Everything You Need to Know About Lube (But Were Too Afraid to Ask)

Everything You Need to Know About Lube (But Were Too Afraid to Ask)

A few months ago, UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey sparked some irritation among sex educators and lube users everywhere when she told Maxim, “You should never need lube in your life. If you need lube, then you’re being lazy…and you’re not taking your time.” Her ill-informed statement prompted the creation of the hashtag #TweetYourLube, in which people shared their experiences and understanding of the value of lube (that is, personal lubricant used during sexual activity).

Unlike Ms. Rousey, I have been known to immediately shout out “LUBE!” as an answer to all sorts of questions, like, “What do you wish you could change about your ‘first time’?”; “What non-water liquid would you fill a swimming pool with?”; and “Talia, oh my God, why and how did you turn our hallway into a Slip ’N’ Slide?” So you can bet I’m excited to tell you all about it.


Why Use Lube?

Lube makes sex (by which I mean any and all types of sex acts) easier, more pleasurable, and safer. It is necessary and should be central in all early sexual activity, including masturbation, but many people don’t learn about it or start using it early enough. It can make manual sex more fun for everybody involved, oral sex tastier and easier if your mouth dries out, and vaginal sex smoother and more enjoyable. It is downright necessary for safe and pleasurable anal play, since the anus doesn’t self-lubricate. It even makes your condom less likely to break.

Let’s also remember that while the vulva, magical as it is, is capable of self-lubrication, there are many reasons it may not produce enough natural lubricant for the sex you want to have. These reasons include age, illness, various disabilities, history of sexual trauma, pelvic pain, stress, alcohol, medications ranging from antihistamines to hormonal birth control, and infinite variation in the ways different bodies work.

The idea of “need” when it comes to lube—or anything having to do with sexual pleasure—is even slipperier than the lube itself. Lube is often necessary for sexual pleasure. It is also just a good thing to have in your Sexual Toolbox (which is, incidentally, what I will one day call my sex-education-themed band). There’s no shame in using it, so start figuring out how to make it work best for you!

Types of Lube

Water-Based Lube

Water-based lube holds a special place in my heart because of my tenth grade health class, when I touched a condom for the first time and was horrified to find that it came out of the package wet and slippery.

Don’t be horrified, and use more lube than the amount that comes on the condom. Water-based lube is safe to use with latex condoms or gloves, and cream or gel varieties can be great for anal play, as they offer a thicker consistency. But always check the ingredients for the sugar alcohol glycerin (especially on flavored lubes), which can increase the risk of yeast infections, and for parabens, which can be a skin irritant.

Silicon-Based Lube

Silicone lube is also safe for use with condoms, and it is waterproof, hypoallergenic, flavorless, and #flawless. Whereas water-based lube can dry out and become sticky, silicone lube does not absorb into your skin, so it lasts a long time – also making it a popular option for anal play. On an otherwise dull day, you might find me in my local sex shop tenderly cradling a small bottle of high-quality silicone lube with the love and reverence it deserves.

Hybrid Lubes

Hybrid lubes combine water-based and silicone lube, which is great if you love both silicone lube and silicone sex toys. Silicone lube can ruin your silicone toy, because the molecules bond together. Hybrid lubes allow you to enjoy the texture and longevity of silicone lube while also using it with any sex toy.

Oil-Based Lubes

Oil-based lubes sometimes get less love, because they degrade latex and thus cannot be used with any kind of latex safer sex methods like condoms and gloves. Some oil-based lubes with non-sexual uses as well, such as coconut oil or vegetable oil, are popular because they can be cheaper and seem more “natural,” but they can still stain fabric and destroy latex.

Always avoid lube that advertises itself as fundamentally altering your body’s natural reactions – heating, cooling, desensitizing. Your body experiences pain and pleasure the way it does for a reason, and you should always be able to tell when an activity is painful.

Choosing, Using, and Buying

You can buy lube in most drugstores, pharmacies, grocery stores, online, and certainly in sex shops (if you are over eighteen). Your healthcare provider should also be able to offer you lube samples (and condoms), and most community or campus health centers will provide the same. Samples are a great way to figure out what you like, as are testers in shops. Use the opportunity to check out how they feel on your hands, and how they smell and taste if you’re planning on using lube for oral sex.

Whether you’re using it on your own, with a partner, or to make your hallway into a Slip ’N’ Slide, lube is an easy and effective way to improve your sexual experiences. Like with anything else, try it out, find what works, and enjoy the mess and pleasure and awesomeness that inevitably follows.

Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.