Intimidated by sex toys? Consider this: What you call kinky some gynecologists call essential. (Peyton Weikert/Stocksy)
When was the last time you talked to your gyno about lube? Or asked which vibrator might help you climax easier? If the answer is “never,” you’re not alone — as a culture, we’re only now getting comfortable using these sex-cessories, much less mentioning them to our M.D.
As a result, most doctors don’t prescribe the tools that have the potential to save women’s sex lives, instead leaving them confined to intimidating adult novelty stores.
But a small band of gynecologists is hoping to change that — especially for the women who’d never dare walk into one of those shops. “For women in their 20s and 30s, the idea of buying a vibrator is no big deal,” said Dr. Lauren Streicher, author of Love Sex Again: A Gynecologist Finally Fixes The Issues That Are Sabotaging Your Sex Life. But for an older woman — who has never considered buying a vibe or even a bottle of lube — hearing her doc talk about these tools can be the permission she needs to take the plunge. “We want patients to realize this is medical — this is something my doctor can help me with,” she said.
So which sexual aids do gynecologists find themselves recommending again and again?
Lube is widely available in supermarkets across the country, which means the slick stuff is probably the least intimidating of the sexual aids available to women. In fact, in a 2014 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, 66 percent of women in a nationally representative sample said they’d used a sexual lubricant before, most often to make sex more comfortable. But here’s the thing: “Not all lubricants are created equal,” said Streicher. And perhaps more important, not all women need the same lube — depending on the reason for your dryness, you may require a different product.
Since they’re water-based, these lubes dry out faster than higher-end silicone products, which means they’re only suited for women with minor dryness. “If you’re a young woman on birth control, having a little bit of dryness, or maybe you’re breastfeeding, a water-based lubricant might be right for you,” said Dr. Leah Millheiser, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Stanford School of Medicine. Or as Streicher said, “Some people just need a little extra slip, and the K-Y is going to be just fine for them.”
Although water-based products are the least pricey of lubes, they can come with a cost: These tubes often contain glycerin — a sugar that yeast like to feed on — to keep the lube from feeling sticky, said Streicher. So if you’re prone to down-there infections, seek out a special glycerin-free water-based lube, such as Sliquid, which only contains five ingredients, unlike the laundry list of chemicals found in many supermarket products. Another worrisome ingredient to watch for: propylene glycol, which can cause irritation in some women, said Streicher.
The good news? Water-based lubricants are compatible with condoms, as well as silicone sex toys.
Silicone lubes are the slickest products on the shelf, making them ideal for women with more severe vaginal dryness, whether from menopause, cancer treatment, or some other condition, said Millheiser. They tend to be less irritating and more slippery than water-based products, and also last longer. “They’re just as safe as the water-based ones, but are a little more moisturizing,” she said. Although you can use them with latex condoms, silicone lubes will damage your silicone sex toys, so if you’re an adventurous couple, you may want to stick with water-based products.
You won’t find a study telling you which vibrator is best, which means you may have to engage in a little trial-and-error (fun!) to find the right one for you. “The one that I recommend is going to depend on whether someone is self-stimulating, versus in a partnered relationship,” said Streicher. “It very much depends on the person’s situation.” Here are a few reliable options to consider:
The Hitachi Magic Wand, a back massager for which women have found and alternative use. (Photo courtesy of the brand)
Hitachi Magic Wand
“This is what we call the Cadillac of vibrators,” said Millheiser. First introduced in the 1970s, the Magic Wand can be used to soothe a sore back — but it’s also found a niche as an “intimate” massager with so much power that women often find they need to place a towel between their lady parts and the device. “The Hitachi Magic Wand is really good for women who are post-menopausal and who need greater stimulation to achieve orgasm,” Millheiser told Yahoo Health.
Although it’s a bit clunky and has to be plugged into the wall, rather than running on batteries, “there are women who really love it,” said Millheiser. “It really makes a difference in their overall sexual functioning. And that in and of itself can improve self-esteem.”
The Jopen Intensity Kegel Exerciser let’s you get exercise down there, and have some fun, too! (Photo courtesy of the brand)
Jopen Intensity Kegel Exerciser
You could do hundreds of Kegel exercises per day — or you could simply employ this handy gadget. Here’s how it works: You inflate the shaft of the toy to your desired thickness (up to 3 inches), ideally so that it’s comfortably snug. Then coat it with electrode gel (which comes with it) and water-based lube, insert it into your vagina, and let the vibrations stimulate your PC muscles. If you want to test the strength of the vibrator’s settings before inserting it, tuck the Intensity into the crook of your elbow, an area that’s similar to the soft tissue inside your vagina, the manufacturers say.
