Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex Lubes

Sex lubes are an unusual facet of the bedroom sex & pleasure products world. For a start, there are hundreds of different brands available, not to mention all the different types and varying formulations of those different types. Then there’s the fact that many people still believe that sexual lubricants are an optional extra, something that is only included in masturbation or sex due to medical reasons or because of a lack of arousal. This isn’t the case at all… but we’ll explore those and other myths in due course. LUBE. What is it? Who uses it? What are the different types? What is it used for? How and why is it used? Welcome to my big guide to sex lubes!

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  Enjoy all our sex lube reviews

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex Lubes

What Is Sexual Lubricant For? Why Do People Use It?

Sex lube provides sensual glide over the skin during masturbation, intimacy, foreplay and sex. Lubes minimise the risk of skin tears and breakage through whatever sort of sex you’re enjoying. There are several types of sex lube, and we’ll take a closer look at those soon.

People use lube for a variety of reasons. It might be because the area of the body they’re focusing on either doesn’t produce its own natural lubrication (erogenous zones, anal area), or because not enough natural lubrication is being produced for whatever reason, or simply because the addition of lube is fun and can further enhance the pleasure experience.

How Do You Use Lube?

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesApply the liquid to your fingertips, then the area of the body you’d like to lubricate. Or, you can dispense it directly onto your or your partner’s body. If you’d like to use lube with a sex toy (during solo masturbation or couple’s intimacy), you can apply it directly to your body or the toy – or both.

There are various ways lube can be dispensed, which can affect how easy it is to apply to the body or toys. Pouring it from a bottle, for example, makes application a little trickier than from a squeeze tube or pump dispenser style container. There are single-session sachets of lubricant too (sometimes known as sample or pillow packs) which contain enough lube for one session. Whatever you don’t use is difficult to store for another session, though, plus these sachets or pillow packs are often difficult to tear open in the heat of the moment.

What NOT To Use

What about if your sex lube stores run dry? If you run out of lubricant it could be tempting to try and find suitable alternatives from around your home. This is most definitely not a good idea and could lead to all sorts of intimate irritation and health issues, as these household products and fluids aren’t designed for internal and intimate use.

Examples of what not to use in place of actual sexual lubricant:

  • Butter or margarine
  • Vaseline
  • Body moisturisers
  • WD-40
  • Cooking oil
  • Baby oil

As well as being unsuitable for the thin inner linings of the vagina or anal area, potentially causing inflammation and irritation, there are other risks that these items pose. If you use latex condoms, oil-based chemicals will disintegrate the latex material, removing the protection against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections that this barrier method of contraception, condoms, usually provide.

Don’t be tempted to substitute an inferior and potentially dangerous product in place of a body safe and tested sexual lubricant. Stock up and make sure your sex life stays smooth and sensual.

Lube Viscosity

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesDuring your search for the best sex lubes for you, you might happen across the term ‘viscosity’. What does it mean? Is it important? There’s a whole lot of science behind this term, but in very basic terms lube viscosity is the measure of slipperiness or glide to its thickness.

We use lube to reduce the friction between body parts, or between sex toys and intimate areas. A low viscosity lubricant will achieve lubrication between the two items with little energy having to be exerted. If a lube is overly viscous, it will require a lot of energy to make the two surfaces have some (if any at all) glide. Think syrup, or honey. Very viscous – not great as lubes.

Lubricant formulations play a part in how effective a lube is in relation to a low viscosity. For example, a water-based lubricant might have low viscosity and high initial glide, thanks to its specific formulation – but that glide might not last very long if the lube evaporates during the session. A thicker lube with higher viscosity may represent more of an investment in the ‘glide aspect’ of proceedings.

Of course, lube viscosity isn’t the only determining factor when it comes to selecting the right lube for your body and desired pleasure session. Different formulations, ingredients and more all play a part in whether a lube will provide the right sort of slipperiness for what you want to achieve.

Bodily Compatibility

Not all sex lubricants are compatible with all bodies. For example, during my years of trying hundreds of different sex lubes, I’ve experienced:

  • Silicone lube that makes me itch
  • Anal lube that stings
  • Water-based lube that stings vaginally – or worse, gives me ongoing irritation or even thrush

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesObviously, there are elements of the formulations of those lubricants which didn’t agree with my unique physical make-up. If other people used those lubes, they might not have experienced the same effects as I did. That said, there are certain commonly used lubricant formulation ingredients which lead to negative effects in many people, and some which have been proven to be at least mildly toxic.

