Lube can help make sexual activity more comfortable/safer - but oil based lube can break down condoms. What kind is best for you?

If you engage in sexual play and activities and experience dryness, it can be unpleasant and uncomfortable. Using a lubricant (lube) to counter dryness in sexual activity can make your experience a thousand times better, but how do you know what type of lube is best for you?

Here’s a quick run-down on lube so you can see if using it is right for you – and if so, what kind would be best.

Water-based lube

Why is it awesome?

  • Safe to use with condoms or dental dams. The water base reduces friction and will not break down the latex that condoms/dental dams are made of.
  • Can be reactivated with water or saliva if it starts to dry out! Now that California is out of a drought, don’t feel bad about keeping a bottle of water mist by your bed to give your lube a boost!
  • Washes off super easily and doesn’t stain clothes or sheets.

What should I watch out for?        

  • Dries up pretty quickly, can feel sticky when drying.
  • A lot of water-based lubes (especially the flavored ones!) contain glycerin, which is a form of sugar that can lead to fungal growth and cause yeast infections. When buying a water-based lube, make sure glycerin isn’t at the top of the ingredient list!
  • Check that the pH (or acidity level) is appropriate for the type of activity you’re engaging in. For vaginal sex, the pH should be acidic, like the vagina, so look for lubes with a pH below 4.5. For anal sex, the pH should be neutral, meaning it should be between 7 and 8. For more information on this topic,  check out this link

Oil-based lube

Why is it awesome?

  • Great for turning a sensual, moisturizing massage into foreplay!
  • The slick, oily feeling is long-lasting, making an oil-base awesome for a prolonged experience.
  • A plant-based oil (like coconut) is safe for both vaginal and rectal use for partners in monogamous relationships who are using a LARC or self-administered hormonal method of birth control without condoms and have both been tested for STDs.

What should I watch out for?            

  • Don’t use an oil-based lube with any sort of latex/polyisoprene condoms or dental dams! The oil breaks down the components of latex, making the barrier tear and rendering it ineffective as a form of birth control and STD prevention.
  • Oil-based lubes that have chemical bases, like petroleum or baby oil can lead to irritation and are for external play and masturbation only! Use a plant-based lube instead.
  • Staining! Oil stains can be hard to get out of fabric, so keep this in mind if you decide to use this option, and make sure you have a bottle of strong stain remover lying around the house – or think about laying out some old towels!

Silicone-based lube

Why is it awesome?

  • Doesn’t dry up or easily wash away, making it great for masturbation, especially in aquatic environments like the shower!
  • It's super slick nature decreases the risk of vaginal and rectal tissue tearing, which keeps STDs like HIV from easily spreading through damaged cells.
  • Non-irritating for most people, and does not alter bacteria in the vagina, making it a prime choice for people who often get yeast infections.

What should I watch out for?

  • Shouldn’t be used with silicone sex toys. Silicone-based lube can make toys sticky and unusable, so if you want to use your lube with your toy, test it on a small spot so it doesn’t ruin the toy if it becomes sticky.
  • The price of silicone-based lube is often higher than water or oil-based lubes. Factor your wallet into your choice!
  • The flip-side of the waterproof nature of silicone lube is that it requires soap to clean off! Make sure you’re using gentle soap around your genitalia to reduce the risk of irritation.

If you are interested in getting free male condoms and water-based lubrication mailed to your home once a month, visit the Condom Access Project to sign up.  Visit the Find A Clinic page to learn more about where you could access confidential teen health services.

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This blog was reposted from, a project of Essential Access Health. is an online hub for comprehensive and teen-friendly information on birth control, STDs, relationships and teen’s rights to accessing sensitive services. The site features youth-developed blogs and videos, a clinic finder, a Condom Access Project and links to TeenSource social media where youth can stay updated on relevant sexual and reproductive health information and news.

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