How to pleasure

The Ins and Outs of Sexual Lubricants

Published: APRIL 4, 2022
Sexual lubricants are inexpensive and easy to come by, but it's a luxury in the way it makes you feel.

I'm not sure where lubricant marketing went wrong. Instead of the everyday person assuming lubricant is a must-have, mainstream views of lubricants are often seen as an "above and beyond" purchases to solve a problem or specific issue in the bedroom.

But when it comes to sex, slickness and lubrication is kinda one of the most important properties!

Stroking off a penis by yourself? Slickness can help it feel better.

Trying to flick the clitoris? Quite a few people say that slippery fingers feel better.

Inserting a dildo? You guessed it: external lubrication will help that process feel so much better.

Having vaginal intercourse with a partner? Slickness can help it feel better.

Anal intercourse with a partner? Not only is slickness going to make it feel better, but it's actually required! There's nothing in the anal area that makes any slickness for itself.

There are very few things that sexual lubricant doesn't enhance. (The floor of the shower during shower sex is one of the few. One of the very, very few.)

But instead of being seen as the must-have item for sexual enjoyment, a lot of people assume that lube is this last resort for when saliva or vaginal lubrication won't cut it. I even have this memory of my mother bragging to us kids, while we walked past the family planning aisle in the supermarket, that she "never needed that stuff".

Now that I'm an adult myself, I look back on that impressionable moment with a bit of anger - and a whole lot of sadness. Where did lubricant education go wrong - and why is it that some people feel lubes are this "last resort" - instead of a vital part of pleasure for a good chunk of sexual activity?

Just look at some of the ways that sexual lubes can help you. Add lube to:


  • Enjoy anal sex.
  • Enjoy any anal sensations, really!
  • Achieve comfortable penetration during quickies.
  • Enjoy penetration during aquatic sex.
  • Slip in sex toys with a matte/grippy texture.
  • Have intercourse that's comfortable no matter what time of the month it is.
  • Achieve different sensations while stroking a penis or clitoris/vulva.
  • Keep kegel balls or butt plugs comfy in their respective holes.
  • Provide massages - genital or otherwise!
  • Reduce friction-burn during any sexual activity.
  • Shine up your favorite latex outfits.
  • ...and in a pinch, make that stupid door stop squeaking!

So, this is my plea as a sex educator: try out some lube. It can make the activities you already enjoy even more pleasurable - and it can open the door to activities you hadn't thought were possible.

Hoping you've taken my plea to heart, though, we're now at a point where you have to figure out which lube. And okay, I won't blame you if that's the part where you get stuck. Analysis paralysis is a thing, and I am intimately familiar with that one.

To start understanding the world of lubricants, it helps to understand some of the basic types of lubricant. I tend to think of it as cuisine styles. If you wanted to eat something spicy, you might be better off heading to a Mexican restaurant instead of Mediterranean restaurant - and that's something you've likely learned over time and with experience. It's the same way with sexual lubricants!

So, let me walk you through the basics so you can get just enough info under your belt to start trying things for yourself.

Water-Based Lubricants

Water makes up the majority of the ingredient list with any water-based lubricant (hence, water "based"). Water-based are your general, all-around lubes that can do virtually anything. Really, anything. They play well with all sex toys and all safer sex items - and most formulations are considered friendly to the vaginal flora.

Water-based lubes are also your "worry-free" option for fabrics, impact play toys, and other items in your house. While other types of lubes can stain (or be really difficult to clean up), water-based simply cleans up with a bit of scrubbing and water. Simple!

Because water-based lubricants are so approachable, the cheapest option, and the most popular type of lubricant, the market is flooded with them. Because "water" is such a simple ingredient to work with, this also means that that same market has so many different, proprietary blends to work with.

Read: Slip Slidin' Away: Glycerine in Lube

Grabbing a bottle Wicked Jelle, for example, is going to feel entirely different than LELO Personal Moisturizer - and that's a good thing! Manufacturers adjust the ingredients inside your water-based lube to pull out different sensations. The Wicked Jelle, for instance, has more thickening agents so it comes out like a puffy jelly - where you've probably seen other water-based lubes that come out more like a thin stream of water. It's all about what you want out of your lube!

