Yes, we’ll admit it, all those options can be rather scary. You just want something that makes things slippery (cause you know that less friction feels good and makes play more safe), but does it really have to be so hard to choose a bottle of lube? Oil-based, water-based, silicone-based, vegan, glycerin-free, paraben-free…What do all those labels mean, and what do they mean for you? Well here’s the long and short of it:
Oil-based lube is great because it’s super long-lasting. It’s also ideal for hand-jobs and genital massage. It’s not great at all, however, if you’re using latex or polyisoprene barriers. Oil and latex/polyisoprene are NOT compatible, as oil degrades latex and polyisoprene which leads to breakage.
If you’re not using latex or polyisoprene barriers, here is some food for thought …
Oil-based lubes come in two basic categories: mineral and vegetable. Some people think that mineral oil makes an effective lube for sex, while others firmly believe it can disrupt the vaginal ecosystem, leading to infection. While the jury’s still out, we don’t recommend using mineral oils, such as baby oil or vaseline, as they’re derived from petroleum (or crude oil). Petroleum-based products can prevent the body’s tissues from “breathing”, which may create an environment ripe for imbalance. So why take that chance? Conversely, vegetable oils are natural oils derived from plants or flowers. They include pure almond, olive, coconut, grape seed, apricot, and avocado oils. These oils are unlikely to cause infection as they nourish and soothe the body. So, if you prefer oil-based lube, go veggie!
Silicone-based lube is also very long-lasting and latex-friendly, tasteless, and non-sticky, making it an excellent choice for play that involves barriers. And while it may be more expensive, a little goes a long way. And did we mention that it’s waterproof too? So it won’t wash off in the shower or the pool… Unfortunately, for those extra-sensitive vaginas, silicone lube can sometimes stick around too long, helping to create a breeding ground for bacteria that might also lead to infection. It’s also not compatible with many silicone toys, so if you’re play involves silicone dildos or vibes, you might want to try another kind of lube. You might classify silicone lube as multi-purpose with some exceptions.
Water-based lube is a great all-purpose lube—latex friendly, compatible with silicone toys, and (if it’s glycerin-free and pH- balanced) inoffensive to the vagina’s pH. Water-based lube works for any kind of play, but it’s not as long-lasting as silicone or oil, so you’ll need to keep the bottle handy (or add some spit or water to regenerate it). Water-based lubes come in a variety of consistencies—thick, thin, sticky, smooth—and can even be flavoured (or have a flavor you’d prefer to do without, a great reason to smell/taste a lube before you buy it). They also wash off in the water, so you’ll need something else to play in the shower. Consider choosing a thick lube for anal play (it’ll stay in place better and provide more cushion), but otherwise it’s really up to you!
- If you or someone you play with is prone to yeast infections, you may want to consider choosing a glycerin-free lube. It is said that glycerin breaks down in the body like sugar, and yeast feeds on sugar.
- If you’re vegan and are choosing a lube with glycerin, make sure the glycerin is from a vegetable source. This is normally indicated on the bottle as “vegetable” or “veggie” glycerin, but some companies don’t specify.
- You might want to choose a lube that’s paraben-free. Parabens are chemical preservatives often added to cosmetic products. They mimic estrogen and have been linked to breast cancer, so they’re not so great for the environment or your body. As an environmentally conscious consumer, you also have the option of organic lubes made from organic and natural ingredients.
… There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?