Lube 101

Lube 101

lube-assortI was walking through the store today and was amazed to see an entire wall dedicated to personal lubricants.  Granted, I was in a sex shop in the heart of the Castro.  There were so many choices: silicone, flavored, scented, water, jo, anal, organic, for couples, warming, cooling, gel, creme, paste, hybrid, super slick, and so on.  It was overwhelming.  Unless you know what you’re looking for, where do you start?

There are three basic categories of lube:  water-based, silicone based, and oil based.  Each type has its pluses and minuses.  One may be better suited to a specific activity than another.  Graze the buffet.  Try out something different.  You might find a new favorite or confirm your favorite really is the best.

Water based:
These lubes are usually comprised of water and glycerin, although there are glycerin-free alternatives. These lubes can be used with any type of condom, toy, and clothing. They dissolve in soap and water, so cleanup is a breeze.  You don’t end up with fabric stains, permanently slick floors, or handprints on the wall that never go away.  The downside is you need to reapply lube or water frequently because they dry out and become sticky.

Silicone based:
These lubes are a blend of different silicone liquids.  By varying the ratios, manufacturers get different viscosities (thicknesses) in the product. Silicone lubes are recommended for used with latex products and most silicone products.  Silicone does not dissolve in water.  It also doesn’t dry out and takes longer to get sticky.  There are silicone hybrids that combine water and silicone.  The hybrids are popular because they combine the best properties of the two and look a lot like cum.

You need to be cautious when combining silicone lubes and silicone toys.  The silicone lube might bond to the toy creating a sticky mess that has to be scraped off the toy.  I’ve ruined a number of toys this way.  Apply a small amount to the base or flange of the toy.  The reaction is immediate.  If the lube stays slick, you’re good to go.  If it’s gooey, you should switch to a different lube or toy.

The downside is silicone is tough to clean up. Stained fabrics are nearly a given, so most guys have a set of sheets or drop cloth to use when having sex.  It’s difficult to get all of the silicone lube off hard surfaces like floors or bathtubs.  Dawn dish detergent helps with toys and Windex works on hard surfaces to a degree.

Oil based:
Oil based lubes are derived from petroleum or rendered fat.  These lubes should not be used with any type of latex product (condoms, toys, clothing) because they break down the latex. Polyurethane condoms and silicone toys aren’t affected.  Most people tend to dismiss oil based lubes rather quickly, but they can be a good choice for some activities.  Masturbation and butt play come to mind immediately.

Oil based lubes tend to be slicker than other lubes and extremely long lasting.  This type of lube also adheres well to skin and the rectal walls.  The obvious drawback is these lubes corrode latex.  Most of the time, these lubes are packaged in a tub, so it’s easy to contaminate the container during play.  Fabric stains are typical and shower is usually the best way to clean yourself up. Finally, these lubes can go rancid over time.

All lubes have additives for one reason or another.  Some of the most common are preservatives, scents, emollients,  numbing agents, colors, flavors, warming agents, and cooling agents. While all are FDA approved, that doesn’t mean a few people aren’t sensitive to one additive or another.  If you have a reaction (rash, burning, etc), switch to another lube.  It’s not prevalent these days, but also avoid lubes that contain nonoxynol-9.   It can irritate mucus membranes causing microscopic tears.