"All You Need Is Lube!" - John Lennon, ProbablyFeb 23, 2023
Personal lubricants are a mainstay in sexual and genital health! Lube can help enhance pleasure, comfort, and decrease friction with sexual and rehabilitative activities. Even though the vagina can self lubricate, it varies depending on hormones, hydration, anatomy, medications, and overall circulation health. People experiencing vaginal dryness may be going through chemotherapy, on antihistamines or antidepressants, taking hormonal birth control, not staying hydrated, breastfeeding, smoking cigarettes, going through perimenopause/menopause, or have an autoimmune condition. I often compare our bodies to cars in terms of their maintenance and breakdown. Ex: “Why is there oil in our car engines? To avoid damage and to keep it running smoothly.” I would be remiss to not outline not only why personal lubricants are beneficial, but what types are best for what (since there are a lot to choose from these days!).
This is compatible with all toys, condoms, vaginal, and anal penetrative intercourse. It can be reactivated by adding water but it does absorb into the skin, so reapplication may be necessary. Water-based tend to have a thicker consistency and are gel-like. There are a wide variety of them and they are relatively inexpensive. This is best with our intimate rose products for pelvic floor/vaginal rehabilitation.
This is best when looking for a long lasting lubricant that will not absorb as quickly. This is not compatible with silicone toys, but does work with toys that are metal, plastic or glass. It is still compatible with condoms, vaginal & anal penetrative intercourse. Silicone-based tend to be more expensive but they make up for it in their longevity. This may make this lube harder to wash off because you’ll need soapy water.
This is a mixture of water-based and silicone-based which combines the properties of a hydrating and long-lasting lubricant. Avoid using this with silicone toys as it may break them down. This may be ideal for anal penetration for the long lasting properties and use with part of the body without natural lubrication. It is best to use generous amounts and keep it close by for reapplication.
Oils are great for massage and non-genital use. From a vaginal health standpoint, it is not recommended to use oils (natural like coconut, avocado etc. & synthetic like mineral oil) on mucous membranes which is part of the genital skin that does not grow hair. This is more likely to lead to infections and it can break down latex/condoms. Coconut oil is known to break down healthy bacteria and disrupt the vaginal microbiome. There are, however, coconut-based oil lubricants that have gained popularity because of their natural and edible properties. Use your discretion.
- Unless it's medically advised for a condition, avoid using petroleum based lubricants. It can break down toys/condoms and is not recommended for internal use.
- If you have sensitive skin, when trying new lubricants, test on a small area first. You may want to avoid lubricants that include:
- Heating or cooling properties
- Propylene glycol
- Flavored lubes
- Silicone-based is best for shower play as it is less likely to wash off unless with soapy water.
- Trying to conceive? Look for lubricant that is labeled as “sperm friendly” or “fertility friendly” which means they are FDA approved. Generally, KY Jelly and astroglide are shown to have significant impact on decreasing sperm motility.
- Vaginal moisturizers are great to use on a daily basis to help with vaginal dryness especially if you find yourself in one of the categories above, but are not to be in lieu of lubricant with penetrative intercourse. Water-based lube pairs well with moisturizers or by itself can help moisturize the vaginal walls.
Bottom line: Assess your circumstances! Different lubricants may be needed throughout different seasons of life. Especially if painful sex is persisting and it’s something you want to address, hopefully this can provide some low-cost options at enhancing this experience. In pelvic floor physical therapy, we address pain with penetration (with sex, medical exams, or tampons), pain in the pelvis ,and burning/zinging sensations with urinating or intercourse. Lubricant is used for all internal treatments and necessary when using your pelvic wand or dilators at home. We’re here to help, so please give us a call!
Dr. Krystal PT, DPT, CMTPT, RYT-200
Section on Women’s Health of the American Physical Therapy Association
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