Using Vaginal Lubricants

Lubricant can be game-changing if you have pain or discomfort during sex. It helps reduce friction from vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness can be due to medical conditions or medications, hormonal changes (e.g., menopause or breastfeeding), or other pelvic concerns (like tight pelvic floor muscles). In addition to doing pelvic floor physical therapy exercises, lube can help you have less painful and more pleasurable sex. There are many types of lubricants and it can be overwhelming to choose. Hinge Health does not recommend specific brands, but this basic primer can help you get started.

Basic Types of Lubricants

Water-Based

How it feels: Thin, slippery, easier clean-up; can dry up quicker so may require reapplication

Can you use with condoms? Yes: Safe with all condoms (will not break down latex, nitrile, or polyurethane)

Can you use with tools and toys? Yes: Safe to use with silicone-based tools such as pelvic wands, dilators, and vaginal weights

Silicone-Based

How it feels: Thicker consistency; lasts longer than water-based option

Can you use with condoms? Yes: Safe with all condoms (will not break down latex, nitrile, or polyurethane)

Can you use with tools and toys? No: Avoid using with silicone-based tools such as pelvic wands, dilators, and vaginal weights

Oil-Based

How it feels: Longer-lasting than water based; can also be used for massage

Can you use with condoms? No: Not safe with latex condoms but can be used with nitrile and polyurethane condoms

Can you use with tools and toys? Yes: Safe to use with silicone-based tools such as pelvic wands, dilators, and vaginal weights

Ingredients You May Want to Avoid

Ingredients in some products may cause irritation, discomfort, or pain. Here’s what to look for:

  • Parabens: Preservative chemicals that may cause irritation to the vaginal tissue.

  • Chlorhexidine gluconate: An anti-bacterial that can destroy the 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/heating or cooling agents: These ingredients can contain alcohols and preservatives that may irritate vaginal tissue.

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

Getting Started

Many people begin with a water-based lubricant. You could then try a thicker, longer-lasting kind if you continue to experience irritation or discomfort. Using lube is nothing to be embarrassed by. Yes, the vagina is self-lubricating, but the amount can fluctuate not just based on arousal levels, but also by your menstrual cycle, hormone levels, and medications. For this reason, pelvic health experts recommend using lubricant with all sexual encounters for more comfortable and pleasurable sex.

If you continue to have painful sex, work with your Hinge Health physical therapist for a tailored exercise plan and modifications to your daily activities to help decrease pelvic floor tension.

Key Takeaways

  1. Lubricant reduces friction caused by vaginal dryness and can help with painful sex.

  2. There are three basic types of lubricant: water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based. Many people start with water-based lube, then try others if they continue to have pain.

  3. Certain ingredients like glycerin and parabens may be found in some products and can cause discomfort, irritation, or pain for some people. Pay attention to how your body reacts to different products and make changes as needed.

References

  1. Edwards, D. & Panay, N. (2016). Treating vulvovaginal atrophy/genitourinary syndrome of menopause: how important is vaginal lubricant and moisturizer composition? Climacteric, 19(2), 151 –161. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2015.1124259

  2. Use and procurement of additional lubricants for male and female condoms: WHO/UNFPA/FHI360 Advisory note. (2012). Department of Reproductive Health and Research. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/76580/1/WHO_RHR_12.33_eng.pdf

  3. Gali,Y., Delezay, O., Brouwers, J., Addad, N., Augustijns, P., Bourlet, T., Hamzeh-Cognasse, H., Arien, K. K., Pozzetto, B. & Vanham, G. (2010). In Vitro Evaluation of Viability, Integrity, and Inflammation in Genital Epithelia upon Exposure to Pharmaceutical Excipients and Candidate Microbicides. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, (54(12), 5105–5114. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00456-10

  4. Darbre, P. D. & Harvey, P. W. (2008). Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks. Journal of Applied Toxicology, (28()5), 561-578. doi: 10.1002/jat.1358

  5. Experiencing Vaginal Dryness? Here’s What You Need to Know. (n.d.). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/the-latest/experiencing-vaginal-dryness-heres-what-you-need-to-know

Using Vaginal Lubricants

Lubricant can be game-changing if you have pain or discomfort during sex. It helps reduce friction from vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness can be due to medical conditions or medications, hormonal changes (e.g., menopause or breastfeeding), or other pelvic concerns (like tight pelvic floor muscles). In addition to doing pelvic floor physical therapy exercises, lube can help you have less painful and more pleasurable sex. There are many types of lubricants and it can be overwhelming to choose. Hinge Health does not recommend specific brands, but this basic primer can help you get started.