The usual suspects are glycerin/glycerine/glycerol and various parabens.

Glycerol/Glycerin

Glycerin is a type of sugar alcohol, which can lead to negative vaginal reactions. Some people with a vagina have reported symptoms -in product reviews, sex blogs, on social media and via company feedback- after using products containing sugar and/or glycerine inside the vaginal area, where the tissue is different and more delicate in nature to external skin. These range from uncomfortable sensitivity and irritation up to painful inflammation, thrush/yeast infections and similar.

Parabens

Parabens are a type of preservative found in many sex lubes, which help keep them free from bacteria, yeast and mould. There are various types of parabens and some people may find they have sensitivities to one or more type. Plenty of rumours surround the inclusion of parabens in sexual lubricants, including fears that they mess with the user’s hormone levels and can even cause cancer. Studies haven’t found any links between using lubes containing parabens and the development of cancers, including breast cancer.

Obviously if you have sensitive skin, whether using a lube externally or internally, it is probably best to opt for a sex lubricant which is free from glycerin and parabens so you don’t risk uncomfortable extra sensitivity and irritation whether during or after use.

Expiry Dates

An important thing to remember when using and enjoying your chosen sex lube is that it has an expiry date. Pay attention to this date, it’s there for a reason! Don’t use out of date lube; a lubricant which was body safe and comfortable for you to use when you first purchased it may lead to itchiness, burning sensations, inflammation or other negative reactions once it’s out of date.

Sex Toy Compatibility

Right… I’m gonna tackle it head-on: the “Can you use silicone lube with silicone sex toys?” debate.

The answer? Probably.

What it comes down to? The quality of the silicone lubricant, and the quality of the silicone sex toys you’re using it with. By quality, I mainly mean the purity of the silicone used in the material or lube – although there are different grades of silicone as well.

I don’t want to get too sciencey here. Dammit Jim, I’m a sex blogger not a scientist. Doing a bit of research about the items you use on/in your body is a great idea though, as knowledge is power (and more to the point, lets you enjoy pain-free pleasure sessions).

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesThere is still no regulatory body or legislation when it comes to the manufacture of sex toys and sex lubes, and in the early days of toys and lubes the material and formulation details were often sketchy and sometimes misleadingly or simply falsely labelled. Toys described as being ‘silicone’ could actually have been PVC, TPE/TPR, or rubber. Silicone lubricant formulations could have inclusions not necessarily disclosed on the label. Therefore, using ‘silicone lube’ with ‘silicone toys’ back in the day often led to a deterioration of the sex toy involved.

Over the years, the recommendation not to use silicone lube with silicone sex toys spread through the sex education and sex blogger community – and due to the above, it made sense not to trust that your sex toy would remain a-ok (ie. non-porous and body-safe) if you did. When I began sex blogging over 10 years ago, the “don’t use silicone lube with silicone sex toys” instruction was rife, and you’d probably still find it in some of my older advice posts if you looked hard enough.

Happily, in recent years and thanks in no small part to the ongoing efforts of the sex education community, there are many reliable and trusted toy and lube brands. These health-conscious companies prioritise the safety of their customers and do their utmost to not only manufacture completely body-safe products, but to fully disclose all aspects of the materials and ingredients used in their manufacture.

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex Lubes

So, what does this mean for the silicone lube & silicone sex toys debate?

If you use pure silicone lubricant with a genuinely 100% silicone sex toy, there will be no negative effect. Same as if you store 100% silicone sex toys directly next to each other. The material won’t deteriorate, it won’t melt, you won’t be left with a puddle of goo in the bedside drawer. After all, people the world over stack silicone bakeware atop each other in the kitchen cabinets thinking nothing of it and with no ill consequence.

Perhaps you’re not sure if your sex toy is 100% silicone. Or if the specific formulation of silicone lubricant you’d like to use has any other ingredients which may react with the toy’s material. The best thing to do here is a patch test. Find a suitable area of the sex toy which such as by or on the base and leave a little of the silicone lube on it a while. Note any changes to the material once you wash it off. This will give an indication of whether the lube and toy can be safely used together in your future pleasure sessions.

I should add here that in recent years I’ve regularly used great quality silicone lubricant with my silicone sex toys that I know are genuinely 100% silicone in recent years, with no ill effect to either the toy or myself.

