How to Stock Your Nightstand With Lubes for Every Sexual Occasion

An exhaustive guide to the right lubricants for any kind of sucking, fucking, and whatever other weird stuff you're enjoying.
How to Pick the Best Lube for Sex
Illustration by Cathryn Virginia
Advice on the finer points of having great sex.

I love lube down to (and inside) my innermost core. Lube is a secret weapon for having a good time in bed, solo or partnered—it’s an important tool that decreases friction and protects delicate tissues, and in all ways, enhances pleasure.

But… of all the wonderful lubes out there in the world, what’s the best one for you, personally? Answering this question can take a little research—and some extremely fun testing. The sex acts you’re doing, the toys and/or body parts you’re doing them with, and your safer sex practices will all help determine which lube(s!) work best for you. Different lubes are good for different things, and no one will complain if you have a few on hand! Here’s everything you need to know about how to have smoother, wetter, hotter sex, no matter what your wants and needs are.


What different types of lube are out there, to begin with?

Every sexual adventure should probably include lube. Our genital tissues are delicate and should be treated with care! Think of lube as a slippery shield: Not only does decreased friction help prevent condoms from ripping and genital tears, it can help prevent STIs—and let's not forget a butt is not self-lubricating, like a vagina is, so it’s especially important to use lube during anal

Variety is the spice of life, and, also, the lube market. Because sex education in this country is a pile of crumpled-up abstinence-themed Bazooka bubblegum comics, you might not know that much about the different kinds of lubricant available outside of your local pharmacy. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s a chance any random lube you grab off the supermarket shelf might not be great for your body. (And, of course, you should never use non-lube products like baby oil, Vaseline, or regular lotion as lube.) Many lube ingredients, including any potentially harmful ingredients (like glycerin, a frequent ingredient in flavored lube that can sometimes cause yeast infections, and some spermicides), absorb into your system, and can potentially cause itching and discomfort. Lube can also alter the pH of a vagina or butt, which can lead to irritation. (Everybody's pH is a little different, too, meaning people will have different responses to different kinds of lube.) 


But there are plenty of body-safe, super hot lubes out there, too! So before we get into what to do with lube, let’s enjoy a tiny breakdown on the various types of lube that line the shelves and what to consider as you pick one to try out.

Water-based lube

Literally, these are lubes made of water. Water-based lubes are frequently considered the most versatile lubricants, since they’re compatible with sex toys and barrier methods of protection, while some other kinds of lubes aren’t compatible with one, the other, or both—so you don’t have to overthink before pouring it over some silicone or latex for a good time. Water-based lubes are affordable, easy to find (these ones, you probably don’t have to look very hard for), and wash out of sheets and clothing easily. 

Because of the water base, this type of lube does have a tendency to absorb into your skin faster than other lubes, so it might need to be reapplied multiple times as you go. Water-based lubes also vary the most in terms of ingredients, so read the bottle carefully before pulling one off the shelf. (Here’s a list of potentially not-great ingredients to look for.) Try switching to a new water-based lube if irritation occurs—a tweak in the ingredient list might help!

Silicone lube

All silicone lube consists of three main ingredients: dimethicone, dimethiconol and cyclomethicone. Silicone lube is super slippery and has no taste, flavor, or smell (unless other ingredients are added to it besides the main three). 


Silicone lubes don't absorb into the skin, which means they’re long-lasting—and hypoallergenic! If you’ve battled with irritation, I urge you to invite some silicone into your bedroom. This silky lube coats the skin and acts like a barrier between mucous membranes and whatever’s penetrating you or your partner. 

Silicone lube isn’t always compatible with silicone toys. The silicone lube bonds with the silicone of the toy, causing surface damage to your expensive sex item. Surface damage can eventually cause a toy to become porous–and porous toys allow space for bacteria to grow and affect your delicate vaginal flora. I’d suggest avoiding using the two together. Don’t forget to properly store your silicone toys while you’re at it!  While silicone works just fine with latex and polyisoprene condoms, it’s a good idea to avoid using polyurethane condoms. Silicone lube can stain sheets—and unless you’re trying to make an indoor Slip ‘N Slide, don’t spill it on the floor

Hybrid lube

One might think that hybrid lube–part water-based, part silicone–would be the Rolls Royce of lubes—and in some ways it is, and others, not so much. Since hybrids are a mix of two different types of lubes, you get the pros and cons of both.


Because of the inclusion of silicone ingredients, hybrid lubes are less likely to cause irritation than just water-based lubes since the silicone elements don’t absorb into your skin. Some hybrid lubes will last longer than straight-up water-based lubes and the texture can be smoother. The biggest draw of hybrid lubes is that they’re compatible with all barrier methods, and can sometimes work with silicone toys, depending on the formula

Because they’re partly water-based, hybrid lubes are more likely to cause irritation and not last as long as silicone lubes (although, again, each is still potentially less of a risk than it would be with water-based lubes).

Oil-based lube

Ah, oil-based lubes. The things people like about them are also what make them so divisive, as we’ll discuss in a moment. As far as what’s in them: Oil-based lubes can include natural ingredients like coconut oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil, sunflower seed oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter.

These hydrating lubes are frequently recommended for those experiencing dryness as a way to help improve skin elasticity. For those with vaginal dryness, using a hydrating lube can help alleviate pain during sex, as well as quench thirsty skin. (I even recommend folks carry around a jar of Southern Butter Oil Based Lube in their bag and use a little throughout the day anytime their skin starts to feel irritated. Think of this thick lube as basically lotion for your vulva.) Oil-based lubes are also great for massages. 


