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Vaginal Dryness: What to Do When Natural Lubrication Isn’t Enough

Published: JANUARY 24, 2023
Vaginal dryness is not the end of the world and it doesn't mean anything is "wrong" with you. And luckily, there are products and practices that can help make sex more enjoyable regardless of your level of natural lubrication.

Winter always makes my skin so dry. My lips get chapped, and everything from my ankles to my elbows feels rough and dehydrated.


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But, like many of you, I take care of my skin and stick to a daily regimen of oils, lotions, and SPF. Skincare is an investment -- if you want to look and feel your best. Will it look like it did in your teens and 20s? Definitely not. But with consistent care along the way, you can keep your skin at peak radiance.

But what about our most delicate and sensitive tissues: the vaginal wall?

Everyone Is Different

Vaginal dryness affects almost half of people going through menopause, says Dr. Rosmy Barrios, MD and Medical Advisor at Health Reporter. "Menopause usually happens around the age of 50-51, but it can start a bit earlier as well," she says.


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The "menopause is the beginning of the end" narrative would have you believe that everyone who menstruates is doomed to a virtual desert in their vagina. While that is absolutely not the case for everyone, there will likely be a time when you're not as wet as you want.

"People experiencing vaginal dryness shouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed about it," says Wicked Sensual Care's Resident Sex Educator, jessica drake.

Vaginal dryness can be caused by a wide variety of things, drake says -- stress, fluctuating hormone levels due to menopause or pregnancy, medication (prescribed or over the counter), smoking and medical treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.


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The truth is, vaginal dryness can occur at any age for people assigned female at birth (AFAB) or for those who've had vaginoplasty, a feminizing gender-affirming surgical procedure.

While surgery can create a vagina that closely resembles a cis woman's genitals, its inner biological workings operate a bit differently. There are a few types of vaginoplasty. Some produce no lubrication, while others produce small amounts of mucus or pre-ejaculate, which can act as a lubricant. In addition, a dilator kit, like the Silicone Dilator Kit from Cloud 9 Novelties, can help with recovery after vaginoplasty and prevent vaginal stenosis -- a process where the vaginal walls scar and contract. Ditto for Sliquid T-Lube, which was designed specifically for trans men's needs.

READ: 7 Best Sex Toys for FTM Transgender People with Bottom Growth.


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Sliquid T-Lube.Sliquid T-Lube.

Just as with other traits that vary from one person to the next, vaginal lubrication differs as well. Some have more natural lubrication than others.

Likewise, some people retain more lubrication after menopause than others. But just as you put lotion on your skin, if you experience trouble with natural lubrication, there are ways to navigate it.


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What Causes Vaginal Dryness

According to the North American Menopause Society, "...the reduced production of estrogen beginning in perimenopause can affect your sexual function directly, such as through vaginal dryness."

Some reports say that 40-55% of post-menopausal people will experience dryness. Still, there's no way to predict or verify exact figures. Dryness can occur for a variety of reasons:

  • Dehydration.
  • Antihistamines.
  • Lack of arousal contributes to dryness during sex. When we are aroused, there is increased blood flow to the vaginal and genital areas. Blood flow to the vagina helps produce natural lubricants. If you're not very aroused, you will most likely be dry.
  • Menopause.

READ: I'm going through menopause and I feel like my vagina is dry and irritated. Intercourse and oral sex are so painful! What can I do?


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How to Handle Vaginal Dryness

Are there solutions to vaginal dryness? In most cases, yes. These include:

1. Use Lube, Lots, All the Time

Regardless of your level of personal lubrication, everyone with a vagina should use lube for sex play and intercourse.

The delicate tissues associated with vaginas can be easily irritated from friction. Imagine a massage without massage oil! Body-safe sex toys and body parts glide and insert smoothly with lube -- it just feels much better.

Try it out in solo play if you don't believe me. If your partner isn't a fan, show them how lube can enhance the experience.

READ: QUIZ: Which Lube Is Right for You?

2. See Your Doctor

You can deal with very mild dryness on your own with a high-quality lubricant. However, if sex becomes painful due to vaginal dryness and nothing else has worked, you should consult your doctor.

They can prescribe a vaginal moisturizer that is inserted into the vagina. In addition, low-dose vaginal estrogen therapy can be prescribed in more extreme cases.

