When it comes to comfort and pleasure during vaginal intercourse, lubrication is key. Without it, skin-on-skin friction in a very delicate area of the body can make sex uncomfortable or even painful. Irritation caused by friction can even contribute to unpleasant stuff like yeast infections. Now, in theory, vaginas are self-lubricating, but what if your (or your partner’s) vagina isn’t producing enough lubrication or not getting slippery fast enough? Fear not! There’s a fast, healthy, and easily accessible solution: a personal moisturizer, also known as personal lubricant or lube.
That’s right; vaginal lubrication is subject to the same instructions you often find in recipes: “if you can’t make your own, store-bought is fine.”
Some folks are embarrassed by needing lube but, seriously, vaginal dryness is actually an incredibly common issue with a whole range of causes. Letting go of the idea that one shouldn’t “need” lube because the body “should” produce all the lubrication you need takes a huge weight off your shoulders (or vulva) and frees you up to find the best lube for your body, and there are TONS of options available! That’s what we’re talking about today, vaginal lubricant: why you might want one, the best ones available, and how to effectively put your lube to use.
Natural vaginal lubrication
So, let’s start at the beginning: vaginal tissue is, by its nature, moist. This is due to a combination of fluids from the cervix and secretions from the Bartholin glands — a pair of glands that are each about the size of a pea that resides at the vaginal entrance. In theory, the Bartholin glands will, in response to arousal, produce extra fluid, thus creating the “wetness” we associate with vaginal arousal.
Nearly everyone with a vagina will experience dryness at one point or another and it can have a variety of causes, including (but not limited to):
- Medications – Antidepressants and antihistamines are just some of the medications that can contribute to vaginal dryness.
- Hormonal fluctuations– Lubrication levels can change over the course of the menstrual cycle as well as during and after pregnancy.
- Dehydration– If the body is dehydrated, the vagina can struggle to produce lubrication.
- Environmental factors– Things as common as air conditioning can affect vaginal lubrication.
- Marathon sex – Sometimes, the vagina can start a sexual session with enough lubrication to make everything comfortable, but when you keep going and going, the body might not be able to keep up.
While occasional vaginal dryness is incredibly common, chronic vaginal dryness can be an indicator that one has entered menopause or is experiencing vaginal atrophy. The natural aging process causes vaginal tissues to become thinner, drier, and possibly inflamed. This, combined with the drop in estrogen production that comes during and after menopause, can result in less moisturizing secretions. In turn, one could need more lubrication to be comfortable and feel pleasure during sex. People experiencing consistent vaginal dryness of this type should consult a medical professional. Also, though, this is another time one might consider store-bought vaginal lube.
So now that we know what might cause vaginal dryness let’s talk a bit about lube!
Lubricant, or “lube,” as many affectionately refer it, is an umbrella term used for a variety of personal moisturizers used for sexual comfort and pleasure.
While lube can be used during any type of sexual contact, today we are talking specifically about how it can be used for vaginal sex. Using lube, especially for sex play that involves a vagina, is a great way to ensure your sexual encounter is as comfortable and pleasurable as it could possibly be.
So, now that we know what lube is and why one might choose to use it let’s break down the different types of lube!
Types of vaginal lubricants
There are tons of commercially available lubes with all sorts of textures, formulas, flavors, and more (PinkCherry has a HUGE selection!). Each different kind is good for different things. The three types that we are about to discuss are my favorite recommendations for vaginal use. First though, maybe you’ll want to read up on the best sex positions for clitoral stimulation?
The most versatile, readily available, affordable, perennially popular lube is water-based lube. Safe for use with all barrier methods as well as toys, water-based lube comes in a variety of textures ranging from light and thin to thick and cushiony.
There is one big drawback to water based lube — it’s often not terribly long-lasting (though longevity can vary brand to brand and formula to formula). As it is water-based, it can dry out when exposed to air or friction, meaning you may have to reapply repeatedly.
Water-based lube recommendation: PinkCherry Water Based Lubricant
Silicone based lube lasts longer than water based lube. This can make silicone based lubricant ideal for anyone dealing with severe vaginal dryness or a history of pain during sex. Additionally, silicone lubricant is hypoallergenic and thus the best lube for sensitive skin. Finally, silicone lube is compatible with all condoms.
The only real downsides to silicone lube are that it can degrade silicone toys, some folks find them a bit greasy, and they can be a little on the thin side. For the ultimate in lube comfort, try layering lubricants. Apply some silicone lubricant and then layer a thick water-based lube on top of it. This way, you can have the comforting thickness of water-based lube, and if it dries out (as water-based lube can), you still have the glide of the silicone.
Silicone based lube recommendation: Wicked Ultra Silicone Based Intimate Lube
Water-based and silicone-based lubes both have considerable upsides. What if you could get them both in one product? Good news, you can! Hybrid lube — water-based lube that contains a small amount of silicone. This means it is versatile like water-based lube but long-lasting like silicone.
Hybrid lubes have a smooth, creamy texture that can be soothing in the face of vaginal dryness. They are also condom compatible, safe to use with silicone toys, and easy to clean up.
Hybrid lube recommendation: Sliquid Silk.
Vaginal moisturizers can often be found alongside a personal lubricant, but they are actually a different type of product. Unlike a lubricant, a vaginal moisturizer is absorbed into the skin. While a vaginal moisturizer can help prevent some of the irritation and itching that can come with chronic vaginal dryness, they do not provide enough moisture to facilitate comfortable intercourse.
That said, vaginal moisturizers can be great for folks dealing with vaginal dryness and can safely be used alongside lube. In this case, one would apply the moisturizer regularly for dryness relief and add personal lubricant when engaging in sexual activity.
Vaginal moisturizer recommendation: Intimina Feminine Moisturizer
For folks coping with vaginal dryness, it might be worth consulting a healthcare professional to see if an estrogen-based cream could help. By replacing lost estrogen, estrogen-based creams can potential reverse some of the effects of medical conditions that cause low estrogen, like menopause. They can be quite effective, with most users seeing results after a few weeks, but not everyone can tolerate them well. This is why it’s important to weigh the risks and benefits before trying estrogen cream and carefully and follow the directions for use so as to not exceed the recommended dose.
Estrogen cream is not something one would use in the place of personal lubricant, but it might help the body produce more natural lubrication lessening the need for supplemental lube. That said, many who use estrogen cream still incorporate lubricant into their sex lives.
How to use vaginal lubricants
Okay, so now you know A LOT about vaginas and lubricants, so how do you put those two things together for comfortable and pleasurable sex? The good news is, learning how to use lube is pretty easy. Seriously, you’re not going to do it “wrong” because there is no wrong way to use lube. But here are some tips for making lube use easy and effective:
- Worried about staining your bedding? Place a towel over the bed.
- Lube can be cold, so for comfort’s sake, use your hands to warm it up before applying lube to your genitals.
- Use lubricant during manual stimulation and apply again before any kind of penetration.
- Don’t be shy about it! Apply enough that the vulva and vagina are sufficiently lubricated and apply it to the penis and/or sex toy.
- Keep checking in and adding more lube as necessary, especially after any touching of the vulva or vagina.
If you are experiencing vaginal dryness, for any reason, at any age, know that you are not alone; it’s a pretty common condition. To help keep vaginal sex safe, comfortable, and pleasurable, consider incorporating lube. And, as always, if you’re exploring anal sex or penetration, lube is an absolute must. Check out the the best lube for anal sex here. A trusted adult retailer like PinkCherry will feature multiple lube options (as well as some fun adult sex toys) and help you find exactly what you need!