Related: 6 Fun Ways to Boost Her Desire
The payoff? “This device actually allows a woman to strengthen her pelvic floor muscles,” said Millheiser. “When you strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, you have the potential to increase the intensity of orgasm.” Training your pelvic floor can be a pleasurable process: During early testing of the device, one woman admitted to experiencing one of the best O’s of her life — and similar reports kept rolling in. Even if the PC-muscle stimulation doesn’t do it for you, the other features of the Intensity will make sure your Kegel session isn’t all work and no play: The device also has clitoral and G-spot vibrators, “so you can use it as a sex toy at the same time you’re doing your homework,” Millheiser said.
A clitoral vibe like the Lelo Lyla 2 can be used during sex to bring on a clitoral orgasm. (Image courtesy of the brand)
Lelo Lyla 2
If you’ve never bought a vibe before, you may think basic dildos are the gold standard, since they most closely resemble a penis. “A well-meaning guy might get something that’s long and hard and shakes a lot, because he thinks that’s what women want, when in fact they really need clitoral stimulation,” Streicher said.
That’s because only about 20 to 30 percent of women can actually climax through penetration, which makes clitoral vibrators especially handy for intercourse — you can can tuck one between you and your partner to provide the clitoral stimulation you crave, Streicher said. Clitoral vibes are also great for solo sessions, especially for older woman who have vaginal shrinkage or dryness, making penetration painful. Note: The Lelo Lyla 2 is a high-end option, but any bullet-shaped device will do the trick (you just might have to buy batteries, instead of recharging your toy).
The Vibratex Rabbit is a classic favorite — of women and gynos alike — for good reason. (Photo courtesy of the brand)
If you do like the sensation of girth along with your clitoral action, try the Rabbit — a classic toy that has beads at the base of the shaft for stimulation of your vaginal opening, a vibrating head, and ears to awaken your clitoris. “You’ll have the feeling of something in your vagina, and you may get some G-spot stimulation along with the external clitoral stimulation,” said Streicher.
Soul Source Vaginal Dilators
Streicher recently saw a patient who’d been physically unable to have sex with her husband for two years — but thanks to dilator therapy, the couple was finally able to regain their former intimacy. “She actually cried in my office,” said Streicher. “Dilator therapy is absolutely essential for some women.” Dilators, which come in a range of sizes, are phallic-shaped — but they’re not designed for pleasure: After sliding one in, you leave the dilator inside your vagina for five to 15 minutes, concentrating on letting your vaginal muscles relax around it, Streicher said. You repeat this process daily, and once it becomes comfortable, you upgrade to a larger size.
Who should use ‘em? Dilators are designed to tackle painful sex, but if your discomfort is a result of dryness, you may just need lube or a prescription for vaginal estrogen. However, if your “vagina has either been shortened or made smaller, whether it’s because of tightening of muscles, inelastic tissue, surgery, or radiation,” dilator therapy may be right for you. One fairly common condition that dilators can treat: vaginismus, “where the muscles essentially contract down to keep the penis out,” said Streicher.
There are several dilators on the market, but doctors consistently recommend those by Soul Source. “They’re silicone, so they can be boiled for sterilization, and you can put them in the freezer if you want them to be a bit cooler,” said Millheiser. Plus, “they’re softer than many of the hard plastic dilators out there.” Other good options include Pure Romance Tapered Silicone Vaginal Dilators,Cool Water Cones, and MiddlesexMD Vaginal Dilators Kit.
Doctors often prescribe vaginal estrogen cream to restore moisturize down below, but Replens is a non-hormonal, over-the-counter option for tackling dryness, said Millheiser. “Replens is the only true vaginal moisturizer, meaning it’s actually meant for use in the vagina,” said Streicher. “It is not a lubricant. It has ingredients that increase the moisture of the cells in the vagina. Lubricants don’t change tissue — they just make it more slippery.”
Be warned: There are a number of lubes that call themselves moisturizers — a term probably used to make women feel more comfortable buying them — but if you check the ingredients, they’re no different from the KY’s of the world. “Replens is the only one that’s done the clinical trials to show that it changes the tissue,” she said.
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