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesToy lube compatibility isn’t all about silicone lube vs silicone toys. Some lubes, no matter the exact type, just aren’t as good for using with sex toys. They might be too thin, running off the surface of the sex toy before you get it anywhere near your fun zones, or the combination of transparent lube, sex toy and ‘ambient lighting’ may make it difficult to see if you’ve applied enough lube and if you even managed to get it on the toy -or all over your sheets.

I love using opaque lubricants with sex toys so I can easily see in the heat of the moment that I’ve applied enough & where I want it. As well as opaque rather than clear lubricants, there are cream and gel sex lubes which stay on the surface of the toy without dripping everywhere.

I’ll take my wet patch at the end of the pleasure session rather than at the start, thanks – and on an easy to bung in the washing machine Cumpanion sex towel, preferably.

What Are The Different Types Of Sexual Lubricant?

Exact formulation, thickness, viscosity and transparency/opaqueness can vary greatly between lubes, even between those of the same broad category of lubricant. What are the main different types of sex lube? They’re usually separated into the following categories:

Before we start, I want to say that there isn’t one type of sex lube that’s the definitive ‘best’ for all situations. You might have a personal preference, but the reason why there are different broad formulation types of lube is that they each have different features and benefits. In each of the above lube categories you will be able to find specific brands of lubricant which are totally rubbish (& possibly even harmful!) and ones which are fantastic.

Now, let’s have a look at each of these types of lube in a little more detail.

Water-Based Lubes

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesWater-based lubricant has a formulation which, as it states, has water as its base. To this, other elements are added to maximise the longevity of the glide, to make it thicker and more viscous, to make it opaque rather than transparent – and in the case of flavoured or special effects lubes, flavours, menthol or other facets to result in the required taste or effect.

Lube which is water-based is compatible with every type of sex toy material and latex as well as latex free condoms. A good quality water-based lube won’t stain your sheets or clothing and washes off easily after your pleasure session. It isn’t the best for sexy fun in water, such as in the bath or shower, because it’s water soluble and simply washes away. Also, if you’re enjoying a lengthy masturbation or sex session, you may find that you need to apply a little more water-based lube mid play because heat and friction causes the lube to evaporate.

Enjoy all our water-based lube reviews.

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Silicone Lubes

Silicone lubricants obviously have a silicone base, and the purest silicone lubes are literally just silicone, with no other elements added to the formulation. In the ingredients on the label you may notice dimethicone and/or cyclopentasiloxane. These are silicones commonly used in cosmetic and personal use products.

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesUnlike water-based lubes, silicone lubricants are not water soluble which make them a great choice for sexy play sessions which last a long time, as they won’t evaporate with heat or friction, and for fun in the bath or shower. Obviously, you need to be careful using a non-water-soluble lubricant in the bathroom because you don’t want the wrong sort of slip and slide, leading to injury! Silicone lubricants need to be washed off with soap in addition to water – water alone won’t remove it from toys or your body.

You can use silicone lubricants with latex condoms (and non-latex condoms) without any damage occurring to the condom. This is because it’s oil which breaks down the latex material – not silicone. People often get them mixed up, but silicone is quite different to oil. We’ll talk about oil-based lubricants in a little while.

We’ve already discussed the silicone lube on silicone sex toys debate above in some detail, so I won’t go into that again here. Suffice to say, make sure you research the ingredients of your lube thoroughly before purchase, and that you’re in the know as much as possible about the exact material of your sex toy. Buy reputable brands from trustworthy retailers.

Did you know you can use silicone lube for other things beside masturbation and sex? Here’s a few silicone lube life hacks:

  • Tames and shines frizzy hair
  • Conditions and adds a lustrous shine to latex clothing and items
  • Can be used to aid intimate shaving, particularly the legs
  • Helps to remove tight jewellery such as rings
  • Can be used to shine wooden and leather items
  • A light application helps to retain shine on taps and metal bathroom fixtures for longer
  • Quickly and easily conditions nails & cuticles

Enjoy all our silicone lube reviews.

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Hybrid Lubes

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesHybrid lubricants are a clever combination of (usually, but not always) water and silicone in the same lube formulation to provide the user with the best of both worlds. Due to the silicone element, they have a longer lasting glide than water-based only, resisting evaporation in heated, lengthy play sessions. The water element means they’re easier to wash off after playtime and many hybrid lubes can be used with various soft-feel sex toy materials without worried of material degradation – although you should obviously check that the specific lube formulation you’re using is compatible with your toy. If in doubt, patch test first.

