Vaginal Lubricants: Tips for Better Pelvic Health

Discover the benefits of using a vaginal lubricant and healthy tips for enhancing pelvic floor comfort during intimacy.

Published Date: May 23, 2024

Vaginal Lubricants: Tips for Better Pelvic Health

Discover the benefits of using a vaginal lubricant and healthy tips for enhancing pelvic floor comfort during intimacy.

Published Date: May 23, 2024

Vaginal Lubricants: Tips for Better Pelvic Health

Discover the benefits of using a vaginal lubricant and healthy tips for enhancing pelvic floor comfort during intimacy.

Published Date: May 23, 2024

Vaginal Lubricants: Tips for Better Pelvic Health

Discover the benefits of using a vaginal lubricant and healthy tips for enhancing pelvic floor comfort during intimacy.

Published Date: May 23, 2024
Table of Contents

Let’s get this part out of the way: Is using vaginal lubricant normal? Yes. Can it help make sex more comfortable and enjoyable? Double yes. Are you doing something “wrong” if you’re dry down there during intimacy? This one gets a resounding no. 

Vaginal dryness is a common issue that can affect anyone, at any age, and for a number of reasons. Menopause is one of the biggies, but other factors — like allergy medications or hypertonic (too tight) pelvic floor muscles — can contribute. If you’re not well lubricated, sex can be painful, uncomfortable, or just meh. Lubricants reduce friction, which can help make sex way less painful and way more pleasurable. Nothing wrong with that.  

Read on to learn about causes of vaginal dryness, how vaginal lubricants help improve sexual health and pelvic health, and tips to help you choose the best lube for you.

Our Hinge Health Experts

Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT
Pelvic Health Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Daroski is a pelvic health physical therapist who provides clinical expertise for the Hinge Health Women's Pelvic Health Program.
Tamara Grisales, MD
Expert Physician in Urogynecology and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Grisales is a board-certified urogynecologist and surgeon and oversees the Women's Pelvic Health program at Hinge Health.
Bonnie Whiting, PT, DPT
Pelvic Health Physical Therapist
Dr. Whiting is a Hinge Health physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health and prenatal and postpartum exercise therapy.

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What Causes Vaginal Dryness?

Most often hormones are to blame — or, to be more precise, the lack of them. Estrogen supports the production of collagen, which is a protein that helps skin stay strong and elastic. It also keeps your vaginal tissues thick, healthy, and lubricated. Until it doesn’t.

Estrogen and progesterone hormone levels drop when you’re approaching or in menopause. The transition to menopause typically begins in middle age, but can occur earlier for some — and at any age after surgical removal of your ovaries.

Your pelvic organs and tissues — including your vagina — have receptors that respond to hormones, particularly estrogen. When estrogen drops, vaginal tissue can become thinner and less elastic, and therefore drier. This can lead to painful sex and raise your risk of urinary tract and vaginal infections. More than half of women experience vaginal dryness after menopause. 

Estrogen levels can also fall with breastfeeding or if you are taking anti-estrogen drugs (such as during cancer treatment).

Other factors that may contribute to vaginal dryness include:

  • Lack of sexual arousal

  • Certain medications (such as contraceptive pills, some antidepressants, and over-the-counter cold and allergy medications)

  • Certain cancer treatments (including chemotherapy)

  • Using scented or perfumed soaps, sprays, and washes around or in your vagina

  • Other medical conditions, such as diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder that causes dryness throughout the body)

  • Pelvic floor problems, such as hypertonic (too-tight) pelvic floor muscles

How Vaginal Lubricants Can Help

Vaginal lubricants can ease discomfort and reduce dryness during intimacy. They’re used on an as-needed basis — just prior to or during intimacy.

Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT
Lubricant can be a game-changer if you have pain or discomfort during sex. It helps reduce friction from vaginal dryness.

Types of Vaginal Lubricants

If you’re a newbie to lubes, the options can be overwhelming. This breakdown of lubricant types can help you get started:

Water-Based Lubricants

Water-based lubricants are thin, slippery, and easier to clean up than other types. They can dry more quickly, however, so you may need to reapply them. Water-based lubricants are safe with all types of condoms (latex, nitrile, and polyurethane), as well as with silicone-based tools and sex toys (such as vibrators, pelvic wands, pelvic trainers, dilators, and vaginal weights). 

