Types of Lube: How to Choose and Use the Best One for You

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Lube makes all kinds of sex better, and as a rule, people should be using way more of it. Beyond its ability to ramp up pleasure, lube can also make sex safer (and take potential anxiety about being “wet enough” off of those with vaginas—but even if you’re rivaling Niagara Falls down there, you should still put at least one kind of lube proudly on your bedside table). If you’re a newcomer, or wondering how to make things even wetter and better: Let me tell you all about how to use it and why it’s amazing…and you might just find out how to clean silicone lube off your hardwood floor in the process.

What types of lube are there?

There’s a lube for every occasion. Signey Olson, DNP, NP, CNM, an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and nurse practitioner specializing in reproductive health and fertility, tells SELF, “I always joke that you can say your medical provider told you you should use lube every time.” But, given the sea of lube out there, how do you know which kinds you might choose? Let’s break it down.


This type of lube is, well, watery. According to Dr. Olson, water-based lube is the “least likely to irritate genital tissue,” because they usually have fewer ingredients than other types of lube. That also means they’re definitely your best option if you or your partner have sensitive skin or are prone to yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or UTIs—but you can check the label to make sure what you’re working with is fragrance-free and doesn’t contain anything else you know you’re sensitive to.

Dr. Olson also points out that water-based lube is the “easiest to clean”—both off of yourself and out of your sheets—which is useful, because it’s absorbed by your skin more quickly, so you might need to reapply a lot of it throughout whatever sexy thing it is you’re doing.

One of water-based lube’s biggest perks: It’s safe with all types of sex toys and barrier methods like condoms (latex or otherwise). Okay, versatility!


Slippery slopes ahead! Silicone-based lube is longer-lasting than water-based kinds, so it’s good for sex that lasts a long time, since you’re less likely to need to reapply as often. Dr. Olson especially recommends silicone lube for “sex in the shower, as it doesn’t wash away as easily.” (Just be really careful not to slip.)

There are some potential cons, though: Silicone-based lubes might stain your sheets, so lay out a sex towel. You shouldn’t use silicone lube with silicone sex toys, as it can cause them to degrade, but it’s safe to use with metal or glass. And, like I said, it’s slippery AF, so if it gets on the floor, try to clean it up immediately using a washcloth and a paste-like mixture of baking soda and water. (Ask me how I know.)


She’s thick—the consistency of oil-based lube, that is. Similar to silicone-based lube, oil-based lube will keep things slick for a longer time than water-based types, but unlike silicone options, oil-based lube is incompatible with latex barriers, like condoms or dental dams: It can weaken the material and make the barrier more likely to tear, increasing the risk of STIs or pregnancy if you’re having P-in-V sex.

Bonus: What is NOT lube?

I’d be remiss to point out that some things that kinda, sorta seem like lube are actually very much not things you should use anywhere around your genitals. Juliana Hauser, PhD, LMFT, LPC tells SELF that food, like honey or whipped cream, is a firm no because sugar can be irritating to genitals and increase the risk of yeast infection. You should also avoid “baby oil, lotion, soap, or petroleum jelly,” Dr. Hauser adds, since these can all contain irritants that may make infection more likely too. Basically: Only use lubes that say they’re lubes.

How to use lube for whatever sex act you’re doing


If you’re getting down all by yourself, you shouldn’t be truly alone…because you’ve got your trusty lube there with you. Okay, that was so corny, but in all seriousness: Lube is super underrated for masturbation, which sucks because (a) it feels just as amazing when you use it by yourself, whether you have a penis or vagina, and (b) it’s the perfect time to experiment with different kinds to figure out your preferences. Dr. Hauser says that lube “helps with adding new sensations, reduces friction from hands and sex toys, can help with dryness, and adds a different feel to rhythm and touch.”


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