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lubes_big.jpgLube.  So often overlooked for shinier, buzzier, sexy-dirtier items in the sex shop.  Poor lube.  Looking so very every-day in packaging reminiscent of sun screen.  But lube can be life changing. Seriously!  Whenever I play that game of "you are stuck on an island and can only bring five things" I tend to get stumped because I want to bring at least three different kinds of lube and then I don't have room to take all four Twilight novels.  The thing about lube is that there are lots of different kinds and each kind is good for different things.  Don't worry, after reading this article you will be sorting lubes like a pro.

The first rule of lube is always read the ingredients label.  This will tell you whether your lube is water, silicone, or oil based.  It is a smart idea to check and make sure there aren't additives in your lube that you or your partner might find irritating.  If you read the label, over time you will know what blends of ingredients work well for you.

Water Based Lube

This is the most common kind of lube out there.  If you are buying your lube from a drug store or a big chain store, chances are it will be water based.  Just to be responsible and make sure to check the ingredients.  If you see water listed as the first or second ingredient you know you have water based lube.  Now look through the other ingredients.  Do you see glycerine listed?  If so you might want to avoid using this lube vaginally.  Glycerine is a form of sugar and a very common ingredient in water based lube.  However, any kind of sugar in the vaginal area can promote yeast growth and lead to yeast infections.  Don't worry, there are plenty of glycerine free water based lubes out there.  Much like a good sex partner, good lube can require a bit of search before you find the perfect one.

Water based lube shines as the "do anything you want with it" option of the lubrication genus.  It is compatible with latex safer-sex supplies, sex toys, and won't stain the sheets.  There are liquid and gel options for water based lube.  The liquids are thinner and some even have the texture of semen or fertile cervical fluid for those of you who get turned on by imagining you are copulating with copious amounts of actual body fluids.  Thicker gels are better for acts that need a little more cushion such as anal play or large penetrations.

The downside to water based lube is that they can dry out.  The water evaporates out of the formula and you are left with whatever else the lube is made of.  Yes friends, science even happens during sex.  Right here is where glycerine can come back to haunt you.  Sugars will make your lube sticky or tacky when the water starts to leave the solution.  Since water is the most lubricating ingredient in water based lube, even if it doesn't contain any glycerine, it will eventually dry up on you.  Your options at that point are to re-apply or to add just a bit of water back in.  This can be done with spit or a spritz bottle filled with warm water, but either is going to require a bit of finesse to pull off without breaking the mood.

Silicone Based Lube

If you turn that lube bottle over and see words like dimethicone, dimethiconol, cyclomethicone, don't panic. You do not have meth based lube, you have silicone based lube (all those words ending in "cone" should be your first clue).  Silicone is hypoallergenic, so if you are very sensitive this might be the lube for you!  Make sure you read the label as there are sometimes fragrance additives or other things like Vitamin E that some people find irritating.  Silicone is wonderfully slick and does not dry out like water based lube.  It also comes in varying thicknesses and has very little flavor.  Silicone lube is spectacular in the shower or for sex underwater.  I have seen many lives changed by the switch to silicone lube.  So why would I ever need anything else you ask...

Well, some silicone lubes will stick to some silicone toys.  Certain kinds of silicone love to bond with each other on the molecular level. When the liquid meets solid it sticks right to it.  Then you get sad situations where your high quality and expensive silicone toy is forever sticky and slimy.  This brings a tear to my eye. Because it is nearly impossible to know which silicone toys will react with which silicone lubes, I always advise not using the two together.  Water based lube might be a good choice here. I do know some adventurous people who will do a "spot test" by rubbing just a bit of silicone lube on an out of the way spot on their silicone toy and see what happens.  

Silicone lube is much loved for hand jobs, vaginal, and anal penetration since it stays slick throughout even the lengthiest sex marathons. Its only real drawback is that it requires soap to wash it off.  Therefor, you my prefer chose a water-based lube for a mid-day quickie. Otherwise be prepared to slip and slide through the rest your day.  It has also been known to stain some sheets, especially satin.  But really, what doesn't stain satin sheets?  People that have satin sheets, please tell me what you can actually do on them.  Are they one use only?  Is part of the the appeal the decadent destruction?

Oil Based Lubes

Finally we have oil-based lubes. Many of us owe you a debt of gratitude.  Who in their youth (or not so youth) didn't grab some kind of cooking oil, baby oil, butter, or petroleum jelly based product to get that slick smooth slide for their private activities.  Oil based lubes have a long and illustrious history.  Insert Crisco joke (or real life story) here.  There are so many kinds of oils these lubes might be made of that it would be futile to try and list them here.  Use your brains on this one folks.  Oil based lube have fallen out of favor with many communities since water and silicone alternatives have become more available. There are some good reasons for this.  Oil based lubes will eat through latex safer sex barriers like a piranha on a festering capybara .  There is also some evidence to suggest that they can cause bacterial infections when used vaginally.

Despite these significant drawbacks, oil based lubes have some really nice qualities.  They are very slippery and generally stay that way for a good long time.  They make great massage oils and massages make great foreplay.  Some oil based lubes are really thick which makes them great for hand jobs or anal play.  This might be a good time to try some non-latex safer sex materials like nitrile gloves and polyurethane condoms.

Now that you know all about the advantages and disadvantages of the various kinds of lubes all that is left is to try them out!  All the best sex shops will have open tester bottles out on the shelves so you can try the feel of the lube between your fingers and make sure you like the taste of it.  So go shopping and get your hands all wet and slippery.  Then go home and get other things all wet and slippery, knowing that you picked out the best lube for the job.

Write the Author: Laura Rad

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Kidder Kaper

Kidder has been theorizing and writing about human sexuality since 1993, when he began work on his primary goal: "Teaching the world to be unafraid to enjoy sex."


Laura Rad

Laura Rad has been educating herself and others about sexuality for over seven years. You can find Laura every week chatting with the crew of the Sex is Fun Podcast.


Gay Rick

Gay Rick is an HIV Educator and Co-Host on the Sex is Fun podcast. He is also a certified Hepatitis C Educator.



The in-house audio engineer.


John Stark

John writes a blog titled We Sleep Together. He is in his twenties, and has been in an open relationship for six and some years.



The Walrus is an avid SIF listener, married, and recently became a proud father. He spends his days working in IT, but has always been interested in pushing the boundaries of traditional and conservative thoughts sexually.


Cooper Beckett

Cooper Beckett's life isn't like other people's. When he's not writing or podcasting at Life on the Swingset, he's living it up with his wife Marilyn as evangelical swingers, spreading the good word that "sharing is caring."


Beth Swings

Beth is an English rose, happily married and happily swinging in the UK and abroad. She has a full-time vanilla career which she loves. Beth counts sex and naturism among her many extra-curricular passions in life.


Mari Rose

Mari Rose and her family live in Colorado, love life and do their best to maintain balance and sanity and in this crazy, sexy, beautiful world.



Lorax runs everything behind the scenes at Sex is Fun. If she's not maintaining the website, gathering articles, or directing art you can find her wakeboarding or snowboarding with her husband.