The Electric Lust Quick Guide to Lube
It should be easy to buy a high-quality lube because it’s such a basic need. But, of course, nothing is that simple. Picking the right lube will help you avoid irritation, infection, and sex toy material compatibility problems.
Types of Lube
Water-based lube is the most common and most versatile type of lube. Good quality water-based lube is compatible with every kind sex toy. You can buy thick gel formulations or thin and runny liquids depending on your preference.
Also included in this category are “stimulating” lubes and clitoral gels. They contain peppermint and/or menthol. Peppermint and menthol work by gently irritating the area. Many people find this sensation to be a pleasant tingle or a minty-cool feeling but some may find that it stings or burns. These botanicals are also potential allergens/ sensitizers.
Most flavored lubes are water-based as well. Choose a flavored lube that features a short ingredient list and is sweetened with artificial sweeteners rather than sugar or its by-products that can feed bacteria.
Silicone lubricant is waterproof and has an oil-like slippery feel. It’s safe for vaginal use but particularly useful for anal play because it doesn’t evaporate readily.
Hybrid lube is a water-based lube with a small amount of silicone added to make it creamy and long-lasting. It’s my favorite kind of lube and I use it almost daily.
As a rule, avoid oil-based lube for vaginal use. It can throw off the vaginal flora balance, as bacteria consume the oil as a food source. Well-formulated plant oil lubes are safe for anal use.
Some people have good luck with pure extra virgin coconut oil for vaginal use, though.
How to Tell If a Lube is Any Good
Vaginal pH can vary depending on the person and their cycle. Average vaginal pH is quite acidic at about pH 4. Anal pH is higher at about pH 6. Choose a lube that is close to the pH of the body part with which you want to use it to avoid painful irritation. A good lube should list its pH on the bottle or prominently on a company’s website. If a company won’t tell you the pH of their lube, don’t buy it.
Remember that pH is the measure of acidity and alkalinity of water-based solutions. Therefore, it’s impossible for pure silicone or oil lubes to have a pH. If you slept during chem class and need a refresher (me, too!), you can learn more about pH here.
Common Ingredients to Avoid
Glycerin is a sugar alcohol, a by-product of sugar, that can wreak havoc on vaginal flora. Unbalanced vaginal flora sets the stage for yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Glycerine also increases a lubricant’s osmolality, the concentration of chemical particles in a solution. Lube with a high osmolality draws moisture from the tissue by osmosis, leading to dryness rather than lubrication. A dry vagina or anus is prone to tearing, increasing the risk of infection and STI transmission. For a more in-depth discussion of osmolality, read Dangerous Lilly’s brilliant Big Lube Guide.
Unfortunately, glycerin is present in all of the most popular lubricants at your local pharmacy including KY Jelly, KY Liquid, and Astroglide. Below you’ll a find of list of recommended lubes that are all glycerin-free.
This is a synthetic solvent found in many household products. Like glycerin, it increases the osmolality of lube and must be avoided. Also like glycerin, it’s incredibly common so you’ll have to venture outside the drugstore to avoid it.
You’ll find this amino acid in some lubes that market themselves as clitoral simulators because it increases blood flow (vasodilation). Avoid it if you have genital herpes or cold sores as it can activate the dormant virus.
You might find Nonoxynol-9 present in your lube as a spermicide. The drug is available over-the-counter. As a birth control method, it’s moderately effective at 72%. The trouble with Nonoxynol-9 is that long-term use can increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis. The World Health Organization (WHO) also warns that Nonoxynol-9 may increase the risk of contracting an STI, including HIV, because it disrupts healthy vaginal endothelial cells.
Sex Toy Compatibility
Water-based lubes are compatible with anything. Use a good one liberally with any and all of your toys.
Silicone lubes are fully compatible with all toys except silicone. You may be able to use high-quality silicone lube and a silicone toy together and many people do. But understand that you’re taking your chances and you may damage your toy. The squishier the silicone toy, the more likely it is to react negatively. Soft silicone contains more of the liquid silicone that lube is made of and like dissolves like. Patch test if you want to be sure.
Hybrid lubes are a compatible with all toys. Theoretically, hybrid lubes could damage silicone toys because they contain a bit of silicone but the chances are very slim. I use hybrid lube with my silicone toys all of the time and have never had an issue.
Oil-based lubes is compatible with all toys except oil-based materials like PVC/ Jelly and TPE/TPR. Hopefully, you don’t own toys made of those materials anyway because they are toxic and porous. Throw them out if you do.
Condoms are usually manufactured with some with silicone lubricant already applied.
Both latex and polyisoprene condoms are compatible with all lubricant types except oil-based lubes. Oil can degrade and dissolve these materials so avoid it. Oil will not damage polyurethane condoms.
Polyurethane, nitrile, and lambskin condoms are compatible with all types of lubricant.
Many of the lubes listed below are by Sliquid. No, this post isn’t sponsored by them. They don’t know me or that I’m writing this. I’ve just been using their products happily for a dozen years. They’re all also well-formulated enough for me to recommend them whole-heartedly. All of the lubes below have a safe pH and a well-formulated ingredient deck.
- Sliquid Satin: a new offering from Sliquid, this thin and slick lube is designed for chronic vaginal dryness. It also works well for penetration for those who like their lube on the liquid side.
- Sliquid Sea: thickened with carrageenan and other sea vegetables, this lube is slightly thicker than Sliquid’s Satin and h20.
- Coconu Coconut Water-Based: an organic coconut water-based lube with a silky feel.
- Good Clean Love Almost Naked: a good no-frills water-based lube.
- System JO Agape: formulated to tick all of our boxes; low osmolality, vagina-compatible pH and no glycerin or propylene glycol. If only all of System Jo’s lubes were this good.
- Sliquid Naturals Swirl Green Apple Lube: a great lightly-flavored and lightly-sweetened lube in a well-formulated base.
- Sliquid Sassy: A thicker water-based line designed for anal use. The pH is 6 to make it more appropriate for anal but many users report using it successfully for vaginal penetration, including me. I like to use it for menstrual cup insertion because it’s not runny.
- Sliquid Silver: One of the less pricey silicone lubes with just three high-quality ingredients. Also available in a decorative glass bottle.
- Uberlube: a moisturizing blend of silicone with a bit of Vitamin E in an elegant glass bottle.
- Pjur Original Silicone: a German import with just two ingredients.
- Sliquid Silk: a conditioning blend of water-based lube and a touch of silicone. A personal favorite.
- The Butters: A unique whipped blend of aloe, shea butter and a variety of plant oils that is beloved by many.
CoconuCoconut Oil-Based: A blend of sunflower seed oil, coconut oil, and shea than can also be used as a massage oil.
- Sliquid Soul: A coconut oil-based massage oil that doubles as a lubricant.
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