4 types of Lubricants and key differences between them

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We’ve written so far a handful of articles covering variety of questions and DIY recipes on personal lubricants. But we haven’t yet talked about which types of sexual lubes are out there, available on the market. And what are the key differences between each type of lube? If you are a newcomer to the “lube world” you should get to know all 4 types of lubricants and the key differences between them to able to choose the one that’s best for you.

Learning the differences from these 4 types of lubricants, should answer your question: “What kind of lube should I use?” Our article will provide you with enough knowledge and useful information, for you to be able to choose best type of lubricant according to your specific needs.

Generally, there are 4 types of sexual lubricants:

  • water-based;
  • silicone-based;
  • oil-based;
  • and petroleum-based.
 

Each of them have specifics in which they differ. Some of them are more natural than the others. Some of them are absorbed faster, some are long-lasting. One type is not compatible with your favorite toys. And one cant be used for safe sex, since it dissolves condoms. Read further to learn everything you need about each type.

 

Types of Lubricants #1: Water-Based Personal Lubricants

water based personal lubricants - lube type 1

Water-based lubes – General description:

Water-based personal lubricants are considered to be the safest type of lubricant to begin with. They are considered the most natural, since the main ingredient in these type of lube is (you guessed it) water. Most of them leave no stains on your sheets, and all of them are compatible with condoms and sex toys.

 

Where water-based lubes shine and what are the downsides?

AdvantagesDownsides
  • Compatible with condoms.
  • They tend to dry-out faster and become sticky.
  • Can be used with sex toys.
  • Some are added glycerin (unhealthy) for smoothness.
  • A safe choice for first timers
  • Bad for shower sex, since they are easily rinsed off.
  • Made for sensitive skin, don't cause irritations.
  • Variety of uses (vaginal, anal, oral, solo, ...)
  • Easy to rinse off with just water.
  • Won't leave stains on your sheets
  • Absorbable, making your skin smoother.
  •  

    What to look for when buying a water-based lube for yourself?

    No glycerin – As we mentioned in the “downsides” of water-based types of Lubricants, some manufacturers add glycerin into the mix. Glycerin (or Glycerol) is a sugar alcohol. This is an ingredient you might want to avoid, because it’s been connected to sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). Glycerin has been associates with yeast infections and also believed to increase risk for bacterial vaginosis (study from 2014).

    No parabens – Basically any ingredient ending with “paraben”; e.g. butylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, etc… Parabens work as a preservative, actively fighting microorganisms. Problem is that parabens may actually enter our bodies, and based on UK 2004 study, they don’t seem to leave it. The study showed that tissue of 18 (out of 20) breast cancer samples contained 5 different types of parabens. Parabens are known to be able to mimic hormone estrogen, thus disrupting hormones from proper functioning. Increased level of estrogen may contribute to accelerated cell growth, which can may as a consequence lead to development of breast cancer.

    parabens 2004 cancer study
    Source: Concentrations of Parabens in Human Breast Tumours [P. D. Darbre, et. al]

    Longlastness – The main problem you might get with water-based types of sex lubes, is how fast they dry out. But not every water-based lube acts that way. Some water-based lubes can be long-lasting and provide you with enough time to enjoy your sexual act. The best way to test this, is to go to a sex shop and try samples on your skin. Pick a few, apply them to a part of your skin (one-by-one), rub and pay attention to how fast they dry out.

    So, which water based lube do we think of as the best and healthiest? As a recommendation, we advise you to try Isabel Fay natural water-based personal lubricant (link to Amazon). My wife and I, have recently been using Isabel Fay, and we both agree that its an amazing choice of natural lube for sex.

     

    Types of Lubricants #2: Silicone-Based Lubes

    Silicone-Based Sex Lubes

    Silicone-based lubes – General description:

    Unlike water-based lubes type (which are known for their fast absorbance), silicone-based lubes are quite the opposite. Silicone-based types of lubricants are known for their long-lasting properties with smooth, slippery gliding features. If you are thinking about using a lube under shower, silicone-based lubes are the choice for you. Silicone lubricants are also cost effective, because even the smallest amounts of lube can be enough for the entire session. Just don’t use them with any of your silicone toys!

