The Best Lube for *Every* Type of Situation And How to Use Them

by Mara Santilli · February 1, 2022
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Not all lubes are created equal. Whether you want to invest in your sexual health or need lube for medical reasons, we’ve rounded up the best lubricants to help you feel your best in bed.

Let’s get this straight: You shouldn’t feel embarrassed to use personal lubricant—you should feel empowered to use in order to make a variety of sexual experiences even more enjoyable, whether those are solo or partnered experiences. Using a lube can be just as much a part of your sexual wellness journey as things like communicating with your partner, taking a vaginal probiotic if you have a vagina, or doing kegel exercises regularly, as it can drastically improve vaginal dryness

Before you head to the store and select the first lube you see on the shelf, there are some things you should consider: Are you planning to use it for more lubrication during vaginal sex, or to explore masturbation or anal play? Is your skin sensitive to certain products or ingredients? That will help you narrow down your choices and find the best lube for sex.  

Read on to understand exactly why you need lube in your (sex) life, what the main types of lubes are, and which lube to keep on hand for which kind of sexual activity—along with some product recommendations for the best lubricant for your body. 

Why Should You Try A Lube?

best lubricants woman in bed

Lube has somewhat of a bad reputation. “People think, ‘If you’re excited, then you should be naturally lubricated’…and people are hesitant to use it because they might feel like they’re insulting their partner,” says Susan Milstein, PhD, lead consultant at Milstein Health Consulting and member of the Advisory Board for the Men’s Health Network and for the American Journal of Sexuality Education. But that’s not necessarily the full picture. In reality, there are endless uses for lube and ways it can enhance any kind of sex—which shouldn’t feel uncomfortable or painful—as well as eliminate some vaginal dryness that may naturally occur. 

If you deal with vaginal dryness, understand that it’s not your fault (or your partner’s fault, if you have a partner). If you have frequent recurrences of any kind of vaginal infection, such as a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or vaginitis (an irritation of the vagina that might result from an imbalance of bacteria in the vaginal microbiome), dryness is a common side effect, explains Monica Grover, MD, head gynecologist at VSPOT Sexual Health Spa. Perimenopause and menopause are also two (pretty long) periods of time in which it’s typical to experience less lubrication. That’s because estrogen, the hormone responsible for some of that lubrication, drops off during those major hormonal changes. 

Other periods of hormonal change might contribute to vaginal dryness, including the postpartum period, especially if you are breastfeeding. The lower estrogen levels during that time often affect the vaginal tissues and cause dryness. “Similarly, irregular menstrual periods are often caused by fluctuations of estrogen, and when there are dips of the hormone, vaginal dryness can ensue,” says Dr. Grover. For the same reason, you might need to use more lube if you’re on certain medications, including hormonal birth control, which may eliminate some of that natural estrogen in your body, and some anti-depressants, which can affect your sex drive in general and make lubrication more of a challenge. 

All of these are completely normal reasons to use lube, regardless of what sexual activity you’re gearing up for. 

The Main Types of Lube

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It can feel a bit overwhelming to shop for lube. Between keeping track of the ingredients that suit your skin and won’t irritate your delicate vaginal pH, and deciphering which type of lube is appropriate for which type of sex you’re interested in having. That’s why we put together this guide of the three types of lube: water-based, oil-based, and silicone-based. Note that you may want to stock up on all of them so that you have them on hand for whatever occasion arises. 

Water-Based Lube

Water-soluble lubes (some of which contain other materials, including aloe) are the gold standard for all types of sex. They tend to be non-irritating for most people and are also safe to use with condoms. But water-based lubes are not the best if you want to have shower sex, as they’ll dissolve quickly in water, Dr. Milstein points out. In general, these have a thinner consistency, so you may need to reapply more frequently. 

Oil-Based Lube

In the past, most lubes were made with oil-based materials like petroleum. Oil-based lubes have a  thicker consistency, which may make them the best anal lube or lube for certain sex toys.. But from a health perspective, they may not always be the best option: Certain ingredients in oil-based lubes can disrupt your vaginal pH and contribute to yeast infections), Dr. Grover says. In addition, they aren’t compatible with latex condoms because they can degrade the condom material and cause holes. The oil may potentially leave a stain on certain bed sheets and fabrics as well. 

Silicone-Based Lube 

Silicone lube, like oil-based lube, will feel thicker and can provide longer-lasting lubrication for activities like anal play or just for vaginal sex, specifically if you want to hop in the shower or tub and involve water. They’re not compatible with silicone sex toys, though, because they can dissolve the material. Keep in mind that not all sex toys are made from silicone—some are high-grade metal or glass, so those are fine to use with this type of lube, says Dr. Milstein. 

How to Choose the Best Lubricant for Sex

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When it comes to selecting the best lube for your vaginal health, consider avoiding certain potentially irritating ingredients. For example, parabens (a group of chemical preservatives) can possibly lead to vaginal rashes, so it’s best to look for something labeled “paraben-free.” Other ingredients to keep an eye out for are petroleum and glycerin. “Lubricants containing glycerin or petroleum can cause pH imbalances and therefore yeast infections because they either feed the yeast in the [vaginal] flora or have a pH higher than 4.5,” says Dr. Grover. 

