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Personal lubricants (colloquially termed as lube) are specialized lubricants which serve, during sexual acts (such as intercourse and masturbation), to reduce friction with the penis, vagina, anus or other body parts.


Personal lubricant types


Different personal lubricants

Water-based personal lubricants are water soluble and are the most widely available personal lubricant on the market. The earliest water-based lubricants were cellulose or glycerin solutions. Lubricants containing glycerin may promote or exacerbate vaginal yeast infections in persons who are susceptible.[1] Subsequent products have added various agents for spreading, water retention, and resistance to contamination. The viscosity of these products can be adjusted by adjusting their water content and concentration of cellulose (or another gel-forming hydrophilic ingredient). They have a tendency to dry out during use, but reapplication of lubricant or application of water is often sufficient to re-activate them.

Because water-based personal lubricants absorb into the skin and evaporate they eventually will dry out leaving the residue derived from the other ingredients in the formulation. Particularly sugar (or glycerin) and other chemicals and preservatives create a sticky residue and associated sensation, often associated with an unpleasant taste and smell. Some of these water based personal lubricants require constant reapplication and leave a residue on the skin, which is, however, easily removed with water. Newer generation water-based lubricants are formulated with natural skin moisturizers such as carrageenan, eliminating the sticky residue post-evaporation. Carrageenan in some formulations such as Bioglide have been shown to be potent inhibitors of human papillomavirus infection in vitro.[2]

Typical water-based lubricants are incompatible with many sex acts that occur in water (such as in a bathtub, pool, or hot tub) as they can be dissolved or dispersed in water.


Many women, especially perimenopausal women (starting as early as 35–40 years old), menopausal women (50+ years old), and women with vulvodynia (inflammation of the vulvar nerves that can cause burning, stinging, rawness, itching, etc.), have been frustrated with over-the-counter (OTC) lubricants causing irritation.[3] At the September 2008 North American Menopause Society convention in Orlando, FL, many physicians confirmed disappointments with the current OTC lubricants, especially for these patient populations.[4] The first and only FDA-cleared oil-based lubricant intended for vaginal use is Élégance Woman’s Lubricant, which is a proprietary mixture of ingredients from organic soybeans (Glycine Willd), safflowers (Carthamus tinctorius L.), and grapeseeds (Vitis vinifera).[5][6][7] It is noteworthy that this lube contains certified Organic ingredients and in testing actually decreased the common vaginal bacteria and yeast.


In the United States the first certified organic personal lubricant labeled with the USDA organic seal was Nude Personal Lubricant[8][citation needed], which was created in 2004 by Applied Organics.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates lubricant as a medical device rather than as a cosmetic. Because of strict FDA guidelines for medical devices, Buddy Morel said his company was told its product couldn’t carry a USDA seal for Nude Personal Lubricant—and that it should be very careful about using “organic” anywhere on its label.[9]


Silicone-based lubricants possess many unique qualities which make them very different from other personal lubricants. Silicone based personal lubricants do not absorb into the skin, instead staying on the surface of the skin to provide a durable glide. Various products have varying characteristics, quality and performance. Not all silicone-based lubricants are certified condom and latex safe so the user must always check the label and use as directed.

Silicone-based lubricants are not recommended for use with silicone-based sex toys. The lubricants dissolve the surface of the toys, making them sticky and causing them to slowly disintegrate. Pre-lubricated condoms may use a silicone lubricant and should therefore be checked before using with silicone-based sex toys.

Specialty lubricants

"Specialty" lubricants are designed to cause physiological or physical changes to the area applied; these include warming lubricants, which cause a heating sensation in the skin. Breathing on these types of lubricants can increase the effect. Another type of specialty lubricant can increase blood flow to the regions in which they are applied, creating a fuller erection of the penis or clitoris; these may contain vasodilators to, in theory, increase blood flow after topical application. Others include flavored lubricants.

Anal Specific

Many lubricants are safe for anal sex, but there are products that are specifically designed to enhance the anal sex experience. Often, this is simply a thicker gel rather than a liquid. This thicker consistency is preferred because it helps the lubricant stay in place. Many of the anal lubricants contain benzocaine, a numbing agent that will numb the anal area for a more comfortable experience. Others, like Astroglide Shooters, do not have a numbing agent, but are conveniently packaged for ease of application. Products containing benzocaine will numb all body parts that they come in contact with.[10]



In medicine, personal lubricants can be used for gynecological examinations, digital rectal examinations, the insertion of catheters and in the use of enema nozzles and rectal thermometers. In fact, some personal lubricants were invented for these medical uses.[citation needed]

Sexual intercourse

A lubricant can be used to increase pleasure and reduce pain during sexual activity and may be used for lubricating the penis, dildo, vagina or anus before sexual intercourse. Personal lubricants are particularly useful for intercourse when a partner experiences dryness or contraction in anus or vagina. It is generally sufficient to apply a good drop of lubricant on the vaginal entrance and, if applicable, the penis being inserted. Anal sex usually requires a more generous application, since the anus has no natural lubrication most of the time.

There are also available combinations of personal lubricants with spermicides. Nonoxynol-9, contained in some spermicidal lubricants, can in rare cases cause irritation and micro-tears which can lead to higher HIV transmission rates.[11] Spermicidally lubricated condoms do not contain enough spermicide to increase contraceptive effectiveness,[12] however application of separate spermicide is thought to reduce pregnancy rates significantly.[13]


While males and females both produce various amounts of their own lubrication, it is often desirable to add extra lubricant (just like with sexual intercourse). Lubricant helps the object (or the hand) used for masturbation slide better. Masturbating without lubrication can lead to friction burns, blisters, cuts, and calluses.[citation needed] For males there are specific masturbation lubricants[14] that are not suitable for vaginal use or with condoms.[15] Any lubricant that is safe for sexual intercourse is also safe for masturbation.


Other products which have been used as a personal lubricant include Crisco.[16].

Some personal lubricants

  • ID Lubricants
  • K-Y Jelly
  • Astroglide
  • Durex|Durex Play
  • Élégance Woman’s Lubricant


  1. ^ Silverberg, Cory (September 24, 2006). "Can I get a yeast infection from a personal lubricant?". Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  2. ^ Buck, Christopher B; Cynthia D Thompson, Jeffrey N Roberts, Martin Müller, Douglas R Lowy, John T Schiller (2006). "Carrageenan Is a Potent Inhibitor of Papillomavirus Infection". PLoS Pathogens 2 (7): e69. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.0020069.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Nude Personal Lubricant, Certified Organic by CCOF, Santa Cruz, California.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Personal Lubricant Buying Guide". Health Services. Sinclair Institute. October 15, 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  11. ^ Bass, Emily (August 2002). "Learning from microbicides: A young field's experience working with high-risk women". AIDScience. IAVI. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  12. ^ "Birth Control - Nonoxynol-9 and Risk Reduction". Our Bodies Ourselves. Global Campaign for Microbicides. March 2005. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  13. ^ Kestelman P, Trussell J (1991). "Efficacy of the simultaneous use of condoms and spermicides.". Fam Plann Perspect 23 (5): 226–7, 232. doi:10.2307/2135759. PMID 1743276. 
  14. ^ Stroke 29
  15. ^ Hauck, Tyler. "Lubricants for Sex: Oil-Based Lube". Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  16. ^ Graham, Mark (2004). "Sexual Things". GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10 (2): 211–313. 

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