I know this isn't the "simple" answer you want, but you'll likely need to spend a bit of time finding your favorite lube.


Water-Based Lubricants Pros and Cons


  • Easy to find
  • Compatible with safer sex items
  • Compatible with all sex toys
  • Lowest priced options
  • Most varieties considered friendly to the vagina
  • Washes away in water (easy clean-up!)


  • Dries up the fastest
  • Tons of proprietary blends makes for higher likelihood of allergens
  • Washes away in water (not for aquatic sex!)

Silicone-Based Lubricant

While silicone-based lubricants aren't as popular as water-based lubricants, they're still a contender for bedside table space. As the name implies, silicone-based lubricants use silicones as their "base"; since silicones are more expensive than water (who'd have guessed!), you can expect silicone-based lubricants to run you quite a bit more, cost-wise, than water-based lubes.

However, silicone-based lubricants make up for that in their staying power. Whereas water-based lubricants require constant applications, silicone-based lubes stick around for a long, long, long time. Depending on the silicone-based lube you choose, you might only need a reapplication every 30 minutes.

Silicone-based lubricants also tend to be much, much thinner than the majority of water-based lubricants. You'll have a hard time finding fluffy, gel-like consistencies. This thinner consistency lends itself well to another one of silicone-based lubricant's benefits: it slickens without blocking. It's hard to explain without trying the different varieties, but water-based lubricant can feel like leaves a fluffy layer of lubrication on your skin - which is awesome in its own way! But for people who want to feel the texture of skin-on-skin, silicone-based lubricants add slickness without adding any extra film on top of the skin.


Read: 10 Reasons Why Silicone Lube is the Ultimate Bedside Sex Condiment

If you're into shower sex (or water masturbation like with the Waterslyde!), silicone-based lubes are going to be one of your besties. While water-based lubes easily wash away with water, silicone-based lubes stick around until you add in some soap. This can make them a great fit for shower sex positions or water masturbation. Just avoid getting it on the floor of the bathtub or shower. It's just as slippery down there as on your bodies!

Silicone-based lubricants do have one achilles heel: they may not be compatible with your favorite sex toys. Silicone may not play well with other types of silicone. This means that using silicone lubricant on your silicone sex toy may cause the toy's material to react - and gum up. (It's not pleasant!) Other manufacturers, even if their toy isn't made from silicone, require water-based lubricants to be used with their products; using a silicone-based lubricant with their toys may invalidate your warranty.

Silicone-Based Lubricants Pros and Cons


  • Long staying power
  • Compatible with safer sex barriers
  • Adds slickness without adding plushness; your skin still retains all of its texture and friction
  • For extremely sensitive skin, silicone-based lubricants have fewer additives/varieties which can make them more comfortable choices to avoid allergens



  • NOT compatible with silicone sex toys
  • May invalidate your warranty on a sex toy (even if it isn't silicone) depending on the manufacturer (read the instructions for your toy thoroughly!)
  • Some varieties may stain sheets, furniture, and clothing
  • Difficult to clean up; requires soap, water, and scrubbing

Oil-Based Lubricants

Most of us are familiar with the idea of oil-based lubricants - like massage oil! While massage oils tend to make up a good chunk of this category, there are also sex-specific lubes made out of oil-based ingredients (which usually leave out the scents that massage oils are known for!) In fact, for some, cooking oils (like Crisco) were people's first experiences with lubricants.

For sex, oil-based lubricants are niche lubricants for many. Oil-based lubricants are not compatible with virtually any sex toy materials, and they're extremely incompatible with safer sex barriers; they may tear holes in them. Many vagina owners report infection issues with oil-based lubes used in the vagina (it can be hard for the vagina to easily expel or absorb them when you're done). (the sex dictionary has some info about that!)

Oil-based lubricants tend to shine as lube for penis stroking and anal sex (within relationships where STI transmission isn't a concern so you don't use condoms.)

