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The Explorer’s Slick Guide to Lubes (part 1)

August 10, 2008

the wetter the better

The wetter the better

Explorer’s Blog regulars are well aware of my love of lubes. Juicy, thick, water-based lubes that stay slick without turning gloppy are the perfect gift for yourself, your lover, friends, whoever. As a sexuality educator I am always impressed by the potential of a good lube, or a lube upgrade, to improve intimacy. Women who have difficulty orgasming during sex, or by themselves, suddenly have a wider range of options for pleasurable exploration and stimulation. Lovers of anal stimulation absolutely must use a good lube for pleasure and health. Lube can even help keep condoms intact and provide more stimulation for the wearer!

We’re lube snobs, and we want you to be one, too.

With that in mind, I’m proud to offer you The Explorer’s Slick Guide To Lubes, the first in our series of lube snobbery.

An unscientific poll of mine, over at, showed that there is a lot of interest in these products, among both existing fans and the curious. At the same time, I’m never surprised when I learn that a friend or client tried a lube once, long ago, and hated it. The market is glutted with poor quality products, plus each product is designed for some uses and not for others.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the stigma that can exist about using lube, especially for women and rough-riding gay men. Lets clear that up straight (ha!) away, shall we? An adult woman typically makes less than a teaspoon of natural, vaginal lubrication on her own. No one makes any amount of anal lubrication at all, unless you mistakenly consider sweat, spit, or vaginal moisture to be a safe and pleasurable lubricant for anal penetration. Ouch! As if all of that weren’t reason enough to tuck a little tube (or giant bottle) in your bedside table, many of our most popular medications also reduce vaginal lubrication. That allergy medicine you’ve used all summer can dry up more than you nose. Your antidepressant might be perking you up, but it may not be helping you to stay wet. And how about that prescription birth control? Sure, it’s a lot sexier to get busy when you’re safe from pregnancy, but you’re also less likely to lubricate. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. If your prescriptions are reducing your libido, too, I suggest asking your doctor for options. However, if the soul is willing but the body is dry (or getting friction burns, for the gents), a tube of lube is just what you need.

More importantly, why listen to a silly urban myth designed to decrease your pleasure? You’re not here to learn how to join a chastity movement (I was in that one). You’re reading this blog for tips on having better sex, whether by yourself or with your partner/s. Whoever came up the notion that lubes are shameful, 1) watches and reads too much unrealistic porn and 2) doesn’t care about comfort or orgasms. In short, a caring partner will feel differently once she or he understands what lube is all about. Who wouldn’t be attracted to the idea of enjoying longer, better, more creative sex with the opportunity for more orgasms and less risk of condom breakage? I’m in!

I mentioned that there are lots of crappy lubes on the market, before I went on my myth-busting rant. This is true! Not so long ago the dominant perspective in the industry was based on sex products as novelties. Producers could avoid taking responsibility for their wares this way, and the result has been toys made of plastic softeners linked to cancer and lubes that are not body-friendly or even terribly effective. We no longer have to be grateful for these insulting business practices. While many big-name products continue to reach shelves in spite of inferior and sometimes dangerous ingredients, other manufacturers have begun to reshape the industry.

Enough of the negative, I know you want to learn more about how this stuff can lead to more pleasure and orgasms. Ladies first, then I’ll address the gents.

Women need to be more than moist, we need to downright wet. For many reasons, some addressed above, this is often not the case. To make it worse, the more we worry about it the less we produce. Some of us make plenty, but production then tapers off or becomes watery. As a result, clitoral stimulation isn’t so stimulating and we find ourselves sore, overly sensitive, or unresponsive. By adding a lubricant vaginally AND to the clitoris we can enjoy being touched and played with sooner, longer, and in more positions. Imagine the creative potential! Many women also find that starting with some lube cues their body to start making more of its own. Regardless, it reduces stress and allows for more vigorous and long lasting play. This is NOT to take the place of foreplay, mind you, but rather to make it even better. For women seeking to learn how to have orgasms, it can help you relax and be more receptive to your own touch… plus extend the duration of your intimate exploration.

Men – In addition to increasing the pleasure you can give your partner (male or female), and making your DIY better, lube can help you in at least two other ways. First, it makes the condom feel better and last longer. A little drop of condom-safe lube in the tip, before the condom is rolled on, can make sex feel hotter, wetter, and a little closer to condom-free. Lube on the outside reduces friction, especially (but not exclusively) for anal sex. Secondly, you can benefit from lube for anal play, regardless of your gender/s of choice. If you’ve been jealous of that deep, amazing pleasure that women can experience, then allow me to introduce you to your prostate. A men’s-only little organ, this source of harder, better orgasms is yours from the pleasuring. Get started with a thick lube, some time, and maybe a specially designed toy to help you find it with less fuss.

