If you're looking for ways to maximize your pleasure while having sex, lubricant can help. Lubricant doesn't get the recognition it deserves, but it's time to change that. You may be mentally prepared to have sex, but your physical response and natural lubrication can be delayed, so it's always a great option to have on hand as your body catches up to your brain.
"Intercourse introduces a lot of friction to the vaginal tissue, and lubrication is what protects this tissue from breaking down. If there isn't enough lubrication, this friction can cause abrasions or tears to the vaginal wall," Stephanie Stamas, DPT and cofounder of Chelsea Method, told POPSUGAR.
The Benefits of Using Lubricant
"Lube decreases the amount of friction between the penis and vagina or anus during intercourse," Heather Irobunda, MD, ob-gyn, told POPSUGAR. "When there is a lot of friction, especially due to dryness, this can cause chafing and even small cuts to develop. This can be really painful for all parties involved." Essentially, lube can decrease discomfort and intensify pleasure, Tamika Cross, MD, FACOG, a board-certified ob-gyn, told POPSUGAR.
How to Choose the Right Lubricant
There are a lot of lubricants to choose from, and an easy way to figure out which is best for you is to consider the formulation of the lubricant (oil-based, water-based, or silicone-based) and the type of sex you'll be having.
Oil-based lubricants: "If they are using condoms, which is recommended for safe sex and contraceptive purposes, oil-based lubricants should be avoided as they can break down the integrity of the latex," Dr. Cross explained. "Oil-based lubricants, such as coconut oil and vitamin E oil, are great if you have vaginal dryness," according to Dr. Stamas. She did note they can't be used with condoms (both rubber and latex) and diaphragms as they can break down those materials.
Water-based lubricants: Dr. Cross explained that water-based lubricants won't break down the integrity of condoms and tend to be cheaper and not as messy as oil-based lubes. "Many [water-based lubricants] contain glycerin that can dry out the vaginal tissues quicker and also lead to more vaginal infections," according to Dr. Cross.
Dr. Stamas added that water-based lubricants are most similar to your natural lubrication but dry out quickly and need to be reapplied often. If you do opt for a water-based lubricant, Dr. Stamas said to look for ones that are similar to your natural pH level, which can range from 3.8 to 4.5. A product with a pH outside of this range can alter your body's ability to fight local infections like bacterial vaginosis, she explained.
Silicone-based lubricants: If you're partaking in sexual activity in water, Dr. Stamas said using a silicone-based lubricant is preferred. "They are a bit slippery and last longer than water-based lubricants."
Ingredients to Avoid in Lubricants
There are numerous formulations of lubricants, and you'll have to find what works best for you and your needs, but there are a few ingredients these experts recommend avoiding. Dr. Cross said to avoid lubricants that contain glycerin and those that are oil-based if you are sensitive as they may cause more irritation. She also advises avoiding products that contain parabens as parabens have been linked to cancer (it's important to note that this research is conflicting).
Dr. Stamas added that parabens (methylparaben and propylparaben) are preservatives similar to estrogen but can cause irritation to the vaginal mucous wall, can disrupt endocrine (hormone) function, and have been linked to genital rashes and fertility problems. According to Dr. Stamas, products with glycerin can feed yeast; chlorhexidine gluconate (a disinfectant) kills good vaginal bacteria, called lactobacillus, that fights infections; glycols help maintain moisture, but high levels can increase the risk for herpes, bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections; and cyclos are found in some silicone lubricants and have been linked to reproductive harm and uterine cancer in mice studies.
As you can tell, there are a lot of factors that influence lubrication, such as brain functions and emotions like being nervous or distracted, your blood flow, and hormones. Because lubrication is multifactorial, Dr. Stamas said not to worry too much about your natural lubrication, but if dryness is persistent, share your concerns with a professional. Ahead, check out the lubricants sex experts recommend to enhance your pleasure.