Ask the Doctors: What’s the best lubricant?

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Sometimes sex is not comfortable. My girlfriend told me I should use lube, but I’m curious about which kind is the best. I’m also a little worried about how to bring it up with my boyfriend without hurting his feelings. Any advice would be great!

There are a lot of reasons why sex might not be comfortable, so I’m hesitant to say that lube will definitely fix it. But it can definitely help a lot of people and it’s not hard to try. In fact, lubricants are one of the most cost-effective ways to improve sex!

It’s unfortunate that a lot of people have bought into the myth that a woman who’s turned on shouldn’t need a lubricant. In fact, there are a lot of reasons why that’s not always true. For example, anything that causes a change in hormone levels, such as medications, birth control pills, pregnancy, or menopause can affect how much vaginal lubrication your body makes. Some women even find that their body’s lubrication changes at different points in their menstrual cycle.

Lots of medications also affect vaginal lubrication. For example, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds and cigarette smoking can all decrease it. Even some anti-histamines will dry out the vagina while drying out your sinuses, but more allergists won’t mention that!

There are three basic types of lubricants that I suggest. They’re all safe to use with condoms- be sure to never use an oil with condoms because they’ll make them break in less than a minute. And even if you’re not using condoms, some oils can be irritating.

Glycerin-based lubricants tend to last a long time, but they eventually get sticky as they dry out. If you find that once you get started, your vaginal lubrication kicks in, you may find that these work better since they won’t dry out. If things do get sticky, a drop or two of water refreshes everything nicely. One warning- glycerin can make yeast infections worse (although it doesn’t cause them), so if you’re prone to yeast infections or if you have sensitivities to products, avoid these ones. However, they’re water based so they rinse away very easily.

Non-glycerin lubricants may not last quite as long, but they don’t get sticky. They tend to soak in, kind of like hand creams. The creamy ones, such as Liquid Silk and Please Cream last longer, but they have a somewhat bitter taste so if that’ll be an issue, go with the clear formulas such as Please Liquid or Pleasureglide. All of these are also water-based, so clean-up is a snap.

Silicone lubricants last forever, so you only need a few drops. They have no taste or scent and they’re hypoallergenic, so they’re a great choice if you’re sensitive to products. They’re also waterproof, so you can use them in the shower, but you also need soap and water to clean them up. Some silicone lubes can damage some silicone toys, so keep these away from silicone vibrators or other toys (or cover your toy with a condom), just in case.

Thinner lubricants tend to work better for vaginal sex and thicker ones are usually better for anal sex. And a pump bottle makes it easier to add a little more when you need it.

As far as talking to your boyfriend goes, it can sometimes be a bit tricky with some guys. If he’s internalized the belief that a real man can drive his woman wild and that an aroused woman doesn’t need lubricants, he might have a negative reaction to the idea. You can definitely let him know that vaginal lubrication doesn’t necessarily connect to how turned on you are. It can also be helpful if you present it as a way to make sex more fun. Think of the difference between having someone rub your shoulders with dry hands versus with massage oil. It’s much the same thing. It may also be easier if you tell him that you think that this is something that will make sex feel more pleasurable to you both.

If the two of you are using condoms, then lubricants will make condoms feel better, and more effective, so it’s a great addition to safer sex. Put a drop or two inside the condom before it goes on- that’ll keep the lube near the sensitive head of the penis and off the shaft (so the condom is less likely to slide off). Be sure to put lube on the outside of the condom, too!

Last thing- you may have to experiment a bit to find the right lubricant. Some manufacturers make single-use packets so you can try them out without getting stuck with a bottle that you won’t use. And some people find that their favorite lube stops working so well after a few years, kind of like shampoo or skin lotion. If you find that it’s no longer doing the trick, it may be because your body has changed, so try a new brand and see if that fixes it.

Have fun!

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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