Basic Types of Lubricants

Water-Based

How it feels: Thin, slippery, easier clean-up; can dry up quicker so may require reapplication

Can you use with condoms? Yes: Safe with all condoms (will not break down latex, nitrile, or polyurethane)

Can you use with tools and toys? Yes: Safe to use with silicone-based tools such as pelvic wands, dilators, and vaginal weights

Silicone-Based

How it feels: Thicker consistency; lasts longer than water-based option

Can you use with condoms? Yes: Safe with all condoms (will not break down latex, nitrile, or polyurethane)

Can you use with tools and toys? No: Avoid using with silicone-based tools such as pelvic wands, dilators, and vaginal weights

Oil-Based

How it feels: Longer-lasting than water based; can also be used for massage

Can you use with condoms? No: Not safe with latex condoms but can be used with nitrile and polyurethane condoms

Can you use with tools and toys? Yes: Safe to use with silicone-based tools such as pelvic wands, dilators, and vaginal weights

Ingredients You May Want to Avoid

Ingredients in some products may cause irritation, discomfort, or pain. Here’s what to look for:

  • Parabens: Preservative chemicals that may cause irritation to the vaginal tissue.

  • Chlorhexidine gluconate: An anti-bacterial that can destroy the 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/heating or cooling agents: These ingredients can contain alcohols and preservatives that may irritate vaginal tissue.

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

Getting Started

Many people begin with a water-based lubricant. You could then try a thicker, longer-lasting kind if you continue to experience irritation or discomfort. Using lube is nothing to be embarrassed by. Yes, the vagina is self-lubricating, but the amount can fluctuate not just based on arousal levels, but also by your menstrual cycle, hormone levels, and medications. For this reason, pelvic health experts recommend using lubricant with all sexual encounters for more comfortable and pleasurable sex.

If you continue to have painful sex, work with your Hinge Health physical therapist for a tailored exercise plan and modifications to your daily activities to help decrease pelvic floor tension.

Key Takeaways

  1. Lubricant reduces friction caused by vaginal dryness and can help with painful sex.

  2. There are three basic types of lubricant: water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based. Many people start with water-based lube, then try others if they continue to have pain.

  3. Certain ingredients like glycerin and parabens may be found in some products and can cause discomfort, irritation, or pain for some people. Pay attention to how your body reacts to different products and make changes as needed.

References

  1. Edwards, D. & Panay, N. (2016). Treating vulvovaginal atrophy/genitourinary syndrome of menopause: how important is vaginal lubricant and moisturizer composition? Climacteric, 19(2), 151 –161. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2015.1124259

  2. Use and procurement of additional lubricants for male and female condoms: WHO/UNFPA/FHI360 Advisory note. (2012). Department of Reproductive Health and Research. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/76580/1/WHO_RHR_12.33_eng.pdf

  3. Gali,Y., Delezay, O., Brouwers, J., Addad, N., Augustijns, P., Bourlet, T., Hamzeh-Cognasse, H., Arien, K. K., Pozzetto, B. & Vanham, G. (2010). In Vitro Evaluation of Viability, Integrity, and Inflammation in Genital Epithelia upon Exposure to Pharmaceutical Excipients and Candidate Microbicides. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, (54(12), 5105–5114. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00456-10

  4. Darbre, P. D. & Harvey, P. W. (2008). Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks. Journal of Applied Toxicology, (28()5), 561-578. doi: 10.1002/jat.1358

  5. Experiencing Vaginal Dryness? Here’s What You Need to Know. (n.d.). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/the-latest/experiencing-vaginal-dryness-heres-what-you-need-to-know