We Heart Lube: Lube 101 (Revisited)

26 Jun

Most people know that we at Secret Pleasures have deep rooted love for lubricant. We’ve answered some questions (here and here) as well as written reviews (like this one) and posts (yup) about the topic. Despite this, the conversation never gets old because there are still many people who don’t know about the benefits of lube. So for those that are new here as well as those who are more seasoned but may need a few reminders or updates here’s yet another awesome blog post addressing some common questions and explaining why you should lube it up, splash then bash, juice to jam, grease then please…y’all get the picture.


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What is lube?

Simply put, lube is a substance that reduces friction. Let’s talk about friction. Friction happens when two surfaces rub against each other with resistance. Instead of smoothly gliding over each other, the surfaces begrudgingly drag across each or stick causing heat and wear. Imagine this process when trying to caress your bits. Ooo! Ouch! No, thank you. Not comfy, not pleasurable. There are many lubricants out there. Some are oil-based, water-based and silicone. Some are even scented (be cautious with these), flavored and have heating or cooling effects. Lubes used for sex typically come in a gel, cream or liquid that turn that “ouch” into an “oh, yes.”

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Why Use Lube? Doesn’t the body produce its own? Like is it even necessary?

So the body does produce its own lubricant. There is saliva produced by the mouth (we’ll discuss more later), pre-cum produced by the bulbourethral gland (a.k.a. Cowper’s gland) in folks with penises, and vaginal fluid produced by the Bartholin’s gland. In general, extra lubrication doesn’t hurt and is beneficial in many circumstances. For instance, maybe your hormones are doing something new or different or you’re on a medication and your body is producing less lubrication than usual. Or maybe you have this cool awesomely textured sex toy and you want to feel as much detail as possible when using it. Sometimes you want to have sex for hours and hours and hours. Or maybe you just want increase your wetness. Lube is great for all of this. It helps intensify the sensation of toys as well as solo and partnered sex. It extends pleasure sessions and eliminates discomfort by reducing chafing and tissue fatigue. And, since water tends to wash away the body’s natural lubricant…

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…It also makes some of our fantasies of hot comfortable, shower sex an actual possibility *clears throat*.

In some situations lubricant is absolutely necessary. Any penetrative anal sex requires lube. Buttholes do a lot of things but they do not self lubricate. Anal sex without lube can be painful, injurious and increase the likelihood of contracting STIs. Folks with diabetes, undergoing chemotherapy or menopause, or who have had a hysterectomy, prostatectomy or vaginoplasty may find that in addition to making sex more pleasurable, lubing it up can be a great part of daily self care.

So which is better?

Bear with me as I take my time in this section.

First, it all depends. The goal is to select a lube that works with you. All lubes aren’t created equal and every single body is different. We strongly advise people make the best, informed decision for themselves. This means knowing what ingredients are in the lube and how your body will respond to them while understanding which sensations you prefer and want to avoid (for example do you like it sticky, oily, slippery, squishy, creamy?).

It also helps to know some general things about the three major types of lubricants mentioned above. For instance, silicone-based lubricant is generally longer-lasting; great in the shower, pool or bath because it doesn’t dissolve in water; hypoallergenic; safe with bodies and condoms but not with toys made of silicone (silicone likes to bond with silicone). It also stains sheets.

Water-based lube is not as long-lasting because the body absorbs them way more quickly. And they definitely don’t stick around in the shower or bath because well…they’re made of water. They also tend be less hypoallergenic because many of them are derived from plant materials and have extra ingredients that increase their shelf life. That said, water-based lube is the most versatile of the lubes. They work with bodies, condoms and toys including those made from silicone.

Oil-based lubricants are readily available (check your pantry), work great for massages and are great for you lovely naturopaths. They are relatively long lasting, can be used in the bath but are not compatible with latex condoms or oil-based toys like the ever so popular Fleshlight. Please use food grade, plant-based oils only like olive, coconut or almond oils or shea or cocoa butter. Mineral/petroleum oils (like vaseline and baby oil) are harder to flush out the body and may be more harmful than beneficial. A good rule of thumb is if you cannot safely digest it, don’t use it on your bits.