Silicone-Based Lubricants

Silicone-based lubricants have a thicker consistency than water-based options, so they last longer. They can be used with all types of condoms, but are not safe to use with silicone-based tools and sex toys.

Oil-Based Lubricants

Oil-based lubricants are longer-lasting than water-based options and can also be used for massage. They can be used with nitrile and polyurethane condoms as well as silicone-based tools and sex toys. Oil-based lubricants are not safe to use with latex condoms, however.

Ingredients You May Want to Avoid

Ingredients in some products may cause irritation, discomfort, or pain. If you have sensitive skin, or prefer using more "natural" products, take a close look at the label. You may want to avoid vaginal lubricants that contain:

  • Parabens: Preservative chemicals that may irritate the vaginal tissue.

  • Chlorhexidine gluconate: An antibacterial ingredient that can kill strains of lactobacillus, or “good bacteria,” needed for a normal, healthy vagina.

  • Cyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, and cyclotetrasiloxane: Found in some silicone lubricants, these have been linked to reproductive harm in animal studies.

  • Fragrance, color, flavor, and heating or cooling agents: These products can contain alcohols and preservatives that may irritate vaginal tissue.

  • Glycerin: Found in some water-based lubricants, it can contribute to altering your vaginal pH and increase the possibility of a yeast infection.

Getting Started With Vaginal Lubricants

Many people begin with a water-based lubricant. If you continue to experience irritation or discomfort with sex, try a thicker, longer-lasting kind. Lubricants can be applied to the outside (vulva) and into the vagina. How much you need depends on what feels good to you and the type of product you choose.  

Using vaginal lubricant is nothing to be embarrassed about. The amount of natural lubrication in your vagina fluctuates — not just based on arousal levels, but also by your menstrual cycle, your hormones, and medications. 

Pelvic health experts recommend using lubricant every time you’re intimate, so you can enjoy more comfortable and pleasurable sex.

Vaginal Lubricants vs. Moisturizers

Vaginal or personal lubricants are used on an as-needed basis — just prior to or during intimacy. Vaginal moisturizers can help prevent dryness in the first place. They’re designed to be used regularly to moisturize your vaginal tissues over time, similar to moisturizers you might use on your hands or legs.   

The Gold Standard for Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal lubricants and moisturizers can ease discomfort and reduce dryness, but they don’t address the tissue changes caused by low estrogen. When vaginal dryness occurs along with urinary problems or menopausal symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend prescription low-dose vaginal estrogen (VE) products. VE comes in creams, dissolving tablets, rings, or suppositories. It’s the gold standard for keeping vaginal tissues healthy when estrogen levels fall. Talk to your doctor to determine the best option for you.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy for Painful Sex

If you continue to experience pain during sexual activity or pelvic floor muscle problems contribute to symptoms (like vaginal dryness) that impact your sex life, a pelvic floor physical therapist (PT) can help. A PT can tailor an exercise plan and recommend modifications to your daily activities to help decrease pelvic floor tension and make sex more comfortable.

You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT who specializes in pelvic health via telehealth/video visit.

PT Tip: It’s Nothing to Be Ashamed Of

“Vaginal dryness is nothing to be ashamed of,” says Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT, a Hinge Health pelvic floor physical therapist. “It doesn’t mean you’re old or frigid or that you lack sexual desire.” When your body skin is dry, you use lotion. When your eyes are dry, you put drops in them, she explains. “Your vulva and vagina are no different. Some options work better for some people than others, so give a new product a few weeks before trying another. There are so many options, you’re sure to find something that helps.”

Learn More About Hinge Health for Pelvic Symptom Relief

If you have pelvic pain or symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, you can get the relief you've been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

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  2. Angelou, K., Grigoriadis, T., Diakosavvas, M., Zacharakis, D., & Athanasiou, S. (2020). The Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause: An Overview of the Recent Data. Cureus, 12(4). doi:10.7759/cureus.7586

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  5. Kennedy, C. E., Yeh, P. T., Li, J., Gonsalves, L., & Narasimhan, M. (2022). Lubricants for the promotion of sexual health and well-being: a systematic review. Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 29(3). doi:10.1080/26410397.2022.2044198

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  8. What Is Menopause? (2021, September 30). National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/menopause/what-menopause