From what lube is to how to use it & how to find the right type for your needs, here’s our ultimate guide

Like a good podcast during your commute, slouchy knitwear on a frosty, clear day or your first morning cup of coffee, some pleasures in life take things to the next level. Enter lube.

Sexual lubricant or lube is often assumed to be reserved for anal sex, hen-party giggles or post-menopausal vaginal dryness, but this isn’t the case.

While all of the above are valid uses, anyone can get a little something from getting slippy. So, if you’re wondering “what is lube?” or “which lube is right for me?”, pens, paper and sex toys at the ready – we’re about to give you the lowdown on all things lube.

What does lube do?

“Lubricant can help create a more pleasurable sexual experience by providing more moisture for your genitals,” explains Charlene Douglas, a sex and intimacy therapist.

Some of us may find that our vulva’s natural lubrication isn't always enough. “This can cause friction and pain, but lubricant can help prevent this,” Charlene continues.

Certain types of lube can also be used with a condom for a smoother experience all round. “There should be no shame when using lubricants,” Charlene adds. “They can make sex or self-pleasure more fun, comfortable and pleasurable.”

How do I know which type of lube is right for me?

Like other areas of intimacy, lube isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone and everybody is different, so doing your research before you commit can pay off.

First things first: it can be a good idea to look for a lube that’s pH balanced, otherwise the natural bacteria in the vagina could be disrupted, potentially leading to yeast infections like thrush.

You may also want to avoid or patch test flavoured lubricants that contain synthetic glycerine. “They can trigger yeast infections and cause irritation to your genitals” warns Charlene.

It can be a good idea to try (or patch test) a few to see which one works best for you.

Water based

By far the most versatile (thanks to their match with adult toys), water-based lubes are thin, slippery and easy to rinse off when the fun ends. Air drying and being safely absorbed by the body does make them more prone to drying out mid-action.

“They require a few top-ups during sexual play, which can be a great way to include more sensual touch to your intimate times with a partner,” explains Charlene. “Avoid in the shower, because they’ll just wash away.”

Oil based

Before you fill your basket with oil-based lubes, there are some rules to abide by.

“Oil-based lubricants offer a lot of ‘slip and slide,’” Charlene explains. “You can also use them when having sex in the shower. But they aren’t suitable for sex toys or latex condoms, as they can cause them to tear or become weaker.”

While the thicker formulas are perfect for those with good stamina, synthetic-based oil lubes like Vaseline can irritate vaginas and damage condoms, so are best reserved for sensual massages on less intimate areas.

Silicone based

“Silicone-based lubricants are great for anal sex, because they provide a longer playtime by not drying out too quickly,” says Charlene. “They’re also super slippery and can be used with latex condoms.

“They can also be a great choice for intimate times with yourself or a partner in the shower, because they hold up under water.”

If your adult toys are made out of silicone, it’s best to avoid silicone-based lubes and opt for water-based instead as they’re less likely to damage the material.

When should I use lube?

The vagina’s natural lubrication levels can be influenced by a wide variety of factors, including hormonal levels during the monthly cycle, pregnancy or menopause, but it can also be affected by things such as contraception and breastfeeding. To help enhance arousal and your experience, apply as much or as little lube as you like to the vulva before and during sex or solo play to best fit your needs.

Condoms are usually lubricated, but with long-lasting sex, they can dry out and lube can help reduce the chance of the condom tearing. You can use any type of lubricant with polyurethane condoms that are not made of latex. However, if you’re using latex or polyisoprene condoms, avoid using oil-based lubricants as they can cause them to tear.

When it comes to anal sex, it’s important to use lube as the anus doesn’t naturally lubricate and can be prone to small tears, called fissures, which may only be felt after sex. Lube designed for anal sex is less likely to dry out as quickly.

How to use lube

1. Wash your hands first, then apply the desired amount around the vulva or spread on the penis. 

2. Begin with a small amount (a few pea-sized drops) and increase the amount when needed.

3. If you’re using the lubricant on a condom, make sure the type of lube you use is appropriate (oil-based lubricants can damage latex condoms).

4. Patch test any scented or tingling formulas prior to use on your wrist or inner elbow, before applying to more intimate areas.

5 lubes to try

Whether you’re using it on your own or with a partner, lube can be a useful way to enhance your sexual experiences. Here are five of our picks to consider trying.

Shop more lubricants in our full range.

For an all-rounder

Try: Sylk Intimate Lubricant

• Size: 40g

• Water based

• pH-balanced

Suitable for everyday dryness, solo play or coupled lovemaking, this pH-friendly, plant-based formula is safe to use with condoms and even for inserting tampons more comfortably.

For the menopause

Try: MegsMenopause Motion Lotion Natural Oil Based Intimate Lubricant

• Size: 100ml

• Oil based

• Vegan friendly

• Cruelty-free

Containing soothing ingredients, this body-loving lube has been formulated to help alleviate discomfort caused by dryness. Its extra-silky lubrication puts pleasure front and centre.

For steamy showers

Try: Durex Play Silicone Based Perfect Glide Lube

• Size: 50ml

• Silicone based

Smooth, warm to the touch and designed to not dry out or wash away easily – even in the shower – this condom-friendly lube is ideal for vaginal, anal and oral encounters, and its silicone formula can keep going as long as you do.

For anal sex

Try: Boots Silicone Lubricant

• Size: 50ml

• Silicone based

• Vegan-friendly

Not just slippy, this lube gives a quality, velvety smooth glide for longer lasting pleasure. The formulation is clear and odourless for a more natural feel. Plus, a small amount goes a long way.

For self-pleasure

Try: Ann Summers Self Love Natural Lube

• Size: 100ml

• Water based

• Suitable for vegetarians and vegans

Make your sexual wellness a priority with this gentle, water-based lubricant. It helps to increase glide and it’s light and non-sticky, too.