The pH of the lube is important too, and should be listed on the bottle so that you can match your vaginal pH (which can naturally change as you get closer to menopause), adds Dr. Milstein. “The vagina is slightly acidic, so you want to find a lube that’s in the same pH, about the 3.5 to 4.5 range,” she says. A pH-balanced lube is the least likely to disrupt your vaginal health. For anal sex, go with a lube that has a slightly higher pH, since the pH of the rectum is between 7 and 8, and you want to match that. That means you won’t want to use the same lube for anal sex as you would for vaginal sex, according to Dr. Milstein. 

Personal preferences factor into your decision as well. For example, a fragrance-free lubricant might be the best lube for sensitive skin (or for those who are sensitive to strong scents).  Dr. Milstein suggests that you get a small trial version of whatever lube you’re thinking of using and test it elsewhere on your skin, like your elbow or wrist, if your skin is particularly sensitive. 

How to Use Lube

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In most cases, you’ll want to apply lube before you get going with any sexual activity. For vaginal sex, apply it directly to your skin (or have a partner do that) and if you’re using condoms, apply it to the outside of the condom as well. Pro tip: Putting a drop of lube inside the condom can make it a more pleasurable experience for that person, says Dr. Milstein. If you’re using a sex toy, either during masturbation or partnered play, put a little bit of lube on the sex toy first, and apply more to yourself. Some people might choose to use a latex condom on a vibrator to keep it clean. If that’s the case, you shouldn’t use oil-based lube (unless it’s a newer condom fabric like polyisoprene, which is safe to use with any kind of lube), Dr. Milstein adds. 

When applying lube to the vulva for any purpose, use about a dime-sized amount at a time, and feel free to reapply with another dime-sized amount multiple times during intercourse or masturbation, advises Dr. Grover. Using too much lube could alter your vaginal pH and even draw out moisture from the cells of the vaginal tissue and increase dryness, making you more dependent on lube over time, she adds. 

For any kind of anal play, go slowly and use plenty of lube, since you won’t be working with the same natural stretch the vagina has, Dr. Milstein says. And of course, don’t jump into full penetration if you haven’t done it before—you’ll have to work your way there slowly and with extra lubrication.

The Best Lubes For Sex You Can Buy Right Now

Best Fragrance- and Chemical-Free Lube

AH! YES Organic Water-Based Personal Lubricant, $7.50

This is one of Dr. Milstein’s top picks because the packaging notes that it’s matched to vaginal pH. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic and made without parabens, fragrances, or any other potential skin irritants. 

Best Lube for Comfortable Use With Condoms: 

Lora DiCarlo Fluid Aqua Water-Based Lubricant, $16 

“Water-based lubricants like Lora DiCarlo Fluid Aqua are the most compatible for sex toys and intercourse with condoms because they will not wear down their protective latex coating,” says Dr. Grover. And because it isn’t oil-based, it won’t get greasy or stain your sheets. 

Best Lube to Increase Sensitivity: 

VSPOT OH- 4 Play Arousal Serum, $45

If you’re going for vaginal sex (or even exploring solo), try an arousal serum that’ll increase sensation and your natural lubrication, Dr. Grover recommends. The secret ingredient is L-arginine, a vasodilator, which increases blood flow to the genital area when applied. 

Best Lube for Masturbation or Partnered Play With Sex Toys

Woo More Play Coconut Love Oil, $25

For a slightly thicker lube that’ll help toys glide better, try this one. It’s made from oil but is petroleum and glycerin-free to keep you safe.

Best Silicone Lube

Maude Shine Silicone, $18

A water-based lube isn’t going to benefit you if you want to have shower sex. In that scenario, a silicone formula will last longer. Just remember not to use it when incorporating silicone sex toys!

Best Lube for Fertility Concerns

Natalist The Lube, $25

Are you TTC? Some lubes are not exactly hospitable to fertility. But Natalist’s lube is fertility-friendly, meaning it doesn’t slow sperm and creates the exact natural pH-balanced environment that won’t stop you from getting pregnant. 

Best Lube for Sensitive Skin:

The Honey Pot Moisturizing Water-Based Lubricant, $14

Other lubes could potentially contribute to vaginal dryness, but this one adds moisture thanks to the agave extract and no chemical additives. 

Best Lube for Anal Sex

Uberlube, $18

“Anal intercourse requires longer-performing lubricants like silicone-based Uberlube,” says Dr. Grover. It can be used with condoms, and adds slip, making sex more comfortable. 

Best Lube to Discreetly Leave Out On Your Dresser

Dame Alu Aloe Lubricant, $18

No one will know what’s in this bottle of soothing aloe lube. It’s discreet enough to leave out in your bedroom to have handy for vaginal sex or sex toy play, and it can even be useful to dab on when sliding in menstrual cups or discs. 


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