Have you seen the episode of Grace and Frankie, a Netflix series starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, in which Frankie (Tomlin) creates her own organic homemade yam lube? Grace (Fonda) and Frankie are older women in their sixties who aren’t afraid to explore their sexuality and talk about it. We’re fans of the series because it busts the stigma that sex is only for the young and beautiful — there aren’t nearly enough examples in the media of older women enjoying a healthy, robust sex life. While it’s easy to assume sex tools and toys — and sex itself — are reserved only for those under the age of 40, it’s important to remember that physical connection and intimacy are desires that don’t suddenly disappear after someone turns 50, 60, 70, or beyond.
In fact, it may make even more sense to use sexual wellness products like lubricant as you age to combat symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause. To help break the silence around older women and sex, we looked into why lube is a product that should stay on your nightstand for good.
Perimenopause and menopause
The average age of menopause — the end of a woman’s reproductive years — in the United States is 51. But a woman may be transitioning into menopause and experiencing symptoms for an average of four years — and sometimes as many as ten — before the actual onset of menopause. Meaning, it’s normal to start dealing with menopause symptoms in your early forties. This transition into menopause is known as “perimenopause,” which translates to “around menopause.”
During perimenopause, a woman’s sex hormone levels (primarily estrogen and progesterone) slowly decrease until they plummet and plateau. Imagine a chart with many spikes that downtrend over time (perimenopause) and eventually plateau at the lowest point (menopause). When a woman hasn’t had her period for 12 consecutive months (during the perimenopausal transition, it’s common to menstruate on and off again), she has officially reached menopause and is no longer fertile.
Older women and lube
The fluctuations and drop in hormones result in a number of symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, sleep troubles, and vaginal dryness. In terms of vaginal dryness, the hormone estrogen is largely responsible for keeping the genital tissues moist, lubricated, thick, and elastic. So, when estrogen levels decline during perimenopause and menopause, these tissues become dry, thin, and less supple. As you can probably guess, this can lead to uncomfortable or painful masturbation, manual stimulation, and intercourse.
This is exactly why lube can be a great option for older women. If they struggle with vaginal dryness, lube works to enhance moisture, decrease friction, and thus increase pleasure.
What real women have to say
But don’t just take our word for it. We spoke with three older women who use lubricant in the bedroom. Here’s what they have to say about the importance of the product as well as some of their tips and tricks:
“Around the time I turned 50, my husband and I noticed apparent changes in my wetness down there. We’re still very much in love and enjoy being physical. I asked my OBGYN for advice and she recommended we use lubricant to help things along. I even have a travel size that we take with us on vacation.” – Rose, 58
“I understand that it may be hard for some women to come to terms with the idea that their body is changing and aging. But using lubricant and spending more time on foreplay to make things as slick as possible down there actually improved our sex life. For example, having my partner squeeze a few drops of lube and apply it to my vulva and vagina is really sexy. Dedicating more time to foreplay forced us to experiment and makes us feel more connected before moving on to intercourse.” – Deborah, 63
“Before I was 50, we never needed lube, we only used it when we were craving something a little different — it was more like toy rather than a necessity. But when sex started becoming painful, lubricant became a necessity. I remember thinking to myself, ‘This just means I need more tools to enjoy something I love.’ I used to be able to just go for a four mile run. But now that I’m 54, I have to wear special running shoes and have two Advil for afterwards. But I can still enjoy running. I can still enjoy sex! I just need a little support.” – Janie, 54
Choosing a lube: don’t slip up
If you decide to give lube a shot, making your own organic version à la Frankie may not be the most viable option. When selecting a lubricant, just make sure to check out the ingredient list. Look for those that are free of parabens, petrochemicals (these, like ethylene, are derived from petroleum — no one wants this in their vagina), and artificial fragrances and flavors (just say no to mint chocolate chip or bacon-flavored lube), which can disrupt the natural pH of the vagina. This can lead to a host of other problems beyond vaginal dryness, like yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. A water-based lube, (as opposed to oil-based), mimic the vagina’s natural moisture and are safe to use with all sex toys and condoms — oil-based lubricants are known to cause latex condoms to break down or tear.
Along with Frankie and the bold, honest women above, we’re passionate about creating more dialogue around sex during all stages of a woman’s life, from her teenage years, to menopause, and beyond. Along with a healthy, fulfilling sex life, lubricant is a product that’s great to have along for the entire ride.