10 Important Facts About Sexual Lubricants

Sensual lubricants can significantly enhance your sexual experience, but these lubricants are not all the same. Do a little research to make sure the lube you select is right for both you and your partner.

Did you know that lack of lubrication is a leading cause of condom breakage? Using sexual lubricants can help you practice safe sex with less worry.

In fact, sexual lubricants can work in many different ways to make sex more enjoyable for both partners. But there are lots of different sexual lubricants, and you should understand what’s in them, what they’re supposed to do, and how to use them before you try them. Here are 10 important facts about sexual lubricants that can help you make the best selection.

1. Don’t Use Products That Aren’t Meant to Be Used as Lubricants

Some products seem like good lubricants, but they’re not. Baby oil, petroleum jelly, massage oils, and many natural oils (like coconut oil) break down latex condoms and should not be used with them. Furthermore, using petroleum jelly as a lubricant without a condom can increase risk of vaginal infections and should be avoided altogether. While you can get natural lubricants containing ingredients like aloe vera and vitamin E, always read the label first to see if they’re safe to use with latex condoms. Also be aware that natural lubricants like coconut oil can stain sheets.

2. Water-Based Lubricants Have Advantages and Disadvantages

Water-based lubricants have long been popular. They’re inexpensive, can be used with condoms, are easily washed off, and generally won’t stain. However, water-based lubricants are absorbed quickly, and so they can quickly start feeling sticky. That means you have to be prepared to go through a lot of water-based lubricant for enjoyable sexual activity. While a bottle of water-based lubricant is much less expensive than a bottle of silicone-based or other lubricant, you’ll generally use it up a lot faster, so it isn’t always cost-effective.

3. Silicone-Based Lubricants Have Advantages over Water-Based Lubricants

Silicone-based lubricant is a popular choice.

Silicone-based sexual lubricants are very popular for several reasons. They’re waterproof and can be used in the shower, pool, or bathtub. They last a long time and are concentrated, so it doesn’t take much for effective lubrication. A container of silicone-based lubricant will last much longer than the same-size container of water-based lubricant, so it can be cost-effective. Silicone-based lubricant is safe and often has fewer chemicals in it than water-based lubricants, and unlike water-based lubricants, silicone isn’t absorbed into the body. It also doesn’t dry up and feel sticky the way water-based lubricant does.

4. Don’t Use Silicone-Based Lubricants with Silicone Toys

If you have silicone sex toys or props (the ones that generally feel “squishier” or more like actual skin), you should not use silicone-based lubricant with them. Different grades of silicone can actually break each other down, so if you use silicone-based lubricant with a silicone toy, the surface of the toy can be broken down by the lubricant. It’s nearly impossible to predict which silicone-based lubricant won’t break down the silicone in a particular toy, so your safest bet is to use a different kind of lubricant with these items to avoid damaging them.

5. Use “Climax Control” Lubricants the Right Way

So-called climax control lubricants contain a product called benzocaine and are made for men who have trouble with premature ejaculation. Benzocaine is commonly found in over-the-counter creams used to treat pain, because it has a mild numbing effect. The best way for men to use these products is on the inside of a condom. Otherwise, it could rub off on a partner, who may not want any numbing. Also keep in mind that if you use these products to avoid pain during sex, you need to see your doctor. Pain during sex is often a sign that something is wrong and needs to be addressed medically.

6. Beware: Some Flavored Lubricants Contain Sugar

Flavored lubricants can be an easy way to make sex more fun, but be aware that some flavored lubricants contain sugar. This can be a problem for women who are prone to yeast infections because sugar promotes yeast growth. Also look for the presence of glycerin in product ingredient lists for flavored lubricants. Glycerin is a sugar derivative, and it, too can increase the risk of yeast infections in women who are prone to them.

7. Learn About Natural Lubricants Before Trying Them

Aloe vera is found in many natural lubricants.

Natural lubricants contain ingredients like carrageenan, vitamin E, and aloe vera, which are lubricating and long-lasting without containing artificial chemicals. Some people who have problems with allergic reactions to other types of lubricants respond better to natural lubricants, and aloe in particular is becoming more popular as a natural lubricant ingredient because it rarely causes allergic reactions. It can be difficult to find aloe that’s certified organic, if this is important to you. You should also read the package information on natural lubricants carefully to learn whether they can be used with latex condoms, or if you would need to use other types of condoms.

8. Patch Test Warming or Cooling Lubricants Before Sexual Activity

Warming sexual lubricants usually contain capsaicin, which is found in chili peppers. While that may sound horrifying, be assured that the amounts of capsaicin used in lubricants is very, very small. Women are more likely to find warming lubricants to be uncomfortable than men are. Cooling lubricants usually contain mint or menthol, again in small quantities. Women tend to be more sensitive to these lubricants as well. It’s a good idea to try out a little bit of the lubricant before sexual activity to learn whether it causes any discomfort.

9. Know the Risks of Spermicides in Lubricants

Spermicides in lubricants sound like a great idea, but these types of lubricants have their problems. The most common spermicide used is nonoxynol-9, which can be irritating and uncomfortable. It can also irritate to the point of opening up tiny fissures in the skin that can actually increase the risk of transmitting STDs, including HIV. Furthermore, condoms that include spermicidal lubricant generally don’t have enough spermicide to be considered as adequate birth control, should the condom break.

10. Some Lubricants Are Designed for Couples Trying to Conceive

Nonspermicidal lubricants are safe for use by couples who are trying to conceive and can be used during pregnancy. Just be certain to follow all package directions. You can actually buy lubricants that are specifically designed not to harm sperm and to mimic the pH level and consistency of a woman’s cervical mucus. While they don’t make conception more likely, some of these sexual lubricants are certified with clinical studies as being safe for use by couples who want to conceive.

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