I don’t care what some celebrities say — we all need a little lube now and then. When you’re alone in your room, going on hour six, dry humping an extra-large dildo, the thing that can make all the difference in your next day’s work is a little lube.
But there are so many kinds! Silicone, water-based, jelly, crème, “sensation” and flavors… What are the differences, and what are the best types to have on hand?
Who cares about lube?
Friction is everywhere. There’s some amount of friction between all objects that come into contact with one another. And as movements between close surfaces become more vigorous, friction builds.
Humans are made up of almost 75-percent water, but all this water is not enough to keep friction from building up in your body — and between your body and a toy — creating the potential for rips, tears, and other types of injury. Further, factors ranging from stress and emotions to age, hormones, and illness can impact a person’s delicate moisture balance — all reasons why we need lubrication.
In addition to being water-based, human bodies are also naturally curious. As such, some sexually interesting things may require the use of added lubrication, and most sex toys definitely need it. Sex toy use during a solo performance can heighten this need as well.
Water, silicone, oil — what’s the difference?
Water, silicone, and oil are not the same thing — that part is obvious. But when should you use which form of lube, and why?
The most widely used lubes are water-based and water-soluble. They’re easy to clean up and generally won’t stain or ruin fabric. Water-based lubes also won’t destroy latex, so condoms and sex toys are generally safe with a water-based lube. If your intimate areas extra-sensitive, look for water-based lubes that are fragrance- paraben-free. (Parabens are preservatives.) If you’re vegan, opt for glycerin-free, as this humectant often is derived from animal products.
Silicone-based lubricants are a little different. These types of lubricants stay on the skin’s surface and are not easily dissolved, dispersed, or cleaned up by water. Consequently, they can reduce friction longer than water-based products and are excellent for sexy fun in and around water. But be forewarned: Many silicone-based products can damage latex and toys. If you want to use a silicone lube with a toy, make sure it’s a latex-compatible formula marketed with phrases like “safe for all toys.”
Finally, there are oil-based lubricants. Oil-based products, such as petroleum jelly or coconut oil, can damage toys and destroy latex. Although they may be desirable for those hoping to avoid additives, certain preservatives, parabens, and/or glycerin, it might be easier to go with products that are designed with great packaging (including dispensing) and easy clean up in mind.
Crème versus jelly
Cream and jelly sound like desserts, but sweets aren’t what we’re talking about when we talk about crème and jelly lubes.
Crème lubes are often a mixture of water-based and silicone ingredients, like oil and water blended together. These types of lube are generally thicker — more like a lotion than a conventional liquid. The formulation is often found in “jack creams” for men.
In the world of lube, “jelly” refers to very thick, often water-based, lube that stays put. Imagine dispensing toothpaste along the length of your dildo. That’s how jelly lube works. For anal play and shows using extra-large toys, you can see how a “stay put” formula would be advantageous.
Sensations and flavors
“Enhancers” is a catch-all category for lubes that simulate or enhance sexual activity. Stimulating lubes help to increase blood flow via natural ingredients like niacin (vitamin B3) or ginko biloba, while desensitizers use topical anesthetics like benzocaine to numb areas of the body. Hyper-sensitive guys often use desensitizers in an effort to delay ejaculation.
Desensitizers vary in strength, containing up to 10 percent benzocaine. If you use a desensitizer for any sort of anal play — even a solo show with no toys — use caution. Pain and other unpleasant sensations often serve as warning signs that something is amiss with our bodies. Shutting down uncomfortable sensations may lead to injury. Think critically about using a desensitizer for any type of anal play.
Sensation lubes can produce a wide variety of effects. There are warming lubes (generally cinnamon) and “chill” cooling lubes (generally peppermint). Warming and cooling formulas offer a bit of fun without producing too much actual biological impact.
Flavored lubes often are presented as a novelty — Squee! It tastes like cherry! — but people also use them to mask certain flavors or scents. In my opinion, masking a flavor or smell in order to get yourself where you want to go is a sign you may not want to go there. Regardless, when wading through options like salted caramel and pomegranate passion, make sure to opt for water-based and sugar-free. Nothing spells vaginal issues like certain sweeteners.
What’s your take on lube? Email Erika at firstname.lastname@example.org.