How To Use Lube: A Beginner's Guide, From Sexuality Experts
Lubrication is key to great sex, making this item a must-have for any nightstand or bathroom drawer. If you think you don't need it or find yourself saying, "Well, I already have really good sex," then you're about to find out all the unique ways lube can enhance your sex life. It's not magic in a bottle, but some might say it's pretty close.
How lube works.
Personal lubricant, often simply called lube, is a liquid or gel used during sexual play to reduce friction between body parts or any part of your body and a sex toy. Besides reducing friction, lube can also increase pleasure and reduce pain or discomfort during penetrative sex, masturbation, or sex toy play. Whether you're engaging in sexual activity with a partner or alone, lube often creates an overall more satisfying experience by keeping you lubricated and your vaginal or anal tissue soft.
Importantly, using lube doesn't mean your body isn't functioning as it should. Sure, the vagina naturally creates its own lubrication, but there are tons of factors that contribute to producing less than usual or situations where you'd benefit from adding more. For example, menopause, aging, metabolism, hormonal changes, birth control, and the side effects of other medications all have the ability to affect your body's natural lubrication levels and increase vaginal dryness.
"While natural vaginal lubricant is produced during periods of arousal, people who menstruate often find that this amount of lubricant is insufficient for making sex as enjoyable as possible," shares Jess Barra, FNP, nurse practitioner for sex and wellness site Favor.
Even if you already produce plenty of natural lubrication during periods of arousal, you may want to keep some lube handy anyway—you'd be surprised how much more pleasure it can add to sex.
Types of lube.
Let's break down the various kinds of lube, which all have different compatibilities, uses, and attributes. Before you go shopping for your first or latest tube of lube, read this list.
1. Water-based lubes
The most universal of all the lubricant types, water-based lube is condom- and sex-toy-safe. "And if the first ingredient is water, it's typically low on the allergen radar," says sex educator and sexologist Goody Howard, MSW, MPH.
Water-based lube also usually offers the most natural feeling, and it's the more cost-effective option, adds sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, M.A., sexpert for Lovers sexual wellness brand & retailer.
Try these expert picks:
- Adam & Eve Personal (water-based) Lubricant: Although the first ingredient in this product isn't water, Howard says, "it doesn't get sticky or need to be reapplied as often as other water-based lubes."
- Lovers Water-Based Lube: With only six ingredients, Stewart loves this option because it feels just as natural as your own lubrication.
2. Silicone-based lubes
On top of being hypoallergenic and safe to use with condoms, silicone-based lubes also last longer than water-based options. Howard says it doesn't have to be reapplied as often, which is a bonus, because that means it "doesn't rinse off when someone squirts!"
Although silicone-based lubes have the benefit of not absorbing as quickly into your skin, Barra notes that the downside is they can erode silicone sex toys. If you bring toys into the mix, she recommends a water-based pairing.
If you're in the moment and unsure, try Howard's suggestion: Test it on a small area of your toy to make sure it doesn't have a chemical reaction.
Try these expert picks:
- Uberlube: This silky, smooth lube is a win-win: It reduces friction and chafing without leaving any stains or residue.
- Pink Silicone Lubricant: Stewart loves this product because it's been the most compatible with her body.
- Platinum Silicone-Based Lube: If you plan to explore with lube in the shower, this product is one to consider.
3. Oil-based lubes
Oil-based lube is the least flexible option—but our experts agree that it's the longest-lasting of any other type of lube. It's not compatible with sex toys unless they're glass or metal. Plus, Stewart says oil degrades latex, polyurethane, and polyisoprene condoms (including non-latex condoms). There are more restrictions with oil-based lube, but you can still use it during solo or mutual masturbation, or while fluid bonding with a partner you trust.
Here's one more reason to be careful with oil-based lubes: "Oil can stain your sheets, clothing, or expensive lingerie," explains Angie Rowntree, founder of sex-positive and ethical porn site Sssh.com.
Try these expert picks:
- ASTROGLIDE O Oil & Massage Lotion: Infused with plant-based oils, this one is mostly organic—so you can lubricate, lather, or massage with the peace of mind that comes with using natural ingredients.
- Golden Girl Anal Jelly Lubricant: This anal lube is a favorite because it’s not sticky, but also because it desensitizes your anal area to induce more comfortable penetration.
- Any fractionated coconut oil (like this one!). Howard likes coconut oil both because of its antibacterial properties and its smooth liquid form.
Hybrid lubrication combines either water and silicone or water and oil in different percentages. That means you get to experience the best benefits of each ingredient—or "the best of both worlds," as Stewart says. For example, hybrids tend to be creamier and less sticky. Plus, water and silicone hybrids are less likely to cause irritation than purely water-based lubes, Stewart tells mbg.
