Whether you’re having fun with a partner or enjoying a session of solo sex, adding lubricant can make the activity safer, easier, and much more pleasurable. When you get aroused, your vagina naturally gets wet to enhance sensation and reduce feelings of friction or irritation. In other words, mother nature knows what's up. Lube can help things along because, when it comes to sex, more moisture tends to mean more pleasure and less pain risk. And, because not all lubes perform equally, we've tapped certified sex coach, sex educator, and author of All the F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life, Gigi Engle.
"Wetter is always better when it comes to sex,” says Engle. “Even though the vagina naturally lubricates, you should still use lube," she says, citing lubricant as a way to reduce friction and tearing, as well as a method for making the entire experience feel better for you and your partner (if applicable). But not all lubricants are created equal.
Ahead, find a thorough explanation of the differences between each lubricant formula type, plus Engle's top picks.
Types of Lubricants
- Oil- and Plant-Based Lubricants: Oil-based lubricants are one of the most popular lubricant categories, and have slight overlap with the plant-based category. This is because coconut oil is one of the most-used lubricants in both categories. It's commonly found in skin and hair products, but the miracle salve also makes for an effective plant-based lube, (especially in organic, unrefined iterations). Although, Engle advises against using coconut oil as lubricant if you're prone to yeast infections: "As coconut oil has antibacterial properties, it can throw off vaginal pH. This is pretty unlikely, but is still something to take into consideration, as [infections] have been reported." You should also bear in mind that coconut oil is also oil-based, which means it can break down latex (and therefore isn't compatible with condoms of any kind). The only plant based lubes that are compatible with condoms have a non-oil composition, like aloe vera.
When in doubt, look for lubricants labeled as "body-safe," which means the formula is free of any ingredients that are potentially irritating, drying, or linked to causing yeast infections.
- Water-Based Lubricants: "Water-based lubes are kind of the jack-of-all trades of lubricants," says Engle. "You can use them with any toy, with condoms, or by yourself during any kind of sexual activity." She also notes that water-based formulas are the most popular and, therefore, most accessible. But of note, a popular complaint from users is that water-based lubes tend to dry out faster than oil- or silicone-based lubes, making them less effective during intercourse.
- Silicone-Based Lubricants: "Silicone is a great option because it's not only compatible with condoms, but also really stays on," explains Engle. So, if you don't want to keep reapplying in the heat of the moment, silicone-based lubes might be the formula for you.
The Best Lubricants For Sex
Now that you understand the differences between oil-based, water-based-, silicone-based, and plant-based lubricants, here are the best lubricants from each category.
Water-Based: Necessaire The Sex Gel
Clean body care line Necessaire was already famous for it's cult-favorite body lotion before the brand launched The Sex Gel, a water-gel lubricant meant to supplement your body's natural lubrication. It's water-based, which means it's compatible with latex condoms and dental dams, and even passes our Byrdie Clean Beauty Pledge.
Plant- and Oil-Based: Awaken Arousal Oil
Awaken Arousal Oil doubles as a lubricant and a massage oil, and contains CBD, kava, and cacao. Per the brand, "Its all-natural blend of aphrodisiacs works with your body to promote relaxation and increase blood flow," which can mean increased pleasure and decreased discomfort. Keep in mind that this one is oil-based, which means it isn't compatible for use with condoms.
Plant-Based: Aloe Cadabra
Aloe vera is one of the most popular plant-based lubricant options because it is oil-free (which means it can be used with condoms). An organic aloe vera gel, Aloe Cadabra slides on smooth, is body-safe, and features a delightful cooling sensation.