Finding the right lube can be key to improving your sex life. Even if you don’t think you are someone who needs more lubrication, you may find that this simple addition can make sex much more pleasurable.
Why do vaginas like lube? Vaginas are lined with epithelial cells – essentially skin cells on the inside of our body. These cells slough off and regenerate quicker than other cells – about every 96 hours compared to skin cells that regenerate every 27 days. In part because of all this “new growth” the vagina tends to be more sensitive than other parts of the body. Friction from a penis, finger, sex toy, etc can cause microtears that can cause pain (either before or after sex) or changes in your discharge. By adding a lubricant, this can reduce some of the friction and damage.
Here are some conditions that may make lubricants even more necessary:
- Menopause – hormonal changes of menopause begin for most females in the early to mid 40s. Estrogen levels begin to decline and with time this leads to thinning of the cells that line the vagina. The walls of the vagina typically have folds to make it more elastic and accommodating but as estrogen levels decline, these folds smooth out. The combination of these factors can make sex more painful and orgasm more difficult.
- Having a baby – even if you didn’t have a vaginal birth, the postpartum period is associated with changes in the vagina. After delivery, estrogen levels drop (and stay low when breastfeeding) which leads temporarily to some of the same changes we see with menopause. Think temporary thinning of the walls of the vagina and decreased elasticity. The 3 tips to make postpartum sex better that I always tell my patients are: 1. Take it slow 2. Plenty of foreplay and 3. Lots of lube!
- Skin conditions – Certain dermatologic conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and lichen sclerosis can be associated with irritation and dryness on the vulva. Talk to your dermatologist first, but you may find lubricants can help make sex more comfortable if you suffer from any of these conditions.
- Sjogren’s and other autoimmune conditions – Sjoren’s syndrome is an autoimmune condition associated with dry eyes and dry mouth, but can also cause a dry vagina. Typically treating the condition will improve all these symptoms, however, lubricants can make a world of difference as well.
Choosing a Lube – Where to Start
The type of lubricant that is best for you will depend on many factors. Here are the details of each type so you can explore what will work for your needs.
- Water based lube – has a light, natural feel and is typically safe to use with condoms and sex toys
- Silicone lube – the longest lasting and is also waterproof, so great for shower sex. Typically safe to use with condoms but double check the label. Cannot be used with most sex toys.
- Oil-based lube – these include lube made with aloe vera, vitamin E, coconut oil, etc. Often come from more pure ingredients but unfortunately this doesn’t guarantee they won’t cause irritation if you have particularly sensitive skin. Oil based lube generally should not be used with condoms or sex toys.
- Enhanced lube – these include flavored lubes and tingling lubes. Typically, they are water-based but make sure to check the label. They can certainly be fun but generally are best to avoid if you have particularly sensitive skin or if you are prone to vaginal infections.
- Fertility Friendly lube – Some lubricants can actually interfere with sperm motility. So if you are trying to get pregnant and lube is part of your sex routine, make sure the one you are using is fertility friendly. This generally means it’s been tested in a lab and found to not impact sperm motility. Fertility friendly lubricant companies spend more money on testing to be able to make this claim, as such they tend to be more pricey. So if cost is a factor, you can also consider using baby oil or canola oil – both of which have been studied and shown to no impact sperm.
Ok…so now that you’re armed with the basics of lube, it’s time for the fun part – try some out!
Want specific recommendations? Check out our IG post on Fem.Ed for more info!
Dr. Quimby is the co-founder of FemEd – a female health education platform that educates females of all ages about their bodies.
She is also a former professor at USC Keck school of Medicine where she led the OBGYN clerkship. She is passionate about education and empowering her patients and her students through knowledge and shared decision making.
She is currently a full time OBGYN at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles.
Dr. Quimby has received accolades for teaching and leadership. She has been named Top Doctor by both Pasadena and Los Angeles Magazines. She is a regular speaker throughout the community giving talks to both the public and other physicians. She has contributed to LAist, SELF, and several other news media sources.
Her special interests include: preconception counseling and improving sexual health
When she’s not educating the public on all things female health she can be found traveling with her 2 young daughters and ever supportive husband.