     

    The pros and cons of silicone-based lubricants?

    AdvantagesDownsides
  • Can be safely used with polyisoprene condoms.
  • Can't be used with polyurethane condoms.
  • Can be safely used in a combination with latex.
  • Can't be used with silicone sex toys.
  • They are long-lasting, non skin absorbent.
  • Hard to rinse off (you will need soap).
  • Work well under shower for your shower sex acts.
  • Can leave traces inside vagina for quite some time.
  • Usually free of glycerins.
  • Smooth and slippery, great for non vaginal intercourse
  •  

    Going for a silicone-based lube? Here’s what to keep an eye on:

    Dimethicone – “Dimethicone (also called polymethylsiloxane) is a silicon-based polymer used as a lubricant and conditioning agent” (source: eewg.org). It is the ingredient that makes your silicone lube “better”. Dimethicone has a wide spectrum of useful functions. Here you can read more about dimethicone health benefits. Although, the percentage of dimethicone in your lube also affects the price – more dimethicone, higher the price of your lube. Do not go for cheap lubes when buying one. Cheap usually also implies bad quality, and unhealthy ingredients. Look for lubes from medium to higher price range.

    Yeast infections – If you (or your partner) are prone to yeast infections (or other STI’s) you might consider other types of lube. As we said previously, silicone-based lubes are hard to wash off. This applies to human body and other materials (sheets, couch, etc.) Once you stain something with a silicone lube, you are in for quite some work to get it off.

    As for your body – Silicone lubes are going to stay on (and inside) your body for a day or two, which might increase the risk for yeast infection. For anyone prone to infections, we recommend oil lubes (e.g. cold-pressed virgin coconut oil is great for treating infections) and water-based lubes (e.g. aloe vera natural lube has numerous medicinal benefits). Also, read this article which contains some good info on lubes overall.

    Flavour – Avoid lubes that are flavoured. Adding flavour to a lube usually means there is sugar involved. Sugar is a great ingredient to be the cause for all sorts of infections. Here’s a good read on it from Reddit. The worst thing about flavoured lubes for me is, that those are (mostly) artificial flavours, and not natural extracts from the actual fruits. Flavours mean more chemistry and more sugar, ergo avoid flavoured lubes.

     

    Which silicone-based lube did we find to be the safest and best overall? After trying quite a few we must say that Penchant Premium Silicone-Based Lube (link to Amazon), was the one we liked the most. It has a nice natural feel to it, is long-lasting, doesn’t get sticky, and is all around great lubricant for spicing up your intimate moments.

     

    Types of Lubricants #3: Oil-Based Lubricants

    Oil-Based Lubes

    Oil-based lubes – General description:

    Currently, my favorite lube type among all 4 types of Lubricants we are currently discussing. Oil-based lubes can come in a completely natural & organic formula, without any preservatives, because oil is a natural preservative by itself. General rule that applies here is “if it’s safe to eat, it’s safe to be used as a lube”.

    Oils have numerous health benefits for your body (e.g. coconut oil treating yeast infections), and are a great challenge if you try to make them by yourself at home (see our DIY recipe for cold-pressed coconut oil). These lubes are long-lasting, are skin absorbent, and completely edible. The only downside is, they aren’t compatible with latex, therefore shouldn’t be used with condoms (can break condoms).

     

    The advantages and disadvantages of using Oil-based Lubes?

    AdvantagesDownsides
  • Have a wide range of medicinal properties.
  • Can't be used with latex.
  • Long-lasting, don't dry out.
  • Incompatible with condoms.
  • Skin-absorbable, good for your skin.
  • Can stain your sheets.
  • Edible and good for digestion.
  • Can be used with silicone toys.
  • Most natural lube type.
  • Proven to treat infections (e.g. good for yeast infections)
  •  

    What to look for when buying an Oil-Based Lube?

