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A lubricant is a liquid or gel that people and their partners can apply during sex to make the vulva, vagina, or anal area smoother, wetter or more slippery.
Lubricant, or lube, has many uses for people of all ages, from those who want to enhance pleasure, to those who are pregnant or elderly.
There are many different types of lubrication for sexual activity including water-based, silicone-based, oil-based, and hybrid combinations of the three. Knowing which product to use for what activity is important.
“Oil-based lubricants and products containing oil, such as hand lotion, Vaseline, or Crisco, should not be used with latex condoms because they can weaken the condom and cause it to break,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some male condoms are lubricated, and some are lubricated with spermicide. Gels with spermicide may prevent pregnancy; “vaginal spermicide products are 82 percent effective at preventing pregnancy with perfect use, and 72 percent effective with typical use.”1
The sourced articles below provide more information on lubes and lubrication.
Footnote: 1. livestrong.com, 8/14/2017
- Seven Ingredients To Avoid In Your Sexual Lubricants
“It’s essential to know the differences between sexual lubricants that are truly natural and healthy, and those that may claim to be but aren’t. The delicate tissue of your vagina can readily absorb chemical compounds, so you need to inspect the ingredient lists of your lubricants with the same vigilance you use for the foods you eat.”
Dr. Laurie Steelsmith and Alex Steelsmith, sexualwellnessnews.com, accessed on 7/13/2018
- Condoms & Lubricants Fact Sheet
“Lubricant (or lube) is a water, silicone or oil-based substance. Never use oil-based lubricants (e.g. massage oils or Vaseline) with latex condoms – they can break. Many condoms are covered in some lubricant.”
Online Resource, avert.org, accessed on 7/13/2018
- Lube 101: Your Guide To Personal Lubrication
“IS LUBE SAFE TO SWALLOW?
Most water based lubes are suitable for oral sex and are safe to consume; however, swallowing the whole bottle isn’t something that we’d recommend. For those with a sweet tooth, Durex flavoured lubes are sugar-free so you can indulge as often as you wish!”
Online Resource, durex.co.uk, accessed on 7/13/2018
- How Do I Make Sex Safer?
“The friction that happens when you rub your genitals together during sex can irritate your skin, or even cause small tears in your sensitive genital skin that make it easier for STDs to get into your body. Friction also makes condoms break more easily. Lube keeps sex nice and slippery, cutting down on the friction and leading to safer and more comfortable sex. Using lube doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or your partner. Things like medicine, hormonal changes, stress, and age can change the way your vagina lubricates (gets wet) during sex. Lots of people use an extra lubricant just because they like the way it feels. It’s especially important to use lube if you have anal sex. Unlike a vagina, your anus can’t lubricate itself at all.”
Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., plannedparenthood.org, accessed on 7/13/2018
- What Is A Lubricant?
“What is a lubricant?
During sexual arousal, a woman’s vagina typically becomes lubricated, making it wetter and ready for sex. … However, sometimes women experience vaginal dryness. The vagina does not lubricate enough, leading to pain or discomfort. This can happen when estrogen levels drop during menopause. Vaginal dryness can also occur when a woman is breastfeeding, undergoing chemotherapy, or when she has been treated for breast cancer. Sometimes, women just prefer more lubrication than their bodies provide. In these circumstances, a lubricant can help. A lubricant is a liquid or gel that women and their partners can apply during sex to make the vulva, vagina, or anal area wetter. Lubricant can also be applied to a man’s penis or a sex toy to make them more slippery.”
International Society for Sexual Medicine, issm.info, accessed on 7/13/2018
- Lube And Pregnancy Sex: What’s Safe, What’s Not
“But all women are different, and the same hormonal changes that make some pregnant women perpetually wet can make other pregnant women dry. … What’s the best type of lube to use during pregnancy?
Your best bet is a water-based product, says Loralei Thornburg, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and a specialist in Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.”
Aviva Patz, parents.com, accessed on 7/13/2018
- 5 Lube Substitutes You Should Absolutely Never Put In Your Vagina
“But experts say you might want to think twice before putting any old lube substitute up there. Even seemingly harmless slippery substances can contain allergens, deteriorate your skin, or interfere with condoms, says Maureen Whelihan, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Center for Sexual Health and Education. Beyond that little nugget of vagina wisdom, here’s a breakdown of the DIY or “natural” lubes you should avoid. … 1. BABY OIL … 2. SHORTENING … 3. SPIT … 4. PETROLEUM JELLY … 5. LOTION…”
Korin Miller, womenshealthmag.com, 6/6/2018
- When To Choose Lubricated Or Non-Lubricated Condoms
“Lubricated condoms are the latex condoms you will find most often in drugstores. Some are lubricated with spermicides, which may be problematic for some people. Others are lubricated with a non-spermicidal personal lubricant. Many people find that lubricated condoms are easier to work with, and put on, than non-lubricated condoms.”
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, Reviewed by Susan Olender, MD, verywellhealth.com, 6/6/2018
- Is Coconut Oil A Safe Lube For Sex?
“Many of the claims touting the use of coconut oil as a personal lubricant have yet to be substantiated, so it’s important to proceed with caution until further research is done. … One study showed that exposing commercial latex condoms to mineral oil for as little as 60 seconds can decrease their efficacy by as much as 90 percent. If you’re using latex condoms or dental dams, it’s important to stick with water-based or silicone-based lubes to stay on the safe side.”
Mariah Adcox, Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, PhD, LCSW, CST, healthline.com, 5/25/2018
- HIV Prevention
“Can using a lubricant help reduce my HIV risk?
