Breaking news: It’s time to make the stigma surrounding lubricant a thing of the past. Using lubricant can make sex way more pleasurable, and in the end, isn’t that what we all want? There are a variety of reasons why a woman could be aroused but not wet including stress and changes in hormones. Needing a couple pumps of lubricant is really just that — no big deal.
“Lack of lubrication or vaginal dryness can contribute to or cause pain with sex,” says Dr. Rachel Gelman, the branch director of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center. “Adding lubrication may not address the underlying cause, such as a hormonal imbalance, but it can definitely help decrease the symptoms.” One study also found that women who used lubricant reported significantly higher levels of sexual satisfaction when lubricant was used during their sexual encounter.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the different types of lubricant. There are a ton of options on the market, and it can be difficult to figure out which one to buy. To help you choose the best one for your needs, we asked Gelman to break down the difference between the two most common types of lubricants: water-based and silicone. Consider this a crash course.
“[Water-based lubricants] can be used with condoms and sex toys, but they can ‘dry’ up quickly since they’re easily absorbed,” Gelman says. This is also not the best type of lubricant to use if you’re getting down somewhere where there’s water, like a shower. That’s because they’re easily washed away.
Silicone-based lubricants last longer than water-based lubricants, says Gelman, which is a check in the pro column. (This is the type of lubricant you want to use for that aforementioned shower sex, FYI.) They can be used with condoms. However, don’t use a silicone-based lubricant with sex toys. Most sex toys are made out of silicone, and using a silicone lubricant can damage them. That’s because the silicone in the lubricant reacts to the silicone of the toy, causing the material to degrade. (And it would be really sad to ruin your vibrator.)
Not all lubricants are made equal
When choosing a lubricant, it’s also important to think about quality. It is, after all, going to be in or near intimate parts of your body. “Ideally you want a lubricant without parabens, glycols, microbicides, and preservatives,” Gelman says. Also, try and choose one that’s similar to your body’s pH. “A healthy, happy vagina has a pH of 3.8-4.5 and the rectum is around 7.0, so you want a lubricant that matches or is a slightly higher pH than your natural environment,” says Gelman. (If you’re thinking, Wow, I never thought I would know the pH of my rectum, same.)
So how do you know what the pH of your lubricant is without breaking out those weird strips you used in chemistry class? Simply read the labels. Lubricants that are pH balanced will usually say so on the label or on their site.
One final word to the wise, from me to you: maybe steer clear of flavored lubricant. This writer not-so-fondly recalls an experience with one that was supposed to taste like green apple … and no. In addition to it never tasting as good as you think, flavored lubricant can contain sugar and artificial flavors that can cause irritation. And, I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly want to be putting artificial flavors anywhere near my private parts. (Plus, sugar can throw off the pH of your vagina.)
To recap the two things I really want you to take away from this article: Sex can be so much more fun with a little bit of quality lube, and the pH of your rectum is 7.0. Now go forth and have amazing sex.