We here at the SHRC are big fans of lubricant, aka lube. Lube reduces friction, making penetration and genital stimulation smoother and less painful (if applicable). Lube can also reduce the likelihood of transmitting STIs for two reasons: if you’re using a condom, it’s less likely to break; and with or without a condom, lube reduces the likelihood that the genitals will be injured (and open wounds make it a lot more likely to transmit STIs).
There are a lot of misconceptions about using lubricant. It’s not “only used for anal” or “only used for masturbation”. There are also benefits to using lubricant for vaginal intercourse – the vagina can’t always produce the exact amount of lubricant needed for comfortable penetration (since when do our bodies always do exactly what we want them to do?). You can also use lubricant (consider a flavoured lube) for oral stimulation – you can only produce so much spit!
If you’re intrigued and want to test out some lube, the SHRC and mostsex shops sell “sample size” lubricants so you don’t have to invest in a whole bottle, and lubricants are also widely available in drug stores in the family planning aisle. But where should you start with choosing a lubricant?
The first thing you should consider is the material your lubricant is made out of. Lube can either be water-based or silicone-based. You may also come across oil-based lubricants, but these are usually intended as massage oils. Oil-based lubricants erode latex (meaning they are not safe to use with a condom) and can lead to infections if used anally or vaginally.
So, what is the difference between water-based and silicone-based lubricants?
Water-based lubricants are versatile and generally are a good place to start if you’re new to lubricant. They do dry out faster than silicone-based lubes, but you can always just use more. Water-based lubes are safe to use with condoms and with any sex toy as well. If you or your partner(s) are prone to yeast infections, you may want to look for a water-based lube that doesn’t contain glycerin, which can upset your body’s PH balance and trigger a yeast infection.
Silicone-based lubricants tend to last longer without drying out than water-based lubes do. This is optimal for actions such as anal intercourse (because the anus doesn’t produce lubrication at all) or manual stimulation (since the genitals can be exposed to more air than during other forms of stimulation). However, silicone-based lubricants can be harder to clean up due to the fact that they last longer – it isn’t unheard of to have difficulty turning a door handle with “lubey” hands. Silicone-based lube is also not safe to use with sex toys made from silicone, and they shouldn’t even be stored together (seriously, your silicone sex toy will “melt”).
Within water-based and silicone-based lubes, there’s also varying viscosity. Thicker lubricants, sometimes referred to in advertising as “gels” or “jellies”, are great if you need a lot of lubricant and don’t want it to be runny. If you just need a little bit of lube, choose a thinner lubricant.
There are plenty of variations of lubricant: warming lube, cooling/tingling lube, desensitizing lube, flavoured lube, and more! Before introducing any of these lubricants into play, be sure to talk about it with your partner(s). Lubes that are meant to add or reduce sensation can be a confusing and alarming surprise, and flavoured lubricants can aggravate someone who is prone to yeast infections if they contain sugar.
Most condoms are pre-lubricated to prevent the latex from awkwardly sticking to your skin, so if you use condoms, you likely already use lube all the time! ”Needing” lubricant isn’t a sign of sexual dissatisfaction, and by speaking to your partner(s) you can dispel this if it’s a concern. A lot of people enjoy the sensation of using extra lube, or enjoy being a little bit safer. If you want to use lube, just tell your partner(s) how sexy you find it, just like anything else you’d like to try in bed!
This blog is being run in conjunction with the Sexual Health Resource Centre, located in the JDUC, room 223. Follow them on Twitter @shrckingston.
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