Personal lubricant is one of the easiest ways to upgrade your sex life. There’s a huge variety of lubricants to choose from, from simple water-based to formulas with flavors and added enhancements, and many are made for specific kinds of play. Understanding the distinctions between these lubricants can be overwhelming, so here’s a breakdown to help you out!
Water-based lubricants are the most common kind of lube and a great place to start. Water-based formulas offera smooth glide that’s great for all kinds of play. They’re also easy to clean (off yourself and other surfaces), they don’t stain, and they are compatible with all kinds of condoms and sex toys. These benefits make water-based lube a fan favorite.
Because of their water base, these kinds of lubricants can dry out over time (and with friction) so water-based lubricants do need to be reapplied during play.
Silicone-based lubricants offer a smooth, silky glide that’s long-lasting because, unlike water-based lubes, silicone does not absorb or evaporate and doesn’t require the same frequency of reapplication – this makes silicone lube popular for anal play and sex around water (like in the shower). It’s also hypoallergenic, making it an excellent choice for lubricant users with sensitive skin or allergies.
Silicone lubricants are latex condom safe but not recommended for use with silicone toys, and some silicone can stain fabrics.
Hybrid lubricants are as they sound – part water-based, part silicone-based –and are often touted as offering the best of both worlds. The main attraction to hybrid lubricants is the ability to enjoy the thicker cushiony feel of water-based lubricant and the long-lasting silky glide (and water-friendly traits) of silicone lubricant. Just keep in mind that since hybrid lubricants contain silicone, they are not recommended for use with silicone toys, and there is a chance they can stain fabrics.
Oil based lubricants are popular for massages and can be used for anal play. The most important point to remember about oil-based lubes is that they should never be used with latex condoms or most sex toys, as the oil can deteriorate the latex and other materials. As with other types of oil you may encounter, oil-based lubricants can be more difficult to wash off of skin and sex toys, so be prepared for a little extra cleanup, and it’s recommended to protect your bed sheets and fabric surfaces, as oil-based lube will leave behind stains.
Flavored lubricants are usually water-based and have the same “easy-to-clean/toy-safe” traits as all other water-based lubricants. Not all flavored lubricants are created equal, however, so it is important to read ingredients to see what’s used to sweeten and change the taste. If you or your partner are prone to vaginal infections or skin irritation, it’s recommended to use flavored lubricants that do not contain sugar-derived ingredients.
Desensitizing lubricants are made with ingredients that provide a numbing sensation meant to make anal sex play feel more comfortable. Many of these kinds of lubricants feature a small amount of benzocaine, which numbs the surface of the skin, and are most popular for use during anal penetration – however you choose to use it. However, it’s important to understand potential risks of using desensitizing lubricants. First, our pain receptors exist for a reason – if sex feels painful or uncomfortable, the most effective way to remedy it is to stop. For some, anal sex can feel painful because
of tense muscles and/or not enough lubrication; for others, vaginal sex can be painful because of muscle tension, lack of lubrication, or even some medical conditions. Using a desensitizing lubricant reduces our ability to feel the discomfort or pain and, in turn, risk injury or more intense discomfort once the numbing agent wears off. Please take care and caution when using these products, as they are not a solution for painful, uncomfortable sex.
Some lubricants are enhanced with ingredients that offer the sensation of temperature changes: some offer a warming sensation via the addition of glycerol, alcohol or cinnamon, while others provide a cool tingly feel thanks to added menthol or peppermint leaf extract. Whatever sensation you’re looking for, it’s recommended to check the label to see the ingredients used. Similar with flavored lubricants, some ingredients can irritate sensitive skin, so we recommend testing it on a less-sensitive part of the body – arm, leg, back of the hand – before using it on more delicate areas.
Written by Louie A. Ramos