Oil-based lubes are thick and don’t clear out of the body as fast as other lubes, which makes them a bad choice for folks who have frequent yeast infections or BV. They’re also not safe with safer sex barriers because it degrades the material. so you can’t use condoms or dental dams with this type of lube. And, just like the oil from delicious fried food, this lube can stain clothing and sheets. 

What type of lube is best, depending on the kind of sex I’m having?

Now that you know about the different lubes out on the market, you’re well on your way to becoming a fellow lube aficionado! The next step is to make sure you have the right lube for the experience conveniently located. No one wants to dig around in a drawer mid-fuck. 

Pouring some lube into your palm during partner play for the first time can feel awkward. The important thing to remember is that the more of a habit you create using lube during sex, the less awkward and more natural it will start to feel. To prevent friction, it’s a good idea to put lube on the body part being played with—a vulva, penis or anus—as well as the item that will be playing with said body part (a butt plug, vibrator, fingers, or another penis/vulva). 

Different types are lube can each be ideal for different types of sex. This is why it’s fun to have a plethora of lube on hand! So which lubes are good for handys, and which ones are good for bathtime? Let’s get into it!


Vaginal penetration

Vaginal wetness is not an indication of arousal!!! (If I could shout this from the rooftops, I would!) All our bodies react differently when we’re turned on—some bods get wet, and some less so. If you or a partner has a vagina, why punish it with lubeless sex? It’s important to note for those who do get that wet ass pussy: Vaginal wetness is not the same as lube. This also goes for spit, menstrual blood, and other fluids that happen while we’re getting in the mood. These liquids re-absorb and dry out while lube is formatted to stick on the surface of the skin to keep things slippery longer.

If you’re looking for a go-to lube for vaginal penetration, water-based lubes are where it’s at. As mentioned above, they can be tricky to ensure it’s going to react well to an individual body, but it’s worth it to have a lube that requires no second thought before using it with toys or condoms. Made with hyaluronic acid and lotus root, Sutil Luxe is one luxurious water-based lube that is worth the investment. Soothing, hydrating, and long-lasting, Sutil Luxe deserves an honored place at your bedside table.

Oral sex

Yes, you can use lube while going down on someone! Water-based lubes are great for oral, especially if you’re using a dental dam or condom, since they’re compatible with safer sex barriers—but many of them leave a lot to be desired in the taste department. If you want something that actually tastes good, may I suggest Sliquid Swirl? It comes in flavors like blackberry fig and tangerine peach, and is 100 percent vegan. 



Just like oral, handys are more fun with lube—whether or not you’ve got a partner nearby. Some folks might believe they don’t need lube if they’re masturbating, and why this myth persists is a mystery to me. Solo sex is still sex, after all, and all sex is better with lube, and this is also true whether you’re using a hand, a vibrator, or a masturbation sleeve.

For straight-up handjobs, I recommend Doc Johnson Triple Duty. This hybrid lube comes in an easy-to-pump bottle and has a consistency similar to lotion in that it melts down with use. You won't be stuck with a drippy mess while using this lube, and the application can be done one-handed (get it—since the other is busy!!!). 

Anal sex

Again: Your beautiful butt does not self-lubricate, so lube is extra important as you enjoy anal of any kind. For any sort of butt sex, use way more lube than you first think might be enough, and reapply frequently and with relish! 

When picking out a lube for your bum, consider that water-based lubes absorb quickly and will need to be reapplied often and oil-based lubes aren’t compatible with condoms, which can be a big butt bummer when you’re trying to enjoy a slippery ride. Silicone lubes are really where it’s at for anal. Not only are they the slipperiest of lubes, they don’t absorb into the body so they’ll last the longest, which is crucial during anal. Gun Oil Silicone Lube adds a little vitamin E and aloe vera to the mix so your tissues can be taken care of while your back gets blown out. If you want a thicker, cushiony lube, check out Pjur Back Door Lube which basically acts like a pillow between your butt and whatever is being inserted. 

Shower sex 

If you’re ready to get wet and wild in a shower or bath, pick your lube carefully: Water-based lube and hybrid lube are going to wash away faster than desired to get the job done. Since it’s not water-soluble, this is another place where silicone lube shines. Since it’s not water-soluble, it’ll stay nice and slippery for your entire shower. Swiss Navy Silicone Lubricant in a convenient pump bottle means you can put it right into your hand (or wherever else you want it to go) during bath time. Always be careful with silicone lube–incredibly slippery lube and porcelain can be a dangerous combination!  

When you want to go elbow-deep, you need a lube that’s going to LAST. This goes for vaginal or anal fisting. While silicone lube will sometimes do the trick, silicone-based lubes tend to be on the thinner side as far as consistency goes. A thicker oil-based lube can provide not just the slip, but can condition your vaginal/anal walls while you go at it with a slicked-up hand. The Butters Palm Grease is that lube. Given its thick consistency, this plant-based lube is a body-safe option.

Your sex life is totally worth investing and exploring in, and that includes investigating and playing with which lube works best for how you like to bone! Maybe you’re a one-type of lube kind of guy or you might want to hold up three different bottles for a partner to choose from. Either way the important thing is, it’s there! Your body—and your sex life—will thank you for that.

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