There are also hybrids like Silk which is mostly water-based (yay for silicone toy compatibility!) with a little silicone (heck yes slippery, sexy long lastability!).

Still with me?

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Great. I’ll just keep on going…

After deciding on the type of lubricant you want, look at the ingredients. Do they agree with your body and lifestyle? For example, vegan, cruelty free lubricant is very important to some people. And, I avoid my known allergens (no almond oil-based lube for me *sad face*). To top this off there are certain ingredients in some lubricants that are known to upset the pH of vaginas as well as cause itchiness, dryness, burning, yeast infections, BV and other unpleasantness.

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These include glycerin, parabens, propylene glycol, alcohol, nonoxynol-9 and other spermicides. Check out our post What Materials Are Safe For My Body – The Lube Edition! for a more in depth explanation of why you may want to avoid each of these ingredients. Quick side note on glycerin: Some educators link glycerin with yeast infections because it is a sugar derivative. People have more recently spoken about it in the context of osmolality.

As a sex positive adult with multiple sex partners and highly sensitive skin, I am very selective about the lubricants I use. I prefer lubricants with short ingredients lists and avoid glycerin, parabens, numbing agents and alcohols at all costs. I have come to find that not only do some lubes work better with certain partners but also with certain sex acts. (Talk to your partners about their lube preference!) Since we’re all friends here…I prefer silicone lubes like Sliquid Silver or ID Velvet for external hand jobs (on vulvas and penises) because it keeps things nice and slippery. Hands don’t have to work as hard and are less likely to cramp and genitals don’t chafe. But for vaginal penetration, I personally prefer something that isn’t as long lasting, something close to my body’s natural lubricant so that it absorbs eventually allowing me to return to my “normal” level of moisture. (Keep in mind that each body responds differently.) For that I turn to Sliquid Sassy. Sassy is also great with anal sex as it runs on the thicker side, provides cushion and doesn’t have to be reapplied as much as other water-based lubes.

Can I just use vaseline, baby oil, spit?

Well, of course you can if you choose. But we advise against it. Vaseline and baby oil are petroleum (crude oil) derivatives. They have been identified as endocrine disruptors. In addition, they do not easily evaporate and are hard for the body to flush out. Because of their staying power, they disturb the body’s natural detox and absorption process and can become a great growing ground for bacteria, fungus and viruses.

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Spit is so convenient. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve definitely used it before. However due to its high water content, it evaporates quickly. Constantly reapplying it gets pretty annoying real quick. Something else to consider is the fact that spit carries a risk of infection as it contains many micro-organisms some which are generally harmless but may not pair well with the bits and some that are quite infectious like herpes or thrush (yeast infection). If you have any oral health issues including gingivitis, cuts or sores in the mouth, avoid using saliva as lube.

What makes lubes squishy, silky, creamy, sticky, etc.

Ingredients. Ingredients. Ingredients.

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Glycerin, propylene glycol and other petrochemicals are usually a good indicator that lube will be sticky. Dimethicone or esters typically gives lubricants slippery like properties. Lubricants with aloe tend to be thicker and have some squishiness. The Physics of Sex has a blog post that scientifically explains why some ingredients create certain properties of lubricant. The best way of testing out the feel of a lubricant is to visit a sex shop (we’re here). They usually have testers as well as knowledgeable staff. If a toy shop is not easily accessible, there are great reviewers talking about lube.

So get out there! Check out our lube selection and figure out what works best for you. And always remember to lube it up!

TLDR:

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We think very highly of lubricants. They make solo, partnered and toy sex feel better by reducing friction and tearing. There are three major types water-based, silicone and oil based. Each of them with their own benefits and disadvantages. Some lubes have harsh ingredients that should be avoided. These include glycerin, parabens, propylene glycol, numbing agents and spermicides. Stay informed and select the best lube for you. Happy splashing and bashing. 😉

Wanna learn more about lubes? Check out these cool posts:

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