Personal lubricants, popularly known as lubes, are liquid substances applied to reduced friction with the penis, vagina and other parts of the body during certain sexual practices, mostly intercourse and masturbation. There are different types of lubes, the most commonly used being water-based, oil-based, silicone based, warming lubricants, anal lube and flavored. There are also some that are not entirely used to enhance pleasure but are still present during intercourse, and others that are not used during the actual act but can improve foreplay, such as spermicidal lubricants, and massage oils respectively.

Water, oil and silicone based lubricants

Water based lubricants are considered the safest of them all and are often recommended by doctors, explaining their popularity in the market. Water based lubes are compatible with condom usage and are also readily washable. However, there are a few factors to take into account before favoring water based types, particularly ingredients, length of use and consistency. Additional ingredients include glycerin, antiseptics and preservatives. Glycerin has been linked to yeast infections, and some people may experience allergic reactions to antiseptics and preservatives made with parabens (chemicals with bactericidal and fungicidal properties).

Oil based lubricants can be mineral, vegetable and baby oil, as well as vaseline, cold creams and lotions. This kind of lubricators can be more effective during extended sexual acts since their preserve their properties for longer periods of time. However, they do have the downside of being prone to causing breakage in latex condoms; use with polyurethane condoms is deemed to be safe though.

Silicone based lubricants also have their pros and cons. The benefits include the fact that since they don’t contain water they don’t dry up, people with sensitive skin tolerate silicone well, can be used for body massages, and can be used in the shower, bath or underwater. The disadvantages are that they are not compatible with silicone rubber sex toys, are hard to clean, are not as cheap as water or oil based (although smaller quantities are required), can leave a coating on the skin and the majority are not good-tasting.

Flavored and Edible Lubricants

Flavored lubricators are similar in function to regular lubricants, with the added benefit of different flavors and scents like banana, watermelon, kiwi, orange, strawberry, bubblegum, vanilla, chocolate, mint and more. These types of lubricators are ideal for oral sex, since some erogenous zones such as the genitals are not always particularly palatable even when thoroughly clean, especially the vagina and the rectum. Flavored lubricators are usually water based, so they also feature the same perks. For instance, they are edible, and after all, what would be the point of a flavored item if it could not be consumed?

Anal and Warming Lubricants

While most lubricants are safe for anal sex, some are specifically designed for this particular sex practice and contain a thicker gel instead of a liquid, which allows the substance to remain in place. Although it has been surrounded by taboos and myths, the truth is that anal sex can be a safe and enjoyable experience for both genders, provided that there are a few conditions present, such as relaxation, communication and generous quantities of lubricant.

As the name implies, warming lubes create a warming sensation on the skin’s surface that is enhanced when the liquid comes in contact with natural body fluids like sweat. Warming lubricants can be water based or silicone based, but the ingredient that brings about the warming feeling would be the same for both. Such ingredients include propylene glycol, alcohol, herbal extracts, vitamins and capsaicin (the active ingredient in chili peppers).

Spermicidal Lubricants

Spermicidal lubes are those that contain chemicals that are deadly or impairing to sperm, the main one being nonoxynol 9, or N-9. N-9 acts on the acrosomal membranes of the sperm, immobilizing it. Besides this contraception property, spermicidal lubricants also help to lubricate the vagina and improve enjoyment during sexual relations, just like regular lubricators do. This form of lubricator can be very useful for persons who are allergic to condoms, but only if they are in a monogamous relationship, since unlike condoms they do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Massage Oils

Massage oils share many traits with personal lubricants, obviously with oil based lubes in particular. For example, some are scented and flavored, create a warming sensation and are frequently used during foreplay, which will hopefully lead to sexual intercourse. However, people should refrain from using oil massages as lubricators for sexual acts. Furthermore, it would not be unwise to do some research and even consult a doctor in order to decide which specific lubricant is best for you.