    Certification – Indicating the quality of a product, can mostly be seen through certificates, that manufacturer not only has to get but also needs to sustain the level of quality in order to keep those. Here are some key certificates that you should be aware of, including description of they mean:

    • Fair Trade certified ingredients – Fair trade is a global movement made up of a diverse network of producers, companies, shoppers, advocates, and organizations putting people and planet first.
    • Certified organic (e.g. USDA Organic) – Organic certification means, that manufacturer uses organic methods for growing plants or fruits needed to create his products.
    • Certified natural (e.g. FPA certified) – Indicating all used ingredients are natural, without using ingredients related to human health risks, using packaging that is biodegradable and environmental friendly.
    • A family-owned and -operated business (not a certification really, but very important) – Indicator that you are not buying a product from some big store chain, but from a family that not only makes the product themselves, but is also financially dependent on the quality they manage to produce.
    • Cruelty free certification (e.g. Cruelty Free International) – This certificate indicates that methods of production are animal friendly. Many manufacturers display the Leaping Bunny logo on packaging to help consumers choose to shop cruelty free.
     

    As a recommendation, we would like to encourage you to make your own oil-based lube. Why don’t you try DIY coconut oil or almond oil? Both with amazing medicinal values. You can find coconut and almond DIY recipes in our article on best DIY and commercial lubes. If you don’t have the time and just want your oil-based lube now, we recommend Shea Moisture 100% extra virgin coconut oil (link to Amazon). Amazing, pure, can be used not only as a lube, but also for improving skin, hair, digestion, and has also many other useful applications.

     

    Types of Lubricants #4: Petroleum-Based aka Petroleum Jelly

    petroleum-based lubes - lubricants made from crude oil

    Petroleum-based lubes – General description:

    The picture above? Crude Oil – the main ingredient used to make petroleum-based types of lubricants. Let’s take a look at the definition from plantengineering.com: “Petroleum-based lubricants are extracted from natural crude oil, and must be refined, desalted, dewaxed, and distilled from crude feedstock.” – Honestly, petroleum-based lube (aka petroleum jelly) is not one of my favourites. The main reasons being: a) from what it’s made, and b) how it’s made.

    I just recently read an interesting study from 2013 (source: lww.com), which revealed: “women reporting intravaginal use of petroleum jelly over the past month were 2.2 times more likely to test positive for bacterial vaginosis.” – I believe petroleum jelly is not a good choice of sexual lube at all… And reading the label on Vaseline (one of the most known petroleum jelly’s), even the manufacturer himself says: “for external use only” – It’s not meant to be a sexual lubricant, so stop using it for wrong purposes.

     

    Which are the pros and cons of using petroleum jelly (petroleum-based lubes)?

    AdvantagesDownsides
  • May feel good, slippery and smooth.
  • Highly processed and refined.
  • Long-lasting.
  • Made from crude oil.
  • Possible contamination with PAH's.
  • Intravaginal use increases risk for bacterial vaginosis.
  • Not Eco-friendly.
  • Not compatible with condoms.
  •  

    How petroleum jelly works and is it safe to use as a lube?

    All petroleum-based types of lubricants work as a barrier, creating an impermeable transparent layer on top of your skin. This creates a blockage and keeps fluids inside your skin, making your skin softer and smooth looking. But, such compound behavior is known to clog pores, and may not be the healthiest way for skin treatment. Petroleum jelly is also hard to wash off, therefore using it at as personal lubricant may leave traces of petroleum jelly on (and inside) your private parts for quite some time (several days plus). Many lubricants based on petroleum are available on the market, but we advise to stay away from this type of lube due to health reasons.

     

    Thank you for reading our article titled 4 types of Lubricants and key differences between them. We hope it answered all the questions you might had on different types of lubes. If you have any further questions, you are free to give us a comment and we are going to try to clarify those in the shortest amount of time possible.

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