Have you been wondering about using a lubricant for sexual activity? If so, you are not alone. Many women find themselves searching for a sexual lubricant for reasons such as vaginal dryness, pain with vaginal penetration, or engaging in anal penetration (and yes, you should ALWAYS be using a lubricant with anal penetration). Information about sexual lubricants may be overwhelming. Here to explain is one of our Every Mother physical therapists, Whitney Rogers, DPT. Let’s keep things simple, break down lubricants into their different categories, and examine the pros and cons of each.
Types of Sexual Lubricants:
There are three main categories of lubricants: water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based.
Water-based lubricants are easy to find, inexpensive, and a great first choice when looking for lubricants. However, because there are so many choices the decisions can be overwhelming. The two main qualities that you want to consider in a water based lubricant are osmolality and pH.
Osmolality and pH:
Osmolality is the concentration of chemicals in water, and pH is the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. Hyperosmolar lubricants can draw moisture from the cell wall, and hypoosmolar lubricants can cause the cells to absorb water, and in some cases burst. Either way you can cause tissue damage. Ideally you will want to find a lubricant with a similar osmolality and pH of the tissue you are using it on. The osmolality of vaginal tissue ranges from ~260-290 mOsm/kg, and the pH is 3.8-4.5. The osmolarity of rectal tissue is ~290 mOsm/kp, and the pH is about 7.0. Below are some common lubricants with their osmolality and pH.
Color legend: Green = bio-similar osmolality; Orange = out of range; Red = far out of range
Sources: Use and procurement of additional lubricants for male and female condoms: WHO/UNFPA/FHI360 Edwards D, Panay N. Treating vulvovaginal atrophy/genitourinary syndrome of menopause: how important is vaginal lubricant and moisturizer composition? Climacteric:19;151-161.
Silicone-based lubricants are going to be more lubricating than water-based, therefore you need to use less and reapply less. They also don’t have osmolality or pH, so you don’t need to consider that as you make a selection. A few common favorites are: überlube, and sliquid silver.
These lubricants are a great choice for anal penetration as well as pelvic penetration in a shower or tub, as they won’t wash off in water as easy as a water-based lubricant. This is also something to try if you feel that a water-based lubricant just didn’t give enough lubrication.
It is important to note, however, that silicone lubricant should not be used with silicone toys, or silicone barrier methods of birth control like cervical caps and diaphragms. The silicone in the lubricant can break down the silicone in the object. Also, silicone lubricants can stain sheets or clothing.
Oil-based lubricants are a great choice if you are looking for something more natural and with less ingredients. Examples of oils that can be used for personal lubricants include coconut oil, and almond oil. You should choose a pure organic oil with no additives.
However, it is important to note that just because these oils are naturally occurring does not mean that you won’t have any adverse reactions. It is important to test these on your genital skin prior to sexual activity to see if there is any burning, stinging, or irritation.
You also cannot use oil based lubricants with latex products such as condoms as the oil will break down the latex and cause it to fail.
Choosing a lubricant is quite personal, and everyone will have different preferences.
You may choose different lubricants based on different usage and situation, so it is important to consider all of these tips as you choose products that will work for you.