There isn’t one strict ‘recipe’ that manufacturers adhere to when it comes to making hybrid lubes; you can expect the exact components, formulation and amount of each ingredient to vary between hybrid lube brands. The best quality and most reliable lubricants out there are labelled clearly, with the exact ingredients on the product page online and on the label once you receive it. Do your homework and ensure you purchase a hybrid lube suitable for your chosen type and style of sexual activity.

Hybrid lubes offer versatility and a reliable glide for more rigorous sex play as well as erotic massage, anal sex plus masturbation with or without sex toys. They deserve wider recognition as a great all-rounder in the sexy lubrication department.

Enjoy all our hybrid lube reviews.

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Oil-Based Lubes

Sex lubes which are oil-based are naturally moisturising and ideal for skin-to-skin massage and other intimate sessions. Oil-based lubes can also aid sexual fun in water as they’re not water-soluble. They may seem fairly solid while in the bottle or container and require warming up before use to revert to a more liquid state.

These types of lubricants can be made with various natural oils, such as:

  • Coconut
  • Avocado
  • Olive
  • Vegetable
  • Other plant elements

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesThere are a few cons to oil-based sex lubricants. Firstly, oil deteriorates the material of latex condoms, so shouldn’t be used in sex sessions where condoms or other latex barrier methods are required. Oil lubes can also stain clothing and sheets. Please don’t use anything with petroleum (like Vaseline) or mineral oil (like baby oil) as a base. For one thing, baby oil can increase the risk of an infection like bacterial vaginosis when using it vaginally.

When it comes to using oil-based lubes with silicone sex toys, I see no reason why you shouldn’t. I use vegetable oil and silicone bakeware together in the kitchen all the time, with no negative reaction to or deterioration of the bakeware. Don’t use oil-based lubes with PVC, TPR/TPE or rubber sex toys, though.

Obviously if you’re concerned about your specific oil-based lube, and your specific silicone sex toy, do a patch test first.

Enjoy all our oil-based lube reviews.

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Anal Lubes

Although it could be argued that you can use pretty much any type of sex lube for anal sex (with a few exceptions; menthol-infused being the first to spring to mind), there are various lubricants available specifically formulated for anal-based sexy fun.

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesAnal lubes are usually thicker than regular lubricants, whether your chosen lube is water-based, silicone or other. They might be more of a gel, and opaque rather than clear, so that the anal lube stays in place before and during the pleasure session, so it’s easier to see where it has been applied and so it’s more likely to last the length of the sesh. The anal area doesn’t produce its own lubrication like the vagina does – although a lack of natural lube isn’t the only reason to use lube, by the way – so a thicker lubricant which has a long-lasting glide is desirable for both anal sex and when enjoying anal sex toys.

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesWhichever anal lubricant you choose, please avoid any which contain numbing agents such as benzocaine. Not only can they cause an allergic reaction in some people, desensitising your arse during anal sex is a really bad idea. You need to know just how far you can go without damaging the sensitive and thin skin inside the anus, and clearly communicate this to your partner, instead of anaesthetising the area and ramming stuff in there regardless – and discovering damage later. Feel more, not less!

You can read more about my thoughts on this in my related advice piece: Which anal desensitising lube would you recommend?

Lubes for anal sex and anal sex toys may be water-based, silicone, hybrid or oil-based.

Enjoy all our anal lube reviews.

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Flavoured Lubes

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex LubesUsually chosen to add a new dimension to oral sex, flavoured lubes are available in an enormous variety of flavours. A decade ago, I pretty much just saw cherry, banana, chocolate and maybe strawberry, but now? There are so many different flavours to choose from, it’s wonderful. Not only do flavoured lubes tickle your taste buds while your mouth goes to work, some of them even double as ice-cream toppers. Perfect for your post-sex pudding treat (or the icing on the cake for sploshers).

Flavoured lubes are water-based, which makes sense because they’re water soluble and who wants a slick, greasy tongue coated in silicone or oil? Not me. To ensure that flavoured lubes taste delightfully sweet, some of them contain glycerin – so watch out for this ingredient if you’re vaginally sensitive to it and the lube might enter this area.

Enjoy all our flavoured lube reviews.

