This is an updated version of an article I wrote in 2000. It’s now part 1 of a series of posts on how lube can help the perimenopausal vagina.
When a cis woman is aroused she has enough vaginal lubrication to make all the activities on her sexy time agenda comfortable and pleasurable. If she does not, then she must be defective in some way. She must be broken, not turned on, etc.
It’s often assumed that vaginal lubrication is an automatic response to sexual arousal, but it doesn’t always work that way. A total myth.
To get some perspective I highly recommend the fantastic Ted Talk on genital nonconcordance by Emily Nagoski.
Why? Because vaginal lubrication can be influenced by bunch of things.
Hormonal fluctuations – The menstrual cycle will vary the state of a vagina. A reduction of estrogen levels can decrease natural lubrication – like when a woman has reached menopause, has had her ovaries removed, is undergoing or had chemotherapy, has just given birth or is breast-feeding. Low testosterone levels may also play a role (still being researched).
Drugs and Medication – Allergy pills, birth control pills, tobacco and cannabis can diminish vaginal lubrication. And not just the vagina but also the eyes, mouth and nose.
Stress – Be it chronic or situation specific, if you are suffering from stress then your sexual response (including lubrication) can be affected.
Even if lack of natural lubrication is not an issue for you lube can enhance already pleasurable sexual experiences so learning about the many products on the market is a smart thing to do.
Think about these influences and stop with the comparing. Everyone is different so stop comparing yourself to others – be it what you see in porn, how things are described in erotic novels or what your friends say. Heck, don’t even compare yourself to a younger version yourself. Focus on you right now.
What To Buy
When I first began looking into lubes in the late 1990s all I could find was KY Jelly. Most pharmacies didn’t offer much else. Times certainly have changed. Now there are dozens and dozens of companies, big and small, who manufacture sexy time lubes. It’s made it quite overwhelming, but given that different people have different lube needs more choice is a good thing.
Now that we have so much choice we might need to experiment with different brands and within those different brands, different kinds. Just like you do when buying shampoo or soap. If you buy your sex toys and products from a specialized store or vendor, see if they offer trial sizes or samples. If you have a bit more of a budget, you can buy a few different ones and try them out.
Some things to keep in mind are…
Water-based – Made primarily of water I call this lube the universal lube. It can be used with sex toys made of plastic, glass, metal and silicone. It can be used with condoms made of any material. This type of lube also comes in different consistencies. They are absorbed easily and they evaporate so they may need to be re-applied to keep the friction and stickiness down.
Silicone – A very slippery and long-lasting lube. They should not be used with sex toys made of silicone. It can damage the silicone material of the toy. This includes those made of a silicone blend and realistic skin toys. Be careful with silicone lube as a spill can stain fabric. They tend to be more expensive than oil and water-based lubricants. Silicone lubes that have cyclopentasiloxane or cyclomethicone that are harmful to aquatic life so the more eco-minded folks out there might want to avoid these lubes.
Oil – These include oils you find in your pantry (coconut and olive oils are two popular ones) as well as those manufactured specifically for the vaginas, vulvas, penises and rectums. Oil can destroy latex products so it should be avoided for us with latex condoms, gloves and dental dams. They also can damage sex toys made of plastic, elastomer, SKIN and other petrol based materials.
Hybrid – Some lubes are water-based but with a touch of silicone. This makes the product longer lasting than many water-based lubes and have a silky consistency, but not enough silicone to damage silicone sex toys.
Allergies & Irritants
Like any product, before buying lube read the ingredient list to avoid any bad reactions. Ingredients to keep an eye out for are methylparaben and propylparaben (possible endocrine system disruptors), sugars and glycerin (increases the chance of yeast infections in pre-menopauseal women), and proplylene glycol (an irritant for some folks). If you have allergies to aloe, oats or nuts and seeds, look out for those ingredients as they are found in some products.
This is a detergent that claimed to kill the HIV virus in the laboratory setting. The Centers for Disease Control now report that it has been proven ineffective against HIV and with regular use it can be irritating to the skin (inside and out) and may leave you at higher risk for developing small tears in your vagina or anus. The possible risk with no benefit indicates that Nonoxynol-9 should not be recommended as an effective means of HIV prevention. For safer sex purposes it is wise to avoid lubricants and condoms with Nonoxynol-9. Thankfully, Nonoxynol-9 is found less and less on the market.
Oil based lubricants like Vaseline or body oil as well as plant-based oils (coconut and olive oil) and animal based oils (butter) are incompatible with many safer sex measures. This is because oil can destroy latex condoms, gloves, dental dams, and diaphragms. Even if you are not using latex condoms or dental dams, like when you are masturbating, some oil based lubricants are not such a wise choice. It is difficult to remove Vaseline and baby oil from inside your vagina and this can lead to infection. It’s a much better idea to use oil-based lubes that are designed especially for vagina and/or anal sex or water-based lubricants.
Lubricants containing nonoxynol-9 lubes have a strong taste. They may leave you at greater risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease and they also don’t taste very good. Another reason to avoid using these lubricants if you happen to have them. Many other products have a sweet or soapy sort of taste. It isn’t offensive, but it may take some getting used to.
If it bothers you, you can always try a flavoured lubricant. They are likely to be very sweet. Though keep in mind they should not be inserted into the vagina – only on the vulva or on penis for oral sex. They can be great to camouflage the condom taste if you use them for oral sex on a penis.
How To Use Lube
Lube can be used in a variety of ways. You can use them by yourself. Many people find it pleasant to rub a drop or two on their vulva while they masturbate. The lubricant allows them to rub on and around their clitoris without too much friction. Lube can be use for vaginal penetration (either with a dildo or with a partner). Having two lubricated surfaces sliding against one another can be very enjoyable. As for anal penetration, more lubrication is an absolute must. The anus and rectum do not produce any natural lubrication of their own, so you have to add some. If you don’t use a lubricant, penetration can damage the thin, sensitive tissue inside.
Sometimes you will find that while using a water-based lubricant it dries out a bit and/or becomes sticky. You can apply more, but there is also a little trick I like to do. Add water! A little bit of water will make it slippery again. For me, the easiest way to do this is with a spray bottle of water. Sounds kind of silly, but you just spray your bits or your partner’s and you are back in action.
I hope you found this little introduction to sexy time lube helpful. I will be adding some posts that are bit more particular to perimenopause and menopause in the next few days. Stay tuned!
Originally published at Seskuality October 16th, 2000.
Updated June 27th, 2018.