[Original publication date: June 5, 2013]
Q. What is the best silicone lube?
A. That is a simple and elegant question, right? I mean that with all respect and not in the way that Southern women I have known and love say it, as if the words that just came out were not a back-handed compliment that you can’t recognize because the tone is so pointed, questioning, and darn sweet. Well, the answer to this is simple: like all things that are “the best,” it really is a matter of opinion.
Think of lubes much like a classification system we use to make dealing with the complexities of life, only much easier. You have your family of lubes, which breaks down the main lubes that are available out there by what they are made of. Then you have sub-categories of those lubes, depending on what it is you want. Heated? Flavored? Vegan/Vegetarian? Fertility? The unfortunate depiction of cooking ingredients like shortening or butter, aka, for those who saw Last Tango in Paris? So, lets talk about the lubes that are available out there before we start recommending specifics for your situation.
1. Water-Based Lubricant: Water-based lube is what I would consider the bread and butter of lube. It’s the most common, the easiest to wash off, and the most sex toy friendly. They can be used with the majority of silicone or jelly toys, most vibrators, dildos, anal beads, anal toys, and yes, even the fleshlights. It is also condom-friendly, meaning, it won’t eat through the latex of the condom if you decide to protect yourself or your sex toy. The thing about water-based lube is that it works with your body, as opposed to just “sitting” on top of your body. It’s absorbable, which means there might be times when you have to re-apply. This, of course, means that clean-up is a bit easier. The downfall of this type of lube is that it isn’t good for sex in water, which makes it a no in hot tubs, the ocean (thinking about what potential sea critters are lurking seems like a mood killer anyway), the shower, etc. It also isn’t the best for anal sex, though that certainly doesn’t stop folks from using it for anal. The anus doesn’t self-lubricate like the vagina, which means that this lube can be absorbed very quickly by the ever porous booty hole, leaving one to re-apply like Alaska re-applied to RuPaul’s Drag Race (kudos to all three of you who get that joke).
Another perk of water-based lube? Some newer lubes on the market are now being made with natural skin moisturizers, the biggest one being carrageenan. Carrageenan’s perk is that it not only doesn’t leave water-based lube’s calling card, a sticky residue after use, but is has demonstrated evidence of being a potent inhibitor of human papillomavirus infection (HPV). “Carraguard, an aqueous gel containing carrageenan developed as a microbicide, has been shown in some preliminary studies to inhibit HIV transmission, although results have been mixed. Scientists are testing whether anti-retroviral lubricants or gels can be applied to aid in the prevention of transmission of HIV.” How about them apples?
Water-based lube is also the most body-friendly, and you’ll notice that this is the category of lubes where you will find vegan/vegetarian or organic lubes. My recommendation with water-based lube would also be to find one that is glycerin-free, a fact that is normally advertised on the front. You can also figure this out by taking a quick peek at the ingredients. Most people don’t have any issues with glycerin, but I’m definitely sensitive to the stuff, and about halfway in, I get a burning sensation that kind of kills the mood.
Some good lubes to recommend? Babelube (which comes in fantastic price options), Astroglide Glycerin & Paraben Free, Sliquid – the list can go on. Most lubricant brands will have multiple options, except for lines that are specifically water-based.
2. Silicone-Based Lubricants: Aren’t you happy we finally got to your question? Silicone lube is usually made from very few ingredients. It is also a synthetic substance. The beauty of silicone lube is that is doesn’t absorb into the skin like water-based lube. If you like taking your sex toys to the shower, or not re-applying over and over, silicone lube is the way to go. It is water-resistant, though difficult to clean, so if you are thinking about having sex on those nice 500-thread count sheets, I’d say put a towel down. It requires a longer, soapier cleaning and it can only be used with certain toys, so definitely no silicone lube on a silicone or jelly toy, and definitely no condoms if the lube has no information about being latex safe (we actually need to go off on a tangent about that below). It’s the quickest way to degrade your sex toy or your latex condom. Why? Because science! Silicone bonds to silicone and this happens because it is made out of microscopic glass balls. Think of it like rubbing two pieces of sandpaper together. Silicone breaks itself down, causing a gummy breeding ground where bacteria can breed. What’s more, this breakdown creates an environment in which chemicals from certain sex toys can leak out into your precious, mostly absorbent bits and pieces. That’s gross.
