Not all lubes are created equally however, with some containing nasty chemicals that can irritate the skin, affect the balance of bacteria in the vagina and even cause a burning sensation. Knowing the difference between the major types is a great starting point in choosing the right natural lubricant for you.
There are 4 major players when it comes to lubricants readily available:
- Water based
- Oil based
- Silicon lubes
- Hybrid lubricants
Keep reading below to discover the pros, cons and differences in all of these, as well as some “must haves” when it comes to a great lube. I’m also going to be breaking the record for how many times “lube” and “lubrication” is used in an article – it’s unavoidable! Firstly; water based lubes.
Water based lubricants
These lubes are most likely already sitting in your bedside table. One of the more commonly available lubes, water based lubrication feel most like the body’s natural wetness, and are suitable for use with all forms of toys and condoms. They don’t feel sticky, leave residues or cause any staining and can be reapplied as often as required. As this type of lubricant tends to soak and absorb into the skin, its staying power isn’t great. Reapplication may be required multiple times. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The major con for using a water-based lubricant tends to be the ingredients list. Water based lubes almost exclusively contain preservatives, which can affect the mucus membranes of your vagina and have the potential to cause irritation. Preservatives to avoid include glycerin (which can feed nasty bacteria, aka hello yeast infection), petroleum and petroleum based ingredients (that can change the pH of your vagina) and parabens, which at best may cause irritation, and at worst may be forms of endocrine disruptors (aka messes with your hormones!).
Bottom line: Water-based lubes are readily available and can feel fantastic, however looking at the label is important in order to avoid potentially irritating ingredients.
If water based lubes aren’t quite the right fit for you, maybe oil based lubes will hit the spot. When I talk about oil based lubricants, I’m focusing on natural plant-based oil lubes, not the nastier, petroleum based ones (which as I mentioned above, can leave you more susceptible to infections).
Oil Based Lubricants
Oil-based lubes last longer than water-based lubes, meaning it may require less frequent applications. These type of lubricants are therefore much more ideal for body parts that don’t self-lubricate (i.e. the anus). As oil-based lubes can help with skin hydration, much like an oil moisturiser does for your face, they also make a great lube for those who are post-menopausal or have difficultly getting aroused, despite adequate stimulation.
These types of lubes are safe to use with sex-toys made of non-toxic, non-porous materials, such as glass, crystal, body safe plastic and metal. However, if you use an oil-based lubricant with condoms, there is an increased likelihood of condom degradation and breakage. I avoid recommending the use of oil-based lubes with condoms. This includes latex and polyisoprene condoms. ⠀⠀⠀⠀
Due to the longer lasing nature of oils on the skin, clean up can take a bit longer. The oils may linger on the skin, creating an environment that isn’t ideal for those who often get thrush or bacterial vaginosis (BV). And for the love of all things holy, please, PLEASE do not use Vaseline as a lube! It’s not body safe, affects pH, smothers the delicate breathable skin of the vagina and can destroy condoms.
Coconut oil is an interesting lube to address. As it’s anti-microbial, it has the potential to leave you more susceptible to vaginal infections. It is also 100% NOT condom safe and can stain sheets easily. For me, it’s a huge NO-NO as a lube, however, you may have no issues with it. My advice? Use it at your own risk and try not to overdo it internally.
Next up are silicon lubricants, a condom safe alternative to oil lubes.
Silicone-based lubricants are not water based, meaning they don’t evaporate and dry up as fast as the water based lubes can do. In fact, this type of lube is the type most commonly found on lubricated condoms. Silicon lubes last just as long as oil-based lubes but come with the added benefit of being safe to use with latex and polyisoprene condoms.
Silicon lubes tend to be a bit more expensive than their oil or water based counterparts, however a little goes a long, long way. As they aren’t water based, silicon lubes can stain (and are pretty difficult to get out of sheets). This does however, make silicon based lubes perfect for sexual activity in or involving water.
Silicone lubricants are not suitable for use with silicone sex toys or many “realistic feel” toys, as they can damage them, making them unfit for use. This kind of lube also tends to have a pretty unpleasant flavour.
And finally, here’s one you might not have heard so much about, hybrid lubes (aka a mixture of water and silicone based lubes). Hybrid lubes aren’t usually found in the aisles in the supermarket or in your local health food store, but more and more are becoming available online and in sex stores.
They are less likely to cause skin irritation, and last longer than water-based lubes. That because water and silicon play off each other, creating a slippery, longer lasting sensation. As they are relatively new, there are significant variations is quality of texture when it comes to hybrids, so a bit of exploration and experimentation may be required before you find your Goldilocks lube (your “just right”). Hybrid lubes are the new kid on the block but that doesn’t mean they have to be a stranger, get to know them – they may even be your new best friend. They typically are condom safe, however, avoid use with silicon toys to be on the safe side.
No matter what lubricant you choose, here are a few naturopathic “must haves” when it comes to choosing the right product for you.
Must Haves when choosing a lube
Ensure the lube is balanced for your pH. This means, if you’re using it vaginally, it isn’t going to mess with bacteria living and protecting you inside.
The ideal pH of a vaginally balanced lube is around 4-4.50. If you’re using lubricant anally, the ideal pH differs. Look for an anal specific lube that sits around 6.0-8.0 on the pH scale.
Look at it’s osmolarity aka, how much water it may draw from your skin. When a lube is hyper-osmotic, it means it has more has a higher osmolarity, aka it’s more concentrated. To compensate, our cells try to dilute the lubricant by releasing water. The cell then usually dies, leaving behind a compromised, dehydrated tissue layer, which leave you more susceptible to infections.
Ideally, vaginal lubricant should be hypo to iso-osmotic, meaning its concentration would be similar to how vaginal tissue normally is. For anal lubricant, the ideal lube is iso-osmotic, meaning it has identical osmotic pressure to the anus’s delicate tissues.
See YES lubes post about this HERE (not sponsored, just a fan!). Good lubricants should have this information readily available, and if not, should be happy to provide you with the information upon asking.
Read the ingredients and try to avoid perfumes, too many preservatives, spermicides (which can affect pH) and flavourings/sugars. Avoid mineral oils, that can suffocate the skin, and are terrible for the environment.
Any lubricants that contain coconut oil and/or essential oils have the potential to alter your vaginal pH. I wouldn’t recommend these types of products, especially for internal use, so use at your own discretion.
Experiment – but remember which lubes are condom and toy safe.
Lubrication is a great way to add a little extra pleasure into your alone time, and can enhance overall satisfaction and sensation. Choosing the right lube for you can be confusing and sometimes takes a little trial and error, but when you find the right one, you just know! Happy experimenting⠀⠀⠀⠀
p.s. here are a list of a few of my recommended lubricants (not sponsored)
- Yes Lube Water Based
- Yes Lube Oil Based
- Yes Lube Anal Lubricant ⠀
- Sylk (now available again in Australia)⠀⠀⠀
How many times do you think I said lube in the article? 🙂