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Tip of the week: Choosing a good lubricant

In this tip of the week, we look at how to choose a good lubricant.
A bottle of red lubricant.
© Shutterstock/White bear studio

If you have a vulva, lube is your best friend. It provides a gorgeous slide to any touch and protects the delicate skin of the vulva and vagina from being pulled or irritated during play and/or penetration.

Every woman will experience dryness at some point in her life. Oestrogen provides lubrication so anything that lowers oestrogen such as contraception or breastfeeding can cause dryness. When dry, the skin is more fragile and tiny paper cut-like lesions can appear just from normal touch. These can be so small they can look like general redness, but oh boy do they hurt! Burning, stinging and rawness will heal naturally but it is best to prevent them with a nice lube.

The thing about lube is that it’s poorly regulated so big companies such as Durex don’t have to list ingredients. Producers of organic lubes tend to proudly display their ingredients and I like to know what I’m putting in my body. However, it’s a personal choice and lots of people use non-organic lubes without a problem.

Your vagina is as porous as your mouth and lubes are absorbed quickly into your blood stream, and if you’re at all irritated it’s best to stay away from irritants.

Below is a guide to choosing lubes but no product is safe for everyone, therefore it’s always important to do a patch test on the inside of your thigh (for 24 hours) before applying to your genitals.

Natural oils

Solid organic coconut oil (for cooking) and sweet almond oil

Easily sourced and good value, these oils don’t need to be hidden, are great for massage and are perfect for non-penetrative and solo sex. These are not thick enough for penetrative play; they may stain, and should be wiped off your genitals after use. These oils will cause latex condoms to degrade in minutes.

Oil-Based Lubes:

Yes organic (plant derived), Pjur, and Sliquid

Again, oil-based lubricants can’t be used with latex condoms. However, they are thicker in consistency and great for penetration. They may be a good option for women who are sensitive to water or silicone-based lubricants, and last longer than other lubricants. All oils can harbour bacteria in the thin film they leave inside the vagina (or anus) and may cause irritation if left on.

Silicone-based Lubes:


Silicone base lubricants are not naturally derived; be sure to patch test the lubricant before using it to check if you may be sensitive to any of the ingredients. They are great for slip and won’t degrade latex condom, but they will degrade silicone toys.

Water-Based Lubes

Yes (organic), Sliquid (organic or not), and Liquid Silk (non-organic)

Water-based lubes are safe with all toys and condoms, easy to wash off and don’t stain. They tend to dry quickly but slip can be recovered with a few drops of water or saliva, or reapplication.

Vaginal Moisturisers

Another thing to think about post-pregnancy, especially if you are breastfeeding and experiencing vaginal dryness, is using vaginal moisturisers. These are a little different to vaginal lubricants, which are used to replace or increase lubrication during sexual play and penetration and prevent discomfort, where the effect is short term. Vaginal moisturising gels or creams are intended to moisturise and hydrate the vaginal tissues for a longer period. They keep the vaginal tissue supple and soft and are great for daily use whether sexual or not. ‘Yes’ is my favourite.

It can be fun to have an array of lubes (a lubrary!) for different occasions and moods. However, while lube is fabulous and can facilitate all sorts of sex-play and penetration, including hot quickies with minimal warm-up, it’s not a replacement for the kind of skilled and caring sex-play women need to feel really aroused!

Emily Power Smith
Emily is Ireland’s only clinical sexologist and runs a thriving private practice in Dublin. Her mission is to encourage a more sex positive, mature and educated discussion on all sexuality. She trains other professionals, teaches at third level and runs workshops and seminars to help people feel comfortable and empowered sexually. You can contact her on her website.
Emily Power Smith
© Trinity College Dublin
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