Some silicone lubes will advertise that they are safe to use with latex. This, for the most part, is true, but you have to be careful about what silicone lube you buy. Many different silicone lubricants are available with varying quality and performance; however, what they are made with is a big indicator of whether or not they will destroy your condom. Not all silicone-based lubricants are certified latex-safe if they are cut with an oil-base. Normally, this is with cheaper lubes, so if you are having anal sex without a condom (being that you have recently been tested and safe, my dear loves), you will be all right. But, if you are planning on having sex with a condom, with some mofo you don’t really know all too well, and they pull out a silicone lube that looks like it might grease up car parts, it’s safe to say you might want to check out the ingredients before going for it. So, while I’m not usually the person who swears by buying the best of the best, when investing in silicone lube, it’s better to go with a well-known and recommended brand that does advertise what exactly it’s made of and what it is good for. Smitten Kitten has a really great breakdown of their silicone lubes (as well as their hybrid water/silicone ones) by what you need.
To wrap up, there are a few compatible silicone lubes that can go with certain grade silicone toys, like some of these precious loves, but for the most part, your silicone lube will eat through your silicone sex toy. That is not fun. Plus, like water-based lubes, you can find silicone lubes that are glycerin-free, paraben-free, gluten-free, cruelty-free, and vegan, warming, tingling, and geared to help with fertility. Oh, the possibilities.
3. Oil-Based Lubricant: Oil is tricky because anything petroleum based should really only be used for external masturbation or anal play only. These lubes should be used with non-jelly, non-plastic, non-silicone toys (so basically stainless steel or glass), and it definitely shouldn’t be used with latex. If you thought silicone broke things down, oil will blow your mind, because it basically eats through everything like a PacMan – your toys, your condoms, and (oh, there is always an and) on top of that, it messes up the pH of your lovely vagina if you have one, causing an environment that is ripe for infections like yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, UTIs – oh god, the humanity. Seriously, oil-based lube is the ideal lube for anal play, mostly because it is a thicker gel, rather than a liquid like silicone or water-based lube. This thicker consistency is preferable because it helps everything stay in place and from absorbing into your skin. Some lubricants, mostly ones designed for sensation control, contain benzocaine, which is an anesthetic, topical pain reliever found in cough drops or teething gels. It numbs your nerves, which the penis happens to have in plenty. This correlates into longer sex; however, here is the thing about “numbing” lubes for sex. While the intention is good (not so sensitive weiner + partner = longer sex/more likely to pleasure partner), benzocaine’s numbing effect is more than likely to hide the fact that you might have tears in your anus. It also makes an accidental thrust or move that would be more painful without the numbing effect into a less painful incident, causing the probability for injury to be a little higher. Benzocaine also contains PABA (4-Aminobenzoic acid), which, if you are allergic to it, can cause issues. The FDA has been pulling oil-based lubes, as well as other benzocaine products from the market as of late. So, while you might want to last longer with your partner, my recommendation would be to stay away from a lube with numbing agents, and just have more sex to train your weiner.
On the positive side, oil-based lubes that are recommended? Boy Butter has a line of oil lubes that range from coconut oil, to oil and organic silicone blends. Boy Butter also makes water-based lubes, just in case y’all were wondering.
Fun fact time! Did you know that lubricants containing the long-time relied upon spermicide nonoxynol-9 are now being known to be cytotoxic, and there have been multiple studies that show that the chemical, once relied upon for it sperm-killing sensation, now compounds damages by destroying cells and making people more vulnerable to HIV, more so if one is having unprotected anal sex with the lube.
Finally, kids, remember to clean up after all your lube-based encounters, whether with a sex toy or partner. Your sex toys will appreciate the care you give them, as will your parts. Even the best lube left hanging on a toy can cause bacterial growth, and even the best lube can cause sticky, weird residue on your parts and pieces, potentially causing things like yeast infections or UTIs. Cleanliness is next to sexiness.
In the meantime, while you are now perusing your options for the best lube out there for you, enjoy the long and prolific history of lube through the ages, from whence we came, how far we’ve come, and the exciting things to appear in the future. While we may have started at the Egyptian and Greek secret of olive oil, our culture is now able to enjoy a bevy of products for almost all our needs. So happy lube finding, kids!