What Nobody Told You About Lube

by Natalia Lusinski

You may hear about how lube is good for your sex life, see it on store shelves, and use it… but do you know what, exactly, you’re putting on — and in — your body? Have you only used water-based ones, not silicone? Or vice-versa? What about flavored ones (like banana, bubble gum, and even bacon)? Pop quiz: Do you know which you can use with sex toys, and which you cannot? Or have you never used any at all? Some people, like Ronda Rousey, feel there’s no need for it whatsoever.

In any case, which one is best?

Some complain of painful sex and wonder if certain positions are to blame. “Quite frankly, it’s not position as much as being well-lubricated,” says Lauren Streicher MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, and author of Sex Rx-Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever, to Bustle.

Astroglide's Resident Sexologist, Dr. Jess, is also pro-lube, of course. “Lube revolutionizes sex lives and opens up a world of erotic possibilities,” she tells Bustle. “However, communication, creativity and a willingness to explore a range of techniques and approaches are even more important.”

So, what’s a couple to do? From my research, mix and match is the answer, depending on what you’d like the outcome to be. In talking with sexperts, here are a few easy tips to keep in mind.

1. You Should Read The Ingredients

Just like we (should) look at food labels when we grocery shop, the same goes with lubricants. Some sexperts say to avoid synthetic fragrances, parabens, and propylene glycol. (Don’t those sound safe?!) Plus, beware of what's in flavored lubes (like sugar!), as fun and as tasty as they may sound. They may seem harmless in the moment, but could surprise you with unwanted side effects (like yeast infections or UTIs).

2. All Lubes Are Not Created Equal

Basically, there are two primary types: sticky versus smooth, meaning water-based versus silicone. Now, there’s also more and more hybrid lubes out there, too, like Sliquid, which are a mixture of both. Not to mention, there are warming ones and all sorts of others, as well. Plus, make sure you read the fine print to see which can be used with what type of condom(s).

“Lubricants are not all created equally and I have a whole chapter on it in my book," Dr. Streicher says. "Silicone is the most slippery, as opposed to water-based, which is sticky and doesn’t last as long. Avoid ones with additives and preservatives. Water-based ones with glycerin can promote growth of bacteria and yeast, and they have lots of preservatives, too.”

Somehow, I now feel I am talking about food.

“Silicone ones are the safest and hypoallergenic," Dr. Streicher says. "They stay on the surface of your skin and have no preservatives. They’re healthier, if you will.” To her patients, she recommends Replens Silky Smooth and Pjur. I went to test these out (see #3) and I have to say... they were smoooooth.

“Silicone-based lubes are more slippery and longer lasting, but the preference for water-based versus silicone-based formulas is of a personal nature," says Dr. Jess. "Many of my clients opt for Astroglide’s Natural water-based version, which moisturizes with natural plant extracts. They describe the Natural version as slippery, but gentle on the skin and report that it blends well with the body’s organic fluids. It is also my personal lube of choice, as I have sensitive skin both my partner and I really like its consistency.”

3. You Can Test It Out... On Your Hands

Many high-end sex stores, like the lovely G Boutique in Chicago, have tester bottles of lube on the shelves for you to try out. (No, not that way, but on your hands!) That way, you can feel the consistency, see how hard (or easy) they are to remove with a Kleenex, see how soft or sticky they feel on your skin, and so on. For instance, though the silicone ones were as smooth as silk, I found them difficult to wash off my hands, even with a few rounds of soap and water. And the hybrid one I tried was smooth at first, then became sticky like the water-based ones.

4. The Type Of Lube You Use Depends On Where You Are

Are you going to have shower sex or non-water sex? For water-based sex, you’ll need to use silicone lube. Water (or no lube) won’t work. “Others like a thicker solution like Astroglide’s Diamond Silicone Gel, which is waterproof and very long-lasting,” says Dr. Jess. “It is suited to a wide range of activities and a few of my clients describe it as ‘soothing.’” Of course, the only way to see if this is true is to test it out for yourself!

5. Toys Matter, Too

Do not use silicone lube on silicone toys (which account for many of them). However, water-based lubricant can be used with toys, so you may want to keep both types on hand (so to speak). “The major advantage of a water-based lube is, it’s cheaper and you can use it with a silicone toy,” says Dr. Streicher. “Silicone lube, you cannot use with a silicone toy, unless you put a condom over the toy.” Hmm. Doesn't sound especially romantic, does it? But it makes sense.

6. Coconut Oil, Anyone?

I first learned that people use coconut oil as a sexual lubricant when I saw that a guy friend had a mostly-empty jar of it in his kitchen cabinet… but little else in the way of food or ingredients. He turned pink and stammered that it’s not for cooking… not in the kitchen or with food, at least. Poor guy. Later, when he was less embarrassed, he said it’s the best thing he’d ever used. I’ve read and heard about couples using coconut oil together as a lube, too, so you never know. And it has pure ingredients, that’s for sure.

7. It Can Stain

When you read the labels, make sure you read the fine print about if said lube stains, and/or read online reviews, too (like on Amazon). You don’t want to ruin your 2,000-thread count sheets for no reason. (Well, for a great reason, but some are bound to stain less than others.)

8. You Can Make Your Own Lube With Just Two Ingredients

Yes, can make your own lubricant — with just water and flaxseeds (!). Who knew?! Here's an easy how-to, which is basically boiling water and flaxseeds together and watching, like magic, as they form into your future more-comfortable-sex solution!

Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our video on sex positions for small penises:

Images: Andrew Zaeh/Bustle; Giphy