One big question: are you down with the slickness? If you haven’t yet incorporated lubricant into your sexual toolkit, consider this a sexy, sexy sign from the universe to get slippery. Traditionally, lubricant fell into one of two categories: a medical necessity or a bit of a novelty item. However, lube is actually one of the most universal sexual accessories that deserves to make a regular appearance in your sex life, rather than a one-off guest spot. Like a particularly open-minded date, its appeal lies in its versatility: it’s suitable for adding a slick touch to both masturbation and partnered sex. Put simply, the power of lube is threefold: it increases pleasurable sensations, eases penetration, and importantly, reduces discomfort.
Talking about the less enjoyable aspects of sex is still taboo for many people. Bringing up discomfort in the bedroom (or bathroom, living room, kitchen floor) can sometimes feel like you’re criticising a partner’s sexual performance, and maybe make you question your abilities as a sexual being or even feel like you’re just not that into sex. A lack of open discourse leaves many people unsure how to bring up the topic, and worst case, resigned to uncomfortable, or even painful, sexual experiences.
So, what can cause sexual discomfort?
It’s all about friction. Putting our physics teacher hat on, friction is the force between two surfaces sliding together. Yes, sounds like sex to us! Now, imagine those surfaces being highly sensitive soft tissue – that’s a recipe for soreness and even real damage. Ultimately, reducing friction during sex is healthier for our bodies. If you’re having penetrative vaginal sex, lubricant can help to avoid any tears or abrasions to the vaginal wall, as these can increase your risk of being susceptible to infections. Damage to the epithelium (the surface of your vaginal tissue) isn’t just uncomfortable, but it can also increase your risk of contracting STIs, as sexual acts that tear or break the skin carry a higher risk. Similarly, the anus is a much tighter canal, so remember to use plenty of lubricant when having anal sex.
How To Choose The Right Lube
When embarking on your lubricant odyssey, prepare to get stuck into the nitty gritty of ingredients lists. There are three main varieties of lube out there: oil-based, water-based and silicon-based. Water-based lubricants contain xanthan gum or agar agar, natural thickeners found in plants which give the lubricant its smooth texture. Oil-based lubricants may contain plant-based oils such as sunflower seed oil, sweet almond oil or coconut oil, and others may contain synthetic oils.
When deciding what type of lube you’d like to try, there are key considerations to take into account. Whilst oil might sound like the ultimate in slippery fun, it’s not all sliding straight into home base. Yes, it has the ability to nourish dry skin, but oil-based lubes actually can’t correct underlying dehydration because it only soothes the surface, rather than the deeper levels of the skin and tissue. An even bigger red flag: oil-based formulas trap bacteria, creating the perfect environment for yeast infections for both partners. If you’re using it to lube up your sex toys, make sure to thoroughly clean them afterwards or they’ll become a breeding ground for the nasties.
Using condoms to protect against STIs and/or unwanted pregnancy?
The most popular condoms are made from latex, and because they’re made from natural rubber, you need to be especially careful about which type of lube you use with them. Make sure to avoid all oil-based lubricants (including baby oil, coconut oil and vaseline) as the oil present can break down the latex causing it to split or break. Water-based lubricant is the safest option to use with latex condoms as it minimises the chances of the condom splitting and importantly for house proud lovers, doesn’t stain and is a lot easier to clean up afterwards.
In fact, water based lubricant has many properties that might just make it your new BFF. Unlike oil, it doesn’t trap or encourage the growth of bacteria. When we were developing our own water-based lubricant, we wanted to address some of the key issues with options from leading brands. We’re all far savvier than ever before about the ingredients in our skincare routines, and the same should be said for our choice of lubricant. Many formulas contain parabens, unnecessary and irritating petrochemicals and glycerin, which should be an immediate no-no. Glycerin is a humectant and helps to retain water, which is why it’s often found in standard offerings. However, it also feeds yeast, encourages candida to grow and can lead to yeast infections.
Silicone lubricant is a super slippery option that can be great for anal sex
It’s important to know that it can possibly irritate people with sensitive skin and cannot be used with silicon sex toys, as the silicon reacts with itself and can break down your favourite vibe, plug or dildo. If you do choose silicon-based formula, check the packaging to make sure it’s condom-safe, too.
Finally, as a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to stay away from flavoured lube, as the sugar present can increase your risk of yeast infections. If you have a vagina, choose a lube that has a pH as close as possible to your natural pH, which is between 3.8 and 4.5.
Misconceptions around Lube
People with vaginas tend to produce a natural lubricant when turned on during foreplay or sex itself. However, the amount of natural lube produced will vary depending on the person and their totally unique body. Every body is different so no matter how aroused you are, you or your partner may not produce enough natural lubricant to prevent friction when you’re having sex. When formulating our own Lubricant, we surveyed over 5000 people and found that 76% associated wetness with arousal. Contrary to persistent stereotypes, a lack of natural lube is no reflection on your arousal level, the hotness of your partner or your sex appeal. There’s a further association between lube and not having a healthy sex drive, or not being turned on by the person that you’re have sex with. Misconceptions that lube is purely for postmenopausal people or those experiencing illnesses mean that it’s not readily incorporated into our sex lives – and that cultural messaging leaves a lot of people missing out on fun.