I'm going to be honest with you all: For a long time, I really hated lube. I thought it was messy and gross and made my sheets smell weird, but after a while, I grew to understand and appreciate the need for lube in so many aspects of sexuality. More recently, I've also come to learn about its value when exploring different types of masturbation, partnered sex, and sex toy use.
"The purpose of lube is to enhance sexual experiences by offering more wetness and slickness," explains Javay Frye-Nekrasova, a Sex Educator and Pleasure Expert at Lovehoney. "This is particularly important for sexual activities that can cause friction. Lube can reduce friction and minimize the chances of microtears or pain during sexual activity." This means that people who are struggling with vaginal dryness and/or looking to try anal toys should absolutely look into purchasing a high-quality sexual lubricant.
That being said, there's a daunting number of sexual lubricants on the market, and an incredible variety of lube types. For that reason, we tapped Frye-Nekrasova's expertise in order to demystify all things lube so that you can learn about how to use lube, what type is best for you, and how to make your lube experience more sexy than slip-and-slide.
The Uses of Lube
Sex can't always be spontaneous, nor should it be. When you're with a partner, feel free to explore sex toys, games, and lubricants together that enhance your experience, make you feel more comfortable, and ensure that you both stay safe. When it comes to lubrication, Frye-Nekrasova stresses that using lube is "crucial for anal sex. The anus is not self-lubricating like the vagina, so you need lube for any type of anal play." This also applies to people experiencing vaginal dryness, as having penetrative sex when one's vagina is too dry can cause pain, tearing, and damage to the vaginal lining.
Still not convinced that lube is right for you? "Lube also works to add stimulation," continues Frye-Nekrasova. "When you are well lubricated, you can better experience all the pleasurable sensations."
Plus, lube doesn't need to be limited to just the vagina and rectum. "Lube can be highly beneficial during nipple play," says Frye-Bekrasova. "Cooling or warming lubes can help get nipples hard for play and make it easier to put on nipple clamps since the nipples are hard." So, think outside the box! Experiment with lube on you and/or your partner's most sensitive, touch-hungry spots, no matter where they are!
Tips for Beginners
Using lube for the first time can be overwhelming, especially since our middle and high school health classes rarely give us an education in this oft-neglected subject in sexuality. But don't worry: We understand, and we've got you covered.
"First-time lube users should keep in mind where on their body they are using the lube and what they are using it for," says Frye-Nekrasova. "Not all lube types can be used with all toy materials and condom types. It can seem overwhelming at first, but remembering that water-based lube is a universal lube can make picking a lube easier. The most important thing to keep in mind in terms of ingredients and applications is that you don't want to use oil-based lubes with latex condoms. You don't want to use silicone lube with silicone sex toys."
Worried about sensitive skin? Frye-Nekrasova has an answer for that, too. "If you start to break out somewhere that you applied lube—this can be hives, little bumps, rashes, anything abnormal for your skin—you should probably discontinue use of that lube," she explains. "If there is a burning or redness from lube, then you want to stop using that specific lube as well. It's difficult to know which specific ingredient might be causing the reaction so be sure to pay attention to ingredients listed on the bottle and see if there are any repeats between the lubes."
And if you're like me and hate a mess, there are also lubricant options that evade the need for an extensive clean-up. Opt for a water-based or non-staining lube, suggests Frye-Nekrasova, because "sticking to water-based lube betters your chances of a mess-free experience. Silicone, oil-based, and hybrid lubes tend to be messier and more likely to stain." But, she adds, if you enjoy or require silicone- and/or oil-based lubes, "you can put down a towel or a blanket for sex, like the Liberator Fascinator Throw (opens in new tab)."
Best Water-Based Lubes
Water-based lubes are great for both penile and anal stimulation, driving Frye-Nekrasova to call this lubricant type a "safe bet" that's especially popular among people with vaginas. "For vaginal sex, the lube choice should fall to the person with the vulva," reminds Frye-Nekrasova. "Vulvas can be easily disturbed or upset by what is put in them, especially the pH, so you want to ensure it is a lube that they enjoy and doesn't irritate them."
Reviewers positively rave about this option, citing that it's long-lasting, thick enough for "rigorous play," and, in one particularly spirited case, "ASMR for my vagina." I cannot conceive of a more compelling endorsement.
PlusOne doesn't just sell (beloved) sex toys for partners and solo play alike—they also boast this water-based lubricant, which reviewers call "silky smooth," comparing its luxurious texture to that of thick, silicone-based products.
Best Silicone-Based Lubes
Just because water-based lube works well in a variety of situations, doesn't mean that it's the end-all-be-all! Silicone- and oil-based lubes also have their advantages, depending on the situation, and Frye-Nekrasova concurs. "You generally want to use long-lasting lube for anal play, so silicone lubes work well in this instance."
