Personal Lubricants 101

Most sexually active adults know that there are about a billion different kinds of personal lubricants available, but it seems that few really know about personal lubricants and how to use them.  For example, some lubes are better used for certain types of sexual play than others.  I thought it would be helpful to provide you with some information regarding the different types of personal lubricants so that you can find the perfect lube for you!

There are essentially three main categories of lubricants:

Oil-based lubes – These are items such as baby oil, petroleum jelly/Vaseline, hand creams, vitamin E oil, etc.  People will often use these items because they are readily accessible in the home.  However, these products degrade the latex in latex condoms, compromising how well the condom works (leading to breakages).  “These products can also leave a residue in the vagina or rectum which can trap bacteria and possibly lead to infection.”  For this reason, oil-based lubricants are not recommended for any sexual play. 

Water-based lubes – Water-based lubricants are the most common and popular type of personal lube. These lubricants are all-purpose; meaning that they can be used with all different types of condoms (and not degrade there quality) and all types of sex toys.  Water-based lubricants are also easy to clean up.  These lubes can tend to dry out during sexual play so re-application is key for extended sexual play.  Water-based lubes can also come in a variety of flavors which can be nice for oral play.  These lubricants are less likely to irritate sensitive skin since they do have a water base.  Many water-based lubricants will also list the pH level of the lubricant which is important when considering optimal vaginal health.  A normal vaginal pH level is between 3.8 and 4.5 so be wary of water-based lubricants with an extremely high and low pH levels.

Silicone-based lubes – Silicone-based lubricants are much more durable than water-based lubes; Silicone-based lubes can be much more slippery so they tend to last much longer and need far less re-applications than water-based lubricants.  Because of their slippery and durable nature, these lubricants are great for anal play.  This does, however, make them harder to clean up than water-based lubricants.  Silicone-based lubes can also be more expensive to purchase, depending on brand. These lubricants are also okay to use with different types of condoms.  However, you do not want to use silicone-based lubes with silicone sex toys because you will run the risk of melting them.    

In addition to the above lubricants, “natural” lubes have also begun to gain popularity.  If you have watched Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, think of Frankie’s natural yam lube when you think “natural” lubricant.  Some people have found that they really like “natural” lubes because of how few ingredients they contain; however, be cautious of a natural lubricant with a coconut oil base (or other oil-base ingredient), it can degrade the integrity of a condom (condom breakage) and leave a film in the vagina or rectum, as discussed above. 

As you probably already know there are a ton of different lubes out on the market.  This is great because it provides so much variety for individuals and couples.  Also, due to the declining stigma regarding personal lubricants, you can purchase them pretty much anywhere!  This includes your local CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, or Target.  Personal lubricants can also be purchased at your local adult toy store or online to be delivered right to your door.  When picking out a new lubricant consider the sensitivity of your skin, the type of sexual play you want to use it for, and your desired level of durability.  Now that you have more information regarding personal lubricants, pick out a few that might suit you (and your partner) and begin trying them out!  Email me at to let me know how this process goes for you!


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Written by Katie Mitchell, M.A., LPC-Intern CST-Candidate

Katie Mitchell is a counselor and Certified Sex Therapist-Candidate at Heights Family Counseling. She believes in using a solution-focused therapeutic approach to therapy, in order to empower clients to discover more effective solutions to their problems.  Katie aims to foster a non-judgmental, accepting environment that helps clients to feel comfortable sharing their deepest thoughts and self-reflections. Katie enjoys working with a variety of clientele, such as individuals, couples, and families.  She also enjoys working with both individual and relational sexual concerns.  She understands that an active sex life is incredibly important for most individuals, especially those in a relationship. Learn more about Katie by visiting,, or learn more about our services at,