3. Use It or Lose It

"Good blood circulation is vital for the health of every body organ, including your vagina," says Dr. Rosmy Barrios.

You don't need penetrative sex with a partner to achieve arousal. Solo people with vaginas can use self-pleasure to receive the same benefits.

Sexual arousal is the same in people with penises and people with vaginas. With the former, you can see the penis become engorged with blood. Vaginal arousal isn't quite as visual, but the same happens; the clitoris becomes enlarged, and other tissues swell during arousal. The labia may become plumper, skin tone changes as blood flows to the surface (like blushing does to facial skin), and the vagina changes in response to desire.

READ: Your Erotic Blueprint: The Sex Tool You Never Knew You Needed.

Along with regular sexual stimulation, Kegel exercises tone and strengthen pelvic floor muscles and bring increased blood flow to the vaginal area. This is vital for keeping tissues moist and supple and helps keep the vaginal walls from thinning and tearing. Stronger pelvic floor muscles can also lead to better orgasms. Use it or lose it!

4. Allow Time for Arousal

"When you're sexually excited, the two glands at the entrance of your vagina, known as Bartholin's Glands, produce extra moisture to facilitate the process of intercourse," says Barrios. "So, if you're not aroused enough, your vagina might be dry."

Take time with your partner or take some time beforehand to become aroused. Activities will vary from one vagina-haver to another for arousal. You may need more stimulation from your partner, such as kissing or caressing. Accessories like the Dame Arousal Serum, which that heightens sensitivity and helps produce personal lubrication, can also help. Alternatively, couples might introduce a vibrator into foreplay or intercourse for added stimulation.

Dame Arousal Serum.Dame Arousal Serum.

"Consistent vaginal dryness can cause thinning of the vaginal walls, making one more susceptible to pain during penetrative sex," says drake. "Sex shouldn't hurt or be uncomfortable."

If penetration is painful, try sliding an Ohnut bumper on a penis or dildo. Its stretchy stackable rings help limit the depth of penetration. This can be especially helpful for people who've recently gotten a vaginoplasty. drake notes that it's important to talk to a doctor if you're experiencing chronic dryness or extreme pain during sex.

READ: How to Make Foreplay the Main Event.

5. Get Wet

If you take away one thing from this article, go out and buy a new lubricant. "Lube decreases friction and can prevent fissures (tiny tears) during sex," says drake. "It can be used inside your body AND outside for things like (not so dry) humping, scissoring, vulva massage, kink play and more."

In fact, you might want to consider a few kinds of lube.

"One person may have different lubes for many different types of play, so feel free to do some sexy research and find what works for your body and needs," says drake.

For example, get a silicone lube, like Uberlube, for anal play and a water-based product for most sex toys. Sliquid Sliver is a slick, non-sticky pick for replenishing vaginal dryness. drake's go-to has always been Ultra, a silicone lube from Wicked Sensual Care. Ultra also comes in cooling and heating varieties for those interested in experimenting with a bit of temperature play.

Wicked Ultra Lubricant.Wicked Ultra.

Friendly reminder: don't use oil-based lubes or products (think lotion, coconut oil, massage oils, or Vaseline) with latex condoms -- oil can make them break. Also, stick to water-based lube with silicone toys, as silicone lube can degrade the material of your toy.

READ: The Care and Cleaning of Quality Sex Toys.

Conclusion: It's OK to Ask for Help

Vaginal dryness is not the end of the world. Not having as much natural lubrication as you might like doesn't mean anything is "wrong" with you. And luckily, there are products and practices that can help make sex more enjoyable for you regardless of your level of natural lubrication.

Dr. Barrios says the main problem is that most people don't talk to their doctors about vaginal dryness because they might be embarrassed or think it will cure on its own. "That's bad because you should prioritize timely treatment," she says.

Barrios leaves readers with one final recommendation: "If discomfort continues for a few days or you experience painful sex, bleeding, inflammation, etc., you should seek help from your doctor."

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Ryn Pfeuffer

Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. She got her start in the mid-90s at the Philadelphia Weekly, managing a 10-page section of the newspaper and more than 500 lonely hearts.Her professional stock skyrocketed when she started writing a saucy (and pre-Carrie-Bradshaw-era) dating advice column called “Ask Me Anything.” She appeared regularly on local radio stations and late-night TV as an expert on everything from grooming...

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