If you’ve never heard the phrase, “wetter is better,” then it’s time to make it your mantra. Whether you’re having sex with a partner, yourself, or in the throes of an orgy, lube is always a necessary component when it comes to making the experience as fulfilling as possible. But while this is true, not everyone has jumped on the lube train and realized just how beneficial it can be to many sex acts — even ones that don’t involve penetration.
What is lube?
The word “lube” is short for personal lubricant. Although there are different types of lube to choose from (which we’ll get to), simply, lube is a substance (liquid or gel) that helps to reduce friction during penetrative sex, makes oral even more slippery and delicious, and takes fingering and handjobs up several notches. It’s basically the cherry on top of an already-satisfying sexual experience.
History of lube
Like most, if not all things sex-related, the concept of using lube is hardly new. People have been using different types of substances for lubrication since the days of Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. Back then olive oil was the lube of choice in that part of the world, while Asian countries turned to vegetable oil and/or clove oil.
The lube we know today, or at least a version of it, didn’t hit the market until 1904. This was a big step because not only was it acknowledging that lubrication is essential for some people with vulvas who don’t lubricate on their own, but it could also make everyone’s sex life more pleasurable. Why? Say it with me: wetter is better.
Reasons to use lube
For those who have yet to delve into using lube, here are four of the top reasons to incorporate it into your sex life.
- It can decrease chances of membrane tearing. When it comes to intercourse, vaginal or anal, lube is your friend. For starters, the anal canal doesn’t lubricate on its own, so lube isn’t just important to avoid anal fissures and tears, but it makes anal play far more enjoyable. As for vaginal sex, even if someone is extremely aroused, it doesn’t mean that they’ll necessarily be wet enough to make intercourse pleasurable and painless. From hormonal shifts during and after menopause, to medications (even over-the-counter antihistamines!), or to simply being too dehydrated (hello, alcohol!), there are several factors that can cause vaginal dryness. A dry vagina is susceptible to not just pain during intercourse, but tears along the vaginal walls.
- It can reduce STIs. Limiting the possibility of tears in the membranes within the vagina and rectum also helps reduce the spreading and contracting of STIs. Those tears aren’t just painful, but because they’re open, infections have an easier time wiggling their way into the body.
- It makes oral sex and rimming even better. Whether you’re going down on a penis or a vulva, lube makes things extra slick so orally stimulating your partner can be more enjoyable for you both. It also takes some pressure off the giver if they’re not someone who’s, well, a very saliva-y person.
- It can increase chances of orgasm. Studies have found that lube can play a key role in making climax even easier to achieve — for both penis and vulva owners — during partner play or while rolling solo with a hot masturbation sesh because of the “wetter is better” effect.
Types of lube
When it comes to choosing a lube, it’s important to know what’s best for you.. Not only are there three types of lube on the market, but the detailed ingredients of each one can impact what you choose too. For example, lubes that have glycerin can mess with the pH balance in a vagina leading to things like yeast infections, so that’s something to keep in mind if you happen to be yeast infection prone. Also, alcohol can pop up in lube which can be drying and sort of defeat the purpose of using lube.
With those two important details in your pocket, let’s look at the three types of lube out there.
1. Silicone-based lube
Silicone-based lube is great! But it depends on how you use it. When it comes to penetration, it’s fantastic because it lasts a long time, has a nice silky consistency, and is literally the cat’s pajamas when it comes to pleasure.
However, silicone-based lube has a major downside: it can’t be used with silicone toys. The reason for this is because the silicone in the lube will, over time, break down the silicone of your toys, which is the last thing you want if you’ve invested in high-quality, medical-grade silicone toys (and you should have for the sake of your body). Although using silicone-based lube with a silicone toy once or twice isn’t the end of the world if you have nothing else on tap, it’s definitely a habit you don’t want to start.
2. Water-based lube
If your partnered or solo sex always involves silicone toys, then water-based lube is the best choice for you because it will keep your toys intact. It’s also less sticky and you don’t have to worry about it messing up your sheets — not that you can’t get silicone lube out of your sheets with bleach or letting dishwashing detergent absorb into the fabric to break down the silicone.
However, because nothing is perfect, water-based lube, too, has a downside: it doesn’t last very long. Because the body absorbs water, anything water-based, lube included, isn’t going to be ideal if you’re planning a marathon sex-fest. Sure, you can keep applying it, but if that doesn’t sound appealing and you have toys that aren’t silicone (like glass or steel), then silicone lube is the way to go.
3. Oil-based lube
When it comes to lubes, oil-based lube tends to get a bad rap. The reason for this is it’s a mess (they actually make getting silicone out of your sheets look like a cakewalk), they can’t be used with latex barriers of any kind because they’ll degrade the material making them null and void, and they’re not very vagina-friendly because they can interfere with the pH balance.
Oil-based lube isn’t ideal for toys either. While it won’t degrade silicone or anything like that, oil is a very difficult substance to get out of and off of things. Because of this, if your toys aren’t properly scrubbed free of the oil, it can leave a coating behind, a coating that can contain bacteria making them not exactly on the up and up on the cleanliness meter. Sex toys, no matter how you use them, should always be cleaned before and after each use, and oil can stand in the way of a thorough cleaning.
Once you’ve given lube a try, there’s a very small chance that you’ll ever go back to lube-less days again. It’s just a matter of figuring out how and when you want to use lube, so you can choose the right lube for you.