To pick out a good lube consider these tips:

  1. No sugar! Glycerine, honey, sucrose and many other names are used for sugars. They make the product taste good to you and your partner, but the bacteria responsible for yeast infections also likes to eat it. Other cheap ingredients can be drying or irritating, but more natural products are available.
  2. Unless you’re a man seeking a stroking product, avoid oils. They erode condoms and are notoriously difficult to clean out of your body, leaving a lovely home for bacteria to reproduce. Lubes marked “condom safe” will be oil-free, using water or liquid silicone instead. Note: Lotions, hair conditioners, and other products not intended for masturbation are likely to be made with oils, perfumes and other stuff that isn’t good for your delicate bits.
  3. Water-based lubes either dry or absorb as you go. Poor-quality products turn gloppy, but may be salvaged with a little water or spit, or soak right in. Premium brands absorb slowly, so instead of feeling gooey you just reapply as-needed.
  4. Originally designed for man-on-man lovin’, silicone lubes are hard to wash off but last a loooong time. They will, however, ruin your silicone toys. While some men and women find them too slick, thin and unnatural feeling, they do have a solid following.
  5. You get what you pay for. A true lube snob knows that the crap in the grocery store is not worthy of her or his intimate explorations. Pricier products in smut shops may not be much better. Do your research online and start with small bottles or samples until you find a worthy product.

Our favorite lubes & toys – here

Specific guides for water-based, silicone, and even oil-based lubes are in the works.

Until then, I’ve got a few questions for you:

What do you use for lube, how do you like it, and how do you use it?

If you don’t use any, please tell us why not!
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2008 4:52 pm

    I seldom *need* lube, but I sometimes use it to increase my pleasure.

  2. October 8, 2008 10:49 pm

    The information above about oils “leaving a lovely home for bacteria to reproduce” is incorrect. Through laboratory testing, Elegance Woman’s Lubricant (the first FDA cleared oil-based lubricant) has shown not only that it doesn’t increase infection but the bacteria and yeast counts actually DECLINED during testing!

    As long as condoms aren’t necessary, oil is fine – actually preferred by many gynecologists (including our clinic) – as a lubricant. Elegance Woman’s Lubricant is a unique mixture of organic, all natural oils specifically designed for the peri- / meno-pausal woman in mind but also good for women with Vestibulitis, Atrophy, or other dermatological conditions that cause pain and/or dryness. Check it out. You will be pleasantly surprised by it’s wholesome simplicity.

  3. October 9, 2008 12:26 am

    Thanks for the information. Is the research on oils limited to your product, or have you read about bacteria with oil-based lubricants in general? I suspect quality has something to do with it, but would love to read the research you’re referring to.

  4. October 9, 2008 9:04 am


    Yes, the study mentioned was done on Elegance Woman’s Lubricant and I can fax that to you if you’d like to send me your number.

    As a Gynecology Clinician, I have recommended using vegetable oils as lubricants to hundreds of patients for over 10 years based on the teachings of my physicians. Not once have we seen an increase in the number of vaginal infections / conditions from using oils. We have, however, seen an increase in Vulvar Vestibulitis (inflammation of the vestibular glands that can cause a variety of symptoms including pain with intercourse) from the use of water based lubricants containing propylene glycol.

    Another referrence is The V Book, by Elizabeth Stewart, MD wherein she specifically suggests using olive oil for lubrication.


  5. October 10, 2008 2:12 am

    Thanks for the info! I’m familiar with using pure oils, like olive or almond oil, and with some high quality oil based lubes. I know those all get the thumbs up. At the same time, an earlier training I attended noted that low quality oil based products, especially those with lots of perfumes or those not meant for lubrication (like hand lotion), can be related to bacterial problems.
    I will drop you an email with my fax number, and will look forward to reading the study! I always appreciate the opportunity to update my knowledge. Perhaps you might be interested in writing part 2 on oil-based lubricants?

  6. October 13, 2008 2:05 pm

    Thank you. I am honored. I’ll send you the study information with a sample of the product. We just changed the sample packaging for ease of use and they are expected to arrive any day.


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