Thanks to lube-promoting commercials that promise to up the pleasure between partners—who hasn’t seen the K-Y Intense couples?—lubes are becoming more and more mainstream. “Lubricants can be an incredible addition to anyone’s sex life,” says Kira Manser, a sex educator at the Velvet Lily, a body-safe adult novelty and lingerie shop in Northern Liberties. “Because they reduce friction, they make sex a more pleasurable, longer-lasting experience.” But using the right lube can do more than simply blow your hair back. “They also cut down on the number of micro-tears that occur during sex, which reduces the risk of contracting STDs,” says Manser. “They are also great for women who are aging or going through menopause, or anyone who’s on a medication that tends to dehydrate them.”
However, it’s important to read labels, as a few common ingredients found in many lubes may cause problems for some people. “Most of the water-based lubes on the market contain glycerin, a sugar compound that may cause yeast infections in some women,” says Manser. Another ingredient to watch out for are parabens. “Parabens are often used in cosmetic products like shampoos and lotions,” says Manser, noting that they keep liquids from growing fungus and bacteria. However, some studies have found a link between parabens and breast cancer. “Parabens can mimic estrogen in the body, so it’s important for people to educate themselves about the choices out there and read labels,” says Manser. “You don’t want to go crazy, but if you have a history of breast cancer in your family or have had breast cancer in the past, it’s probably a good idea to avoid them.” (For a list of healthy lubes, check out the slideshow below.)
Whether you opt for water- or silicone-based lube is simply about personal preference. “Silicone- and water-based lubes have very different feelings,” says Manser. “A water-based lube will absorb into the body and feel more natural, while a silicone-based lube won’t absorb into the body and will stay slippery for a very long time. Some people don’t like the feel of silicone because it feels a little like oil, even though these lubes don’t actually have any oil in them.” (Natural oils are often used as lubes, but be sure not to use them when relying on a condom for protection: The oil will disintegrate the condom.)
And for those interested in backdoor action, make sure to avoid products that contain numbing agents, like Benzocaine or Lidocaine. “A lot of people who are interested in anal sex but worried that it will hurt buy products with numbing agents. I’m adamantly against them,” says Manser. “They cut off feeling, so if there’s trauma or tearing, you won’t know to tell your partner to stop, slow down or apply more lubricant. These products also dry you out, which increases the amount of micro-tears, and may actually even lead to large tears, which are very painful.” Instead, Manser recommends Intimate Organics Adventure spray. “It helps relax the muscle without numbing it so it’s a lot safer,” says Manser.