by Alexzandria Baker, World Association of Sex Coaches Certified Sex Coach
I am sure that you have heard them: all the myths about vaginal dryness. If you were really into it you would get wet. Dryness is a post-menopausal problem. Only “old” women need lube. They all boil down to: there is something wrong with you.
FALSE! First of all, studies have found that women and their partners find greater pleasure and orgasm frequency when using personal lubricants during penetrative sex, regardless of the ability to produce natural lubricant. Secondly, there are all sorts of reasons a woman, of any age, may not produce or support natural lubrication. Some possible reasons include medications, certain health conditions or medical treatments (radiation or cancer treatment, for example), hormone imbalance, or just natural chemistry. During vaginal penetration, friction reduces lubrication and may do so at a faster rate than natural lubricant is produced. So what do you do?
There are a number of products available that can assist with vaginal lubrication. These products are generally found in drugstores or supermarkets right beside the birth control or feminine hygiene products. The wall of options, however, can be a little daunting so here are some pointers for finding what product is right for you.
Click the picture to see a handy lube reference chart!
These products provide maximum viscosity. They are super slippery and stay that way even against strong friction and water (this is the lube for shower sex). They are generally well tolerated and non-irritating. These lubricants are generally preferred for anal intercourse (the anus does not produce any natural lubricant). They are safe with latex condoms but not silicone toys.
Closer to a woman’s natural pH balance these products are well-tolerated even by sensitive skin. They can be the best option for women prone to yeast infections or bladder infections. These products are safe with both latex condoms and silicone toys. On the other hand, they may dry out or become sticky after prolonged friction or exposure to air. Reapplication may be required to resolve this issue.
There are also products that blend a small amount of silicone lubricant with water-based product, often called hybrids. These have the benefit of staying slippery longer than water-based alone and reactivating with a little added moisture, thus avoiding the need for reapplication, while still being pH balanced for sensitive women. They are safe with latex condoms but there is some debate about using them with silicone toys.
There are several brands of lubricants made with natural ingredients. They will typically not contain glycerin or parabens. Oil-based products mimic the benefits of silicone-based lubricant but also carry some down sides including breaking down latex condoms. In addition, “natural” does not necessarily make a product safe. Some of these products contain aloe or coconut and other natural oils that could be irritating to some women. These products can also be hard on silicone or jelly toys.
Flavors and Heat
Flavored or warming lubricants can be irritating especially for already dry and sensitive skin. These products, especially flavored products, almost always contain some type of sugar (glycerin is only one type), which can promote yeast infections or bladder infections in women who are prone to such issues.
Reading the Label
When considering a personal lubricant, you want to read the label just like you would a food product. As I mentioned, any type of sugar can promote yeast and bladder infections. These typically include glycerin and anything ending in –lose or -ous (glucose, sucralose, etc.).
Another word to watch for is “paraben,” which may stand alone or be at the end of a much longer word (Methylparabens or Propylparabens, for example). Parabens are used in lubricants as an artificial preservative. Because these chemicals mimic the effects estrogen, they have the potential to disrupt the endocrine system and increase the risk of breast cancer.
Menthol may be synthetic or natural peppermint oil. This is frequently found in heating lubes and “arousal enhancers” but can burn sensitive skin. Use with caution. I recommend trying a small amount before an intimate encounter since running away screaming might wreck the mood.
Any type of fragrance may cause irritation as well.
How to Use Personal Lubricants
This is one of those cases where a dab will generally do the trick but with practice you will learn the right amount for you. Take the product and squeeze a small amount onto the tip of your finger and then apply around the clitoris and vaginal opening; anus; or the shaft of the penis.
Explore Your Options
Many lubricant brands such as Astroglide (http://www.astroglide.com/sample/) or Trojan (http://www.trojanbrands.com/en/lubricants)will offer samples or coupons via their websites. Don’t be afraid to shoot them an email!
Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Hensel, D., Sanders, S., Jozkowski, K., & Fortenberry, J. (2011). Association of lubricant use with women’s sexual pleasure, sexual satisfaction, and genital symptoms: A prospective daily diary study. The Journal Of Sexual Medicine, 8(1), 202-212. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02067.x
Jozkowski, K. N., Herbenick, D., Schick, V., Reece, M., Sanders, S. A., & Fortenberry, J. (2013). Women’s perceptions about lubricant use and vaginal wetness during sexual activities. Journal Of Sexual Medicine, 10(2), 484-492. doi:10.1111/jsm.12022