Lubricants can make sex more comfortable and more pleasurable, plus make it easier to use condoms. But not all lubricants are appropriate for all people or all situations. Here are the benefits and downsides of the three main types of personal lubricant:
Examples: Astroglide Liquid, Eros, K-Y Ultragel, Replens Silky Smooth
Pros: They’re widely available, safe to use with latex condoms, and easy to wash off with soap and water.
Cons: Water-based lubricants tend to evaporate faster than other types, so frequent reapplication may be necessary. They also don’t work as well if you’re having sex in water (say, in the shower). Many contain glycerin, which can cause irritation in some people. The same goes for parabens, a type of preservative found in many water-based lubricants. (Check the label for ingredients and warnings about potential skin irritation.) Parabens also have weak estrogen-like properties, which has fueled concern that they might increase the risk of some cancers, but the evidence is unconvincing.
Examples: Baby oil, unscented massage oil, aloe, coconut oil, jojoba, olive oil
Pros: They may be a good choice for women who are sensitive to certain additives and preservatives common in water- or silicone-based lubricants. They also make sex easier in water, they’re naturally moisturizing, and they last longer than other lubricants.
Cons: Oil-based lubricants can’t be used with latex condoms, since oil degrades the latex. (They’re fine to use with polyurethane condoms.) Certain oils—baby oil and petroleum jelly among them—may increase the risk of urinary or vaginal infections, though most women don’t experience this problem. Oil also can stain your sheets, so lay a towel down before experimenting.
Examples: Astroglide Diamond Silicone Gel, Wet Platinum Premium Body Glide
Pros: Silicone-based lubricants are the most slippery, which can make them especially good for non-vaginal intercourse. They won’t degrade latex condoms, they work well in water, and they don’t evaporate as easily as water-based lubricants or saliva. Many also are free of potentially irritating glycols and glycerin; check the label to be sure.
Cons: They can damage silicone sex toys (the lubricant tends to solidify on the toy), and some may leave a sticky residue on your body, even after you’ve washed off.