Barra advises, however, to follow the same precautions you would for any water-, silicone-, or oil-based lube; no oil with condoms and silicone toys, and water may absorb faster. While some oil hybrids are condom-safe, always double-check the product to be sure.
Try these expert picks:
- Snake Oil Realistic Hybrid Cum Lube: "This is a good one," says Stewart, "because it has the lasting capabilities of silicone with the versatility of water-based lube, along with also looking like male ejaculate."
- Hybrid Silicone & Water Based Personal Lubricant: This lube gives you the slippery silkiness of silicone without compromising on a more natural feel (and that won’t wash off in the shower).
- System Jo Hybrid Water & Coconut Oil Lubricant: A creamy and thick lube that thins during sexual play, you’ll enjoy the lack of mess and drip, plus the versatility it offers.
5. Natural lubes
Made from all-natural ingredients, you can bet on natural lube to be clear of any harsh chemicals. "Most natural lubes out there are paraben-free, vegan-friendly, pH-balanced, and compatible with your silicone toys," says Rowntree.
"Unfortunately, though, natural lubes often lack in the longevity department," she warns. You'll likely have to reapply frequently and maybe even use more than you think you need.
Try these expert picks:
How much should you use?
This answer is simple: Use however much lube you think you need, but it's always better to start small and work your way up.
Squirt a dab into your hand—something like the size of a dime—and spread it on the desired area. (If you prefer a warmer touch, warm the lube up by spreading it around on your fingertips first.) Add more as you get further along in your sexual play, and remember, you can always wipe off or easily wash away any excess. As you learn how your body responds to certain stimulation, knowing how much lube to use will get clearer.
Rowntree recommends keeping a towel handy as you explore with lube, especially if you're using an oil-based kind, which she notes can stain your sheets.
Ways to use lube.
There's more to lube than you think. Here are 13 easy ways you can use it effectively:
1. Lube up your sex toys.
Lube and sex toys are great on their own, but together? Undefeated combo. "Lube is necessary for optimal sex toy performance," says Rowntree. "For instance, even if your rabbit vibrator makes you aroused on sight, putting some lube on that rotating shaft or on the bunny ears is going to put you in orbit faster."
Whether you prefer a directly-on-the-clit experience or no penetration, she says, "Lube can buffer some of that friction to keep your clitoris from feeling desensitized or overwhelmed."
2. Bring out the pleasure in condoms.
If even the thinnest and most lubricated condoms feel like they're hindering your access to wet, frictionless sex, consider adding lube to the equation.
"If you use a condom-friendly lube (i.e., water-based lube)," says Rowntree, "it can help prevent breakage and make condom use feel more pleasurable." To enhance sensations, try adding a couple of drops of lube inside the condom or spreading a bit around the outside tip. Reapply as often as you need.
3. Masturbate your partner with slick(er) hands.
"Lube isn't just for penetrative sex either," Rowntree reminds. "Lube is also an important addition to your manual masturbation repertoire." If you're pleasuring a vulva, giving a handjob to a penis, or rubbing nipples or any other erogenous zones, "Lube allows your partner to really relish your touch and enjoy all those tactile sensations that would otherwise be lost to friction."
4. Go up a size—or finger.
Either for solo or partnered play, use lube to help you reach the higher level of penetrative pleasure you're seeking. It's not easy for our bodies to create natural enough lubrication to ease the insertion of large dildos or three or more fingers, so don't even try. Bust out your favorite lube, and have fun exploring the limits of your body.
5. Stroke your partner's perineum.
Located between the scrotum and the anus, the perineum is one of the most pleasurable erogenous zones for people with penises. To rock your partner's world, add lube to your finger(s) and gently massage that area, increasing the pressure every so often. (This also allows access to the prostate, aka the "male G-spot," which is a bonus.) If you're able to, rub and stroke their penis at the same time.
6. Sex-free hacks.
Lube is actually pretty dang handy outside of being the Swiss Army knife of sex. Our experts shared some practical, nonsexual ways to use it in your day-to-day:
- Smoothly insert menstruation products (tampons, discs, and cups).
- Apply it as a skin moisturizer.
- Put it on your legs as a barrier while shaving for a smooth experience.
- Use oil-based lube as a makeup remover.
- Spread some silicone-based lube between your thighs for velvety skin that keeps dryness and chafing at bay.
