Personal lubricants are a fun, inexpensive way to enhance sexual pleasure. It is a myth that being aroused and wanting sex makes women wet enough for easy penetration.
The amount of natural lubrication a woman produces varies throughout the month depending on where she is in her menstrual cycle, how old she is and other factors including stress, tiredness, dehydration, medication, hormones and contraception.
Oestrogen levels naturally fall as we age which can lead to vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy can be a problem. Penetrative sex can cause friction, leaving small tears in the tissues which can feel uncomfortable and even lead to infection or irritation. This can have a massive impact on body confidence and libido.
Health Benefits of Lubricants
Lubricants can help prevent vaginal and bladder infections because they make things more slippy. The friction that builds during quickies or rough sex encourages heat and bacterial growth. Inadequate lubrication can also make condoms split, so being wetter makes sex safer. You can also use lubes for body massage to encourage a little slip and slide and it makes getting into kinky clothing much easier.
The only natural lubrication a man produces is pre-cum on the tip of the penis, which may not be enough to make penetration comfortable and it won’t help if you are using condoms for safer sex. The anus doesn’t self-lubricate so using a suitable anal lube is essential to prevent tearing and soreness.
Aside from the health benefits lube feels great. A study* carried out at Indiana University involving 2,453 women aged 18-68 found that lube used for solo sex or with a partner made sex more pleasurable and satisfying. There were fewer side effects associated with sex such as genital pain and vaginal tears, which can increase the risk of STIs and HIV transmission.
The three types of lubricant
- Water-based – gentle, mild and safe to use with all sex toys and contraceptives. The best lubricant for those of you with very sensitive skin, as water-based is the purest form of lubricant. Dries with exposure to air so you’ll need to reapply or reactivate with water. It is important to avoid producst that contain glcyerin, glycols or parabens as these can cause thrush, bacterial vaginosis (BV) and irritation.
- Silicone-based – longer lasts but may stain sheets and clothing and you will need to spend more time to wash off. Ideal for water play as it is waterproof and also great for anal play. Some people may find it can irritate sensitive skin which is why it is important to do a skin test as you should with any sexual lubricant. It’s also incompatible with silicone sex toys but great to use with metal or glass sex toys.
- Oil-based – thicker formulation that is longer lasting and great for mutual mastubration. Don’t use it with latex products, such as condoms, as it will destroy the material. Some people like to use Vaseline or baby oil but this isn’t advisable for intimate use as it can irritate the skin and neither has been designed for sexual use as a lubricant. Coconut oil and Olive Oil are often used as natural alternatives , however the research is unclear as to the impact upon vagina health and both will destroy condoms too. Oil-based lubricants from YES Organic are 100% skin-safe for intimate use.
Research published in The Ecologist** shows that some brands can affect fertility by slowing down sperm motility and affecting their quality. This is bad news for couples that are planning a pregnancy. In a 2005 study, Replens was found to slow sperm down in 89% of cases and Astroglide by 60%. The viscosity of KY jelly has also been found to slow sperm down by affecting their motility. If you are concerned about this, check out brands such as Pre-Seed and YES Baby, which are sperm-safe.
How to use Lubricant
A couple of drops warmed in the palm of your hand can be sensually massaged over the vulva, inside the vagina and on the penis and around the anus.
Cool it down in the fridge or run the bottle under hot water to change the sensation. Explore fruity flavours for oral sex (avoid using these lubricants for peentrative sex as they contain flavourings that canc ause thrush or BV). Keep some ice cubes handy to refresh water-based lube. Add a drop of water-based lube to the inside tip of a condom as well as the outside to increase sensation. Less is more to begin with – too much will make it difficult to generate enough friction.
Spread a little anal lube designed for anal play before experimenting with beads or butt plugs. Used on toys it can enhance solo and couples’ play and make penetration easier if you’re in the bath or shower.
Which lubricants to avoid? Which lubricants do you recommend?
We always recommend you use lubricants that are pH balanced to maintain optimum vagina health.
Petroleum jelly, hand cream, Bio Oil, low fat spread, lard and butter are not sexual lubricants.
If you are one of the many women who do find their vagina health is impaired by using sexual lubricants or substances that are not balanced to the pH of the vagina, it is advisable to stop using it. Always do a skin test before use and wash it off immediately if you feel stinging, burning or itching.
If you know that you have a sensitive vagina or bladder, it is advisable to avoid lubes containing glycerine/glycols if you suffer from vaginal or bladder infections as it may irritate the skin. Parabens and propylene glycol aren’t recommended ingredients as they can be oestrogenic. We don’t know the long-term effects of accumulative use of parabens in sex toys and lubes as not enough research has been conducted at present.
There are several excellent pH balanced sexual lubricants available on prescription, however some do contain parabens or glycerol, or are not pH balanced to that of the vagina flora so always ask what they contain before being prescribed by your doctor. You can always ask to change to another product if you find the prescribed lubricant is affecting your vagina health.
Some lubricant manufacturers will send you a sample to try which is a great idea or you can ask your GP or practice nurse if they have samples . You may have to try a few brands before you find a product that works for you.
Some lubricants contain perfumes, dyes and flavourings that can be absorbed by the skin, causing allergic reactions and irritation. Some lubricants contain chemicals to create a tingling/cooling feeling in the genital area to enhance your sexual pleasure.
It is advisable to avoid any lubricants containing perfume, dyes, flavouring or skin tingling chemicals if you suffer from allergies or skin sensitivities. If you do experience any burning, stinging or itching, it should be washed off immediately.
Many sexual lubricants are not pH balanced to the pH of the vagina 3.8-4.5 which can upset the delicate balanced of the vagina flora. Some water based products, such as KY jelly have a high osmolarity which can irritate the vagina walls and exacerbate vaginal dryness, not ease it.
It is recommended that you do not use silicone lubricants with silicone sex toys as they can damage the material of the product.
Keep things simple with a natural, organic lube from YES, which is gentle on the skin, scientifically tested and won’t affect vaginal pH.
Another important way to keep your vagina/vulva happy and healthy is to ditch the feminine hygiene products, none of which we need. In fact the majority can and do destroy our good vaginal bacteria and cause vaginal/vulval irritation, exacerbating sympotms, not alleviating them.
Lubricant can speed up sex but it isn’t a substitute for sexual arousal – most women need more foreplay than the average 10 minutes. If you are using lube but sex is still uncomfortable and tight, see a GP and get your hormone levels tested.
Hormone replacement therapy comes in many forms, including vaginal rings and pessaries that release a low dose of oestrogen into the vaginal area only. Regular exercise and staying hydrated will also help your body produce more natural lubrication during arousal – in addition to making you look and feel more beautiful!
At Jo Divine we are passionate about sexual health and pleasure and only recommend skin safe sex toys and pH balanced sexual lubricants.
- For further detailed information about specific types of Lubricant, read Jo Divine’s Introduction to Water-Based, Oil-Based and Silicone-Based Lubricant guides.
- Alternatively, contact the Jo Divine Customer Service Team on 01892 888284 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, who will be more than happy to advise you of the most suitable lubricants available at Jo Divine that meet your needs.
*Study conducted by Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at IU’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
***http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13697137.2015.1124259- D.Edwards and N.Panay (2016) Treating vulvovaginal/genitourinary syndrome of menopause:how important is vaginal lubricant and moisturiser composition? – Climacteric, 19:2 151-161