And if you're concerned about transitioning into silicone-based products, she has helpful logistical advice: "Less is more when it comes to silicone lubes, so you don't have to pour the whole bottle. Just use a decent amount for your activity and reapply as necessary rather than starting with an abundance of lube, because that is a guaranteed way to create a mess."
Heavy-handed? Same. In that case, she suggests "using lubes with a pump rather than ones you have to pour can also help minimize mess."
Frye-Nekrasova calls this option a "great silicone anal lube," and reviews confirm this option's long-lasting nature and "silky feel."
Best Oil-Based Lubes
Oil-based lubes tend to be thicker and more slippery than their water-based counterpart—but that's not at all a bad thing. Frye-Nekrasova says, "Thicker, more gel-like lubes work great for anal play as they provide more cushion." For anal play, vaginal dryness, and even nipple play, the smooth, thick nature of oil-based lube might be a perfect fit.
However, Frye reminds us to never use oil-based lubricant with latex condoms. "It can break down the condoms," she cautions. Therefore, if you're using an oil-based option, make sure that you're using another means of birth control (if you're not trying to conceive) and that you and your partner have recently been tested for STDs.
This plant-based option is a consistent favorite on best-lube-lists, and with good reason. One customer, who suffered from "severe vaginal dryness" for years, was encouraged by her gynecologist to try oil-based lubricants, and after trying this one, her "life [went] back to normal."
Best Natural Lubes
Like skincare and beauty products, lubes can contain ingredients that irritate sensitive skin or throw off the delicate chemical balance of your genitals. "If it is someone with a more sensitive vulva, going with organic lubes tends to work well," says Frye-Nekrasova. "It is also important to keep in mind one's body. If you typically have sensitive skin, then maybe go for more natural lubes." Below, we've compiled some of the best natural options, for those who are uncompromising on synthetic-free sex.
Frye-Nekrasova specifically recommends this lube, whose active ingredients include hibiscus, vitamin E and green tea, all of which moisturize the skin while facilitating long-lasting fun.
This luxury lube has a devoted fan base, its Amazon page rife with reviews calling it the "best lube ever" and lauding its discreet packaging, long-lasting formula, and "magical" ability to enhance sex that left one customer's wife "speechless." It's a silicone lubricant, though, so be sure not to use it with silicone toys!
Best CBD-Infused Lubes
Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, has exploded in popularity in recent years, and companies have infused everything from coffee to lotion to facial care with the hemp-based compound. And, to no one's surprise, CBD-based sexual lubricants have also hit the market.
According to Harvard Medical School and the European Journal of Pain, CBD has the power to aid with anxiety and chronic pain, which makes it an ideal ingredient in lubricant. If you're experimenting with anal sex for the first time, using lube to combat pain caused by vaginal dryness, or simply nervous, CBD-based lubricants may be just the solution for a relaxed, pleasurable experience.
This water-based lube is also paraben-free, petrochemical-free, latex-compatible. Plus, it comes with a no-stain promise so that your sheets remain as fresh as your sex life! Kush Queen CBD lube is paraben free, petrochemical free, latex compatible, and non-staining. One reviewer, who has a condition that makes sex painful, says, "This lube has given me my libido back. It gives me almost instant pain relief. It’s so good I have a subscription."
"Relaxation makes all the difference when it comes to anal stimulation," says Emojibator's Director of Marketing, Vanessa Smith. For that reason, she stands behind this lube, and reviewers seem to agree with her. Several customers also point out that this lube is far from greasy, and one said that it "really intensified our orgasms."
Best Lubes for Temperature Play
Many people enjoy when their partner applies heat or coolness to their bodies during sex or foreplay, and there's a reason for that: The nerve endings in your erogenous zones are quickly and intensely stimulated by heat and coolness, which can cause intense pleasure. Many temperature-play lubricants and gels also create tingling sensations for both partners, and particular impact the clitoris, so that you can experience your most intense orgasm yet.
This menthol-infused option creates a tingling sensation that, according to one reviewer, "makes everything more intense."
This toy-friendly, condom-friendly water-based lubricant has nothing but four and five star reviews. And because it features two full bottles of lube, one of which is warming and the other cooling, you can customize your temperature experience based on your and your partner's comfort level(s).
Best Flavored Lubes
If you want to make oral sex easier or more beginner-friendly, or if you plan on incorporating both oral sex and lube usage into one session, consider a flavored lubricant. It'll heighten your enthusiasm while you're pleasuring your partner, and they will be absolutely ecstatic to see that you're enjoying yourself.
Several satisfied customers write that this lube is delicious, and the company itself promises to turn your partner's body into "a moveable feast." Never did I ever think I'd be considering edible lube and an Ernest Hemingway reference in the same few seconds, but I'm here for it nonetheless.
For more, visit our Sexual Wellness section, where we unpack topics around consent, kink, sex toys, and more so you can have your safest and very best sexperiences yet.
Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things beauty, sexual wellness, and fashion. She's also written about sex, gender, and politics for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.
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