7. Give an oily massage.
8. Explore anal with ease.
Anal exploration requires lube. According to Rowntree, there's no way around it. "And never, ever in the form of Vaseline, butter, or cooking oil—or even the minuscule amount of lube in the package with the condom." No one wants a Last Tango in Paris," she says, so use lube for a safe and pleasurable experience. And that includes non-penetrative anal play like rimming, too.
While lube is a more obvious choice for penises, dildos, or anal beads, try applying some on your fingers or level up a rim job with flavored lube.
9. Increase sexual enhancement.
Lube's varieties also include kinds that help sex last longer, Rowntree tells mbg, "which is incredible for women who need more time and buildup to achieve orgasm."
Depending on the product, she says some lubes can desensitize penises and delay ejaculation. Others provide warming sensations that encourage "blood flow to all the right bits" and ensure the climax is even sweeter.
10. Get sloppy with blowjobs.
Sure, your mouth is self-lubricating, but the right flavored or unflavored lube can help you give your partner the moist blowjob of their dreams. The added lubrication is handy when you can't naturally produce more spit. Plus, you can easily swap to a hand job and go back and forth with ease, all while creating double the pleasure for your partner.
11. Play in the shower, pool, or hot tub.
Here, a water-based lube won't cut it. It'll just wash away, says Rowntree. But it's definitely a must: Trying to have sex in water without lube can put you or your partner at risk for injury and/or infection. For "optimal aquatic intimacy," Rowntree recommends a silicone-based lube.
Feel free to get generous with your lube while in water, whether you apply it to a vagina, penis, dildo, anus, or more.
12. Be a tease.
Building anticipation through teasing is a top-tier way to make foreplay even more sheet-gripping. Next time, apply a desired amount of lube to your or your partner's penis or dildo and slowly rub it along the other's vulva or anus. Don't penetrate—just feign like you will and watch your partner beg you for more.
13. Turn your boobs into a Slip 'N Slide.
Are you familiar with breast sex? It's likely you know this activity under a different name, but the pleasure is all the same.
Apply a generous amount of lube to and between your breasts, lie on your back (or get on your knees if submissive sex play is your thing), push your boobs together, and let your partner kneel over you so they can glide in and out of the slippery alleyway you've created. Feel free to explore other positions to get more out of breast sex, and of course, use plenty of lube.
As you have fun with the many uses of lube, it's important to exercise caution in the right ways.
In general, not all lubes are created equal. Rowntree advises always reading the product packaging and considering your unique needs before making a purchase. And if you experience any allergies or discomfort with a certain lube, immediately stop using it and "move on to something else."
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If you're concerned about allergies, Barra recommends silicone-based lube as your best option.
The next big concern would be whether or not your lube is compatible with sex toys or condoms, says Howard. "Not everyone uses condoms [or] sex toys, but be mindful of what the lube is made out of when you're switching between natural play and sex toy play."
She continues, "It's probably not a good idea to use fractionated coconut oil to masturbate, then grab a sex toy to finish off the job without cleaning off the oil lube (with soap and water) and switching to water-based." Even though oil-based lubes work well with non-silicone sex toys, water-based lube is the safest bet for both condom and sex toy use to prevent erosion or condom breakage.
Risk of infections
"Oil-based lubes can cause yeast to flourish," says Rowntree. "You might want to limit your usage of oil lubricants to contexts where there's no penetration."
Stewart adds that "oil-based lubes take longer to clear out the body," so it's not recommended for you if you're prone to bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, or frequent urinary tract infections.
When it comes to natural lube, Rowntree warns, "Please be careful not to let your love of all-natural or plant-based ingredients get in the way of safety." For example, be cautious before using the coconut oil in your kitchen or the aloe vera from your beach bag as lube. Because cross-contamination can lead to infection, she says to "always keep your lubes and pleasurable products sacrosanct from everything else."
Necessary for anal play
Rowntree also stresses the importance of using lubrication during penetrative anal play. Without it, "The friction could cause tears in the anal tissue or at worst, an anal prolapse." Even if you think you don't need it, just have it on hand—because "it's always better to lube up than end up in the emergency room."
The vast range of lube products often have different textures that will affect your experience, so try out new options until you get that silky, smooth feel. "But you might want to have more than one kind of lube on hand so you're prepared for all kinds of pleasure scenarios," says Rowntree.
Remember that lube can help enhance your sexual pleasure, and it doesn't at all mean that something is wrong with your body. Rowntree considers it the "ultimate sex-cessory," and says your goody drawer isn't whole without it.
"For far too long, people have been led to believe that lube is something you only break out in the event of vaginal dryness or anal sex, and that's just not true!" With this limited thinking, you can easily miss out on much stronger orgasms.