil as well as lubricant

  • Shouldn’t be used with condoms as they can degrade latex so should be avoided when using condoms

  • Can be used for all sexual play including anal sex

  • Can stain your bed sheets and is more difficult to clean up

  • Is associated with a higher risk of infections including bacterial vaginosis

Some important factors to consider when shopping for lubricant:

  • Make sure your lubricant doesn’t irritate the vaginal tissues or negatively impact the healthy bacteria and pH levels

  • The recommended guidelines for water-based lubricants is a pH level of 3.5-4.5 (the same as the vaginal pH)

Look out for specific nasty chemicals and ingredients including:

  • Glycerin (Glycerol) and Propylene Glycol: This is a preservative in many water-based lubricants that may potentially irritate the skin or contribute to an overgrowth of yeast which could lead to a yeast infection.

  • Parabens: Synthetic preservatives found in some water-based lubricants. Some people prefer paraben-free products as they may be endocrine disruptors, which means they can potentially negatively affect people’s hormones, although the amount in lubricant is considered safe.

  • Chlorhexidine Gluconate: An antibacterial to watch out for which is also used as a preservative in some lubricants. It may not affect you but if you notice irritation or you have sensitive skin, you may want to avoid this.

  • Petroleum Jelly: Studies have shown that it’s been associated with bacterial vaginosis and higher chances of infections when used in lubricant. If you see this in your lube, we recommend ditching it.

  • Nonoxynol-9: Studies show that this spermicide has the potential to kill good bacteria in the vagina and increases the risk of bacterial vaginosis (BV), a bacterial imbalance that causes vaginal discharge, irritation and odor.

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