Yes, because lubricants can help prevent condoms from breaking or slipping.
Water-based and silicon-based lubricants are safe to use with all condoms. Oil-based lubricants and products containing oil, such as hand lotion, Vaseline, or Crisco, should not be used with latex condoms because they can weaken the condom and cause it to break. It is safe to use any kind of lubricant with nitrile female condoms. But lubricants containing nonoxynol-9 should not be used because nonoxynol-9 irritates the lining of the vagina and anus and increases the risk of getting HIV.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov, 3/20/2018
- The Best Sex Lube For Every Level Of Freakiness
“A proper lubricant isn’t just for a nice handy (which are totally underrated by the way). Grown men who know how to have sex own lube. Simple as that. If you’re heading for the backdoor, it’s the only way you’ll get in—as a doctor will tell you, the rectum isn’t magically self-lubricating like the vagina. But here’s why you’ll want a bottle in your sex arsenal even if you never leave missionary island: lube makes vaginal sex even more fantastic, if that’s even possible.”
Sophie Saint Thomas, gq.com, 2/9/2018
- Can Vaginal Lubricants And Jellies Cause Vaginal Irritation?
“Fortunately, lubricants and jellies do not cause any serious side effects. However, if a woman feels a certain product doesn’t sit well with her, she should try another brand. There are several brands, and it’s a matter of trial and error.”
Carolyn Janet Crandall, MD, Medical Editor William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR, medicinenet.com, 1/11/2018
- The Best Lubricants For Sex
“Personal lubricant is the quickest, easiest, and probably most effective preventative measure that you can take against dryness and chafing during sex. It can also help prolong love-making sessions, and make your own masturbation more enjoyable. Not to mention that it is nearly essential for anal intercourse.”
Mish Barber Way, askmen.com, 12/12/2017
- You Asked It: Let’s Talk Lube
“Oil-based lubes should NOT be used with condoms. The oil breaks down the latex, and can make your condom tear, putting you at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and potentially pregnancy. Since it sounds like you’re using condoms (which is great!), stay away from oil-based lubes. This means no Vaseline/petroleum jelly, cooking oils, coconut oil, baby oil, or body lotion. Very few products marketed as personal lubricants are oil-based. Even if you don’t use a condom, oil-based lubes can still trap bacteria and cause infections, and they can stain bed sheets. If you have sensitive skin or allergies, look for lubes with shorter ingredient lists and spot test the lube on your wrist or some other exposed skin.”
Online Resource, teenhealthcare.org, 9/1/2017
- How Do Spermicidal Condoms Work?
“Some male condoms are coated with a spermicidal lubricant. Although one might expect that addition of a spermicide to a condom would make it more effective for pregnancy prevention, evidence supporting this notion is lacking.”
Nicki Wolf, livestrong.com, 8/14/2017
- How To Choose The Best Lube For Your Sex Life
“And if you associate lube with vaginal dryness only, it’s time to step out of the box. Instead think less friction, smoother skin, and all around better sex — no matter your gender, age, or stage in life. In fact, according to an Indiana University study, 70 percent of the 2,453 women surveyed said that lube made sex more pleasurable and enjoyable. Carli Blau, LMSW and sex and relationship therapist in New York City, confirms that ‘needing a lubricant does not mean that you’re not interested in your partner.'”
Mariah Adcox, Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, PhD, LCSW, CST, healthline.com, 8/10/2017
- 6 Lube Ingredients You Might Not Want To Put In Your Vagina
If you’ve experienced discomfort with some lubes in the past, or just want to play it ultra-safe, here are six lube ingredients you should know about and potentially avoid. … 1. Glycerin … 2. Nonoxynol-9 … 3. Petroleum or petroleum-based ingredients … 4. Propylene glycol … 5. Parabens … 6. Chlorhexidine gluconate …”
Zahra Barnes, self.com, 2/16/2017
- Anal Sex And HIV Risk
“Condoms are much less effective when not used consistently. It is also important that sufficient water- or silicone-based lubricant be used during anal sex to prevent condom breakage and tearing of tissue.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov, 10/27/2016
- 4 Harmful Lube Ingredients You Should Avoid At All Costs
“Glycerin, a sugar alcohol, increases the osmolality of the lube (a technical way to describe the measure of how much of one substance has been dissolved in another substance), and the bottom line is that a high level of glycerin isn’t good, says Strgar. Too much of this sugar alcohol can lead to bacterial growth … Petrochemicals like propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, and petroleum … Preservatives like parabens, benzyl alcohol, and citric acid … Benzocaine…”
Kelli Acciardo, prevention.com, 10/5/2016
- The Slippery Facts About Lubricants
“Bottom line: Although research is ongoing, over-the-counter personal lubricants are generally safe for most people if used as directed, and they can be a good solution for vaginal dryness or otherwise reducing friction (or boosting pleasure) in your sex life. But as with anything you put in your body, take precautions: Read the label, avoid products with ingredients to which you know you’re sensitive (as a general rule, the fewer the ingredients, the better), use products as directed, and be on the lookout for unpleasant reactions.”
Paula Derrow, berkeleywellness.com, 7/28/2015
- A Senior’s Guide To Lubrication
“Lubricants. Especially as we grow older, we all should be using lube for every kind of sexual contact: partner sex, solo sex, sex-toy sex (see A Senior’s Guide to Vibrators), and any kind of sex I might not have thought to mention. Lube puts the joy back in friction. But don’t rush to the drugstore to buy the most common brands – there’s a new world of lubricants out there that are safer and healthier for aging genitals.”
Joan Price, seniorplanet.org, 4/5/2015