Essential Information for Buying Vaginal Lubricants

How to Decide Which Lubricant Is Right for You

The use of vaginal lubricants is well worth considering if you're experiencing a lack of physical arousal or vaginal dryness during sex. Being well lubricated can decrease the risk of vaginal tears and irritation, which can, in turn, reduce your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you're using a condom, the right lube can also help cut down on the risk that the condom will break.

With so many lubricants on the market, however, how do you know which one to choose?

Young woman browsing beauty products in store
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Water-Based Lubricants

Water-based lubricants are usually the best option, especially if you're using a condom and/or are prone to yeast infections. Silicone-based lubricants are also okay to use with condoms. People sometimes choose a silicone-based lubricant over water-based options because they can be more slippery and also last longer, especially in the bath or shower. They can be more expensive, though, and can also break down sex toys made of silicone.

Oil-Based Lubricants

These are problematic and must never be used with latex condoms. The oil breaks down the latex and makes the condoms easier to break.

You should also never use a lubricant that contains oils, fats, or greases such as petroleum-based jelly (like Vaseline), baby oil or lotion, hand or body lotions, cooking shortening, or oily cosmetics like cold cream. They can seriously weaken latex, causing a condom to tear easily. They may have other adverse effects on the body as well.

When Does Vaginal Dryness Occur?

You may have heard that vaginal lubricants or moisturizers are only for women going through menopause. Vaginal dryness is a common result during this time in a woman's life when her estrogen levels naturally drop. However, normal estrogen fluctuations throughout a woman's life can also often cause vaginal dryness, creating the need for extra vaginal lubrication. Vaginal dryness often occurs during menstruation, pregnancy, nursing and times of emotional stress.

Several drugs, including some birth control pills, can interfere with vaginal lubrication, including Ortho-Cyclen and Depo Provera. Other medications like Xanax and Ativan, SSRIs, some calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, and even over-the-counter allergy cold and allergy medications can also cause vaginal dryness.

Further Reading on Vaginal Dryness

  • How does lubricant use affect STD risk? If you're having penetrative sex, whether it's anal sex or vaginal sex, lubricants are a good idea. They reduce friction, making repeated penetration less likely to cause microscopic damage, or even tearing, of the vaginal or anal canal.
  • How to use condoms and prevent condom failure: No form of birth control is perfect. Not even condoms, which can break and tear during sex. In fact, a review of 15 studies indicated 0.08 to 40.7 percent of condoms tear when you use them. This can generally be prevented by making sure you're using them the right way.
  • Everything you need to know about condoms: What they are, how they work, and more.
  • Should you use additional lubricant with a lubricated condom? Condoms can be an effective means both of birth control and of protecting against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But what else can you do to make your sexual experience even better? Are you covering all your bases?
7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Wolf LK. Studies raise questions about safety of personal lubricants. Chemical Engineering News. 2012;90(50):46-47.

  3. Ayehunie S, Wang YY, Landry T, Bogojevic S, Cone RA. Hyperosmolal vaginal lubricants markedly reduce epithelial barrier properties in a three-dimensional vaginal epithelium modelToxicol Rep. 2017;5:134‐140. doi:10.1016/j.toxrep.2017.12.011

  4. Dezzutti CS, Brown ER, Moncla B, et al. Is wetter better? An evaluation of over-the-counter personal lubricants for safety and anti-HIV-1 activity. Tachedjian G, ed. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048328

  5. Lee JJML, Low LL, Ang SB. Oral contraception and female sexual dysfunction in reproductive womenSex Med Rev. 2017;5(1):31-44. doi:10.1016/j.sxmr.2016.06.001

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  7. Sanders SA, Yarber WL, Kaufman EL, Crosby RA, Graham CA, Milhausen RR. (2012). Condom use errors and problems: A global view. Sexual Health, 2012;9(1),81-95. doi:10.1071/SH11095

By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.