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Special Effects Lubes

No, I’m not talking about CGI. Special effects lubricants offer an extra sensation on top of the usual sensual glide. The usual sensations lubes can bring to a play session are warming, cooling and tingling. They accomplish these by additions in the lube formulation such as menthol, peppermint, sodium hydroxide, capsicum, caffeine, taurine and various other stimulating extracts.

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex Lubes

You can find water-based special effects lubricants as well as silicone based and hybrid styles. If you’re planning on using your special effect lubricant internally, make sure you know exactly what’s in the formulation well before the session starts – some stimulating extracts may feel deliciously tingly on external skin but unpleasant or worse when applied to the more sensitive, internal areas of the body. If the liquid is labelled as a massage oil or massage lotion, personally I’d avoid using it internally.

In addition, if the product page or bottle of lubricant doesn’t fully disclose the ingredients, I’d highly recommend avoiding it entirely. Stay with lubricant brands which prioritise your sexual happiness and intimate safety alongside great quality lubes which add a frisson of excitement to your solo or shared sexy playtimes.

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Favourite Sexual Lubricant Brands

With the many brands of sexual lubricant manufactured and sold around the world, it might come as a surprise that there are only 2 lube brands that have my complete confidence in all regards. YES Lubricants and Sliquid Lubes prioritise clear communication, body-safe ingredients, ongoing research to ensure they’re always creating the best/safest lubes and the actual efficiency of their products during use.

YES Lubes

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex Lubes

Buy YES lubes: USA | Canada | Europe | UK

Reviews: Enjoy all our YES Lubricants reviews,
plus my YES Organic Lubes complete guide.

Sliquid Lubes

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex Lubes

Buy Sliquid lubes: USA | Canada | Australia | Europe | UK

Reviews: Enjoy all our Sliquid reviews.

Other Lubes

Please don’t take this to mean that every other brand of lube should be disregarded, or viewed as unsafe, ineffective or unreliable. For a start, many brands clearly communicate the ingredients they use in their lubricant formulations both on the product label and on the website, and this full disclosure is laudable. It enables the customer to make an informed choice and the right purchase for them.

For example: even though I don’t personally have a negative vaginal reaction after using lubricants which contain glycerin, given the choice, I’ll choose effective lubes which don’t contain it, just in case. Also, some silicone lubes contain other ingredients in the formulation than just silicone. These have made me itch in the past – I’d rather use a pure silicone lube rather than one with many ingredients that I risk reacting negatively to.

Pjur Lubes

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex Lubes

I’ve enjoyed using Pjur lubricants over the years and like the way that there are several types of lubes in the range so you can choose one that closely meets your personal usage needs. Surprisingly, I can’t seem to view the exact formulation ingredients in detail/in full on their website – however, Lovehoney provide these details on their website (through the buy links below). The bottles of Pjur lube also have the ingredients in full printed on the labels.

In our Pjur lube reviews I’ve tried to always include a clear photo of the label where you can view the full list of ingredients for each Pjur lube we’ve reviewed. As I say, you can find full details for the Pjur lubes sold via Lovehoney through the following links:

Buy Pjur lubes: USA | Canada | Australia | Europe | UK

Lovehoney Lubes

Sexual Lubricants 101: Your Complete Guide To Sex Lubes

Lovehoney lubricants have improved over the years, in my opinion. When I first started reviewing lubricants by Lovehoney they seemed to me to be the typical mass produced, own-brand style lubes you could find throughout various online sex shops, with a Lovehoney label stuck on the front. In recent years it looks as though much more thought and research has gone into the lubricants produced under the Lovehoney brand name, with clear and opaque water-based formulations, a pure silicone lubricant, a different lube offered for anal adventures, some intriguing flavoured options and more.

One of my favourite lubes to grab for quick toy-based play sessions is Lovehoney Delight, which is creamy in colour, genuinely silky, doesn’t go claggy or sticky, keeps my vagina happy during and after use and is vegetarian/vegan friendly, too. It’s available in a pump dispenser bottle and priced to provide great value for money.

Buy Lovehoney lubes: USA | Canada | Australia | Europe | UK

Reviews: Browse all our Lovehoney product reviews

Further Reading

I’ll be writing detailed guides for the various types of lubricants we’ve briefly covered above, and I’ll link to them below once they’re published. I hope you’ve found my sexual lubricants 101: complete guide to sex lubes useful and that you now feel confident when it comes to selecting the right lube for your next sensual adventure.

Cara Sutra Signature

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