When I worked at a sex toy store, I discovered that most folks are pretty polarized on the topic of lubrication. If I were to suggest a bottle of lube to go with a purchase, customers would react in one of two ways: “Oh I’ve already got a million bottles of it at home,” or, “No way, I don’t need that, I don’t have a problem!”
It didn’t take long to realize that the world of lube needed more representation. Not only did some people negatively associate it with having a lack of natural bodily lubrication (which happens to some of us!), but many folks who purchased it and didn’t like it used brands that were full of glycerin—an ingredient that can irritate vulvas and leaves behind a sticky residue—no fun! In spirit of setting the record straight and giving lube a new identity, let’s go over the basics of lubrication.
There are three primary types of lubricants: water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based (you can find hybrids). Water-based lubes can be used on anything; they’re edible, can go inside and outside of the body, and are compatible with all sex toys and condoms. It’s also the least messy lube, generally has the mildest taste, and is the most similar in texture to the body’s natural lubrication. Most lubes found at ordinary pharmacies are water-based, such as KY brand, but most of these brands contain glycerin, which makes them kind of thin and runny. I highly recommend visiting a sex shop with a wide variety of brands and tester bottles in order to find your perfect lube. (The only real downside to a water-based lube is that they evaporate more quickly and may need to be reapplied.)
Silicone-based lubes, on the other hand, stay slippery for a very long time. Silicone is totally safe both inside and outside the body and with condoms, but it cannot be used on sex toys that are made out of silicone or elastomer because it will bond to the material and warp the toy into a melty mess. Silicone lube is also useful for things outside of the bedroom: beauticians use it as a hair shine product, it can be used to cut down on chafing between the thighs or elsewhere, and can even be used to lube door hinges, bike parts, or anything that might need a little glide. Hybrid lubes have the long-lasting properties of a silicone lube, but are still compatible with toys—the best of both worlds!
Oil-based lubes are not as commonly found in stores, and are mostly useful as chub rub. These lubes feel and perform similarly to silicone lubes, but are not compatible with condoms (including latex-free condoms) and are not ideal for use inside of the body. Silicone molecules, unlike oils, can naturally shed from inside the body and don’t cling to the lining of the body’s canals. Oils have a tendency to linger for a while inside the body and can even cause bacterial or fungal infections if they hang out there for too long. Coconut oil has a mixed reputation as a lubricant; it can be used internally (if no condoms are being used) because some sources claim it acts as an antibacterial and anti-fungal, but others say it’s better for you body to simply stick with a silicone lube.
So now you’ve chosen your lube, congrats! What now? Start with a small dime-sized glop of lube and apply more as needed. There is no such thing as too much lube, but baby wipes are handy for cleaning up the excess (especially if you’re working with a silicone or oil lube). Activities like anal sex require a lot more lube since the anal canal does not self-lubricate like the vaginal canal, so feel to liberally apply it as needed. Some sex toys also tend to absorb lube more quickly than others. A lubed-up hand-job is also a crowd pleaser. My favorite lube trick of all time drastically improves the way condoms feel since pre-lubed condoms generally have a pathetic amount of lube on them. Put a small squirt of lube inside the tip of the condom before rolling it onto the penis to cut down on friction and have an extra-sensitive experience. It’s also fantastic for any time that your body is a bit dehydrated and you need a little extra glide.
I like to line my variety of lubes up on my bed stand and admire them from afar. I have definitely heard lube used as a punch line before, and have friends who were teased by partners for whipping out a bottle of lube, but I honestly think everyone can appreciate a good dollop of lube in their life. Owning lube says, “I want us to enjoy ourselves as much as possible!” and I always instantly like a guy who has his own bottle. Happy lubing!