For many couples, however, you might consider keeping your well-loved massage oils for massages - and picking up water-based, hybrid, or silicone-based lubricants for the rest of your "put it in a hole" needs.

Oil-Based Lubricants Pros and Cons


  • Extremely long staying power
  • "Household" versions can be extremely accessible



  • Will destroy safer sex barriers
  • May destroy most sex toy materials
  • Can cause infections when used vaginally
  • Very difficult to clean up

Hybrid Lubricants

A newcomer to the scene, a "hybrid" lubricant is a mixture of two of the above types of lubes. In theory, this allows you to get all of the benefits of one type of lubricant - while reducing the downsides of another type of lubricant.

In reality, the results really vary depending on the type of lubricant, and you'll want to play carefully. Think of hybrid-based lubricants as the Wild West of lubes; there's a lot of gems to be found, but because it's such a "every manufacture for themselves" landscape, you're never really quite sure what the results of your lube will be.

This means playing carefully - and becoming your own scientist when it comes to hybrid lubricants. Do a spot test on any sex toys before you use your hybrid lubricant on it. Keep an eye out for infections - or any discomfort after using your hybrid lubricant. If you want to go hogwild and use it while wearing clothes (or on your favorite bedding, sans protection), make sure you drop a small amount of lube onto the fabric ahead of time as a test to see what it does.

Read: What's a Lube Spot Test and How Do I Do It?

And if your hybrid lubricant contains oil-based ingredients, it's probably unsafe for safer sex barriers without a way to really trial that. Best to err on the side of caution and use something else.

Hybrid lubricants can be amazing; when they work how you want them to, they can reduce the downsides of a lubricant type while retaining all of the upsides. They also, however, don't fit into any "preset" categories, though, so you'll need to become your own advocate to figure out how your new hybrid lube fits into your sex life.


Consider Additional Features

What we've just talked about is just the "base" of the lubricant: a water base, silicone base, oil base, or hybrid base.

On top of that base, some lubricants include other features. You've probably seen (and possibly tried!) warming lubricant or cooling lubricant. That's something that can be added to any "base" - to give you additional sensations.

Recently, the world has been exploding with the potential for THC and CBD as well. If you're looking for a CBD lube, that's also an option - and we have entire articles dedicated to exploring more about the world of CBD lube!

Don't forget about flavored options as well. Especially if you tend to swap between intercourse and oral sex, adding flavoring to your lube can ensure things taste sweet - and not "medical". Especially if you're sensitive to yeast infections, make sure to keep the sweetening agent in mind; sugar isn't always friendly to some of our favorite erogenous zones, meaning you'll want to wash up the flavored lube and switch to a different lube for vaginal sex.

Read: 7 Fun Ways to Use Flavored Lube

You can also find the occasional lube with numbing agents in it. As Kinkly has touted, over and over, numbing cream should never be used to help push your body past its own limits - especially during anal sex. You're drastically reducing your pleasure while simultaneously making it harder to identify if you hurt yourself. However, if you want to use numbing cream for BDSM and orgasm denial applications or to sooth your regions after a particularly vigorous session, well, consider some of your numbing options.

Give Lube a Try

Once you find the right lube, you open all sorts of doors for sex. Toys slide in easier. Fingers slip and slide against those perfect erogenous zones. Penetration can be more comfortable. Semi-public quickies or new locations can now be the perfect option for intercourse - even without extended foreplay.

Don't get discouraged if your journey to find the perfect lubricant has a couple of ups and downs. That's perfectly normal! With all of the different formulations and options out there, finding the perfect mixture for you might take a bit of time. (Just like finding a favorite food at a new restaurant!) Some people, myself included, even keep a couple different types of lubes on hand depending on what they're looking to do.

Welcome to the magic of a great bottle of lube. You'll be glad you came!

Mistress Kay

Mistress Kay has a fondness for all things sexual. With a house that's quickly running out of room for all of her reading and vibrating pleasures, she spends her free time reading, writing, and learning about the sexual universe with her partners. She can be reached at Kinky World.

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