All lube is not created equal.
That’s what Dr. Melissa Thompson, PT, DPT, MTC, and owner of Louisiana Pelvic Health, tells her patients, many of whom seek her expertise in preparation for, during, and after pregnancy. Naturally, this cohort of clients wants to talk about sex, and many want to find ways to make sex safe and pleasurable. Lube can be a game-changer.
This guide will help you choose the right lube for you.
1- Oil-based lubricant
Oil-based lubes have a thinner, less goopy consistency than other lubes. They absorb really well into the vaginal tissue, so both partners feel like they aren’t wearing a lot. This lube evaporates into the air slowly, which gives it longevity during penetrative sex. However, because oil-based lubes break down latex, Dr. Thompson only recommends these particular lubricants for couples who do not use latex condoms.
Dr. Thompson’s pick: Chiavaye. It’s made of 6 organic ingredients. It can also be used as a moisturizer, and it lasts forever. Wonder why it’s such a good option? Chiavaye was invented by a woman with endometriosis who struggled to find a pure lubricant for her own pelvic pain and wanted to help other women have better sex lives.
Dr. Thompson’s runner-up: Pure coconut oil, which you can find at your grocery store. Opt for organic, pure fractionated coconut oil instead of products that are processed with GMOs and have additives. There is some debate in the literature regarding non-fractionated coconut oil and the increased risk for infection with use. Consult with your doctor or pelvic floor physical therapist if you are prone to vaginal infections.
Bonus pick: Intimate Rose. Less a lubricant for sex and more of a moisturizer for the external vulvar region, this product is best for postpartum dryness during breastfeeding and through the menopause transition. You can use code MELISSA22 for $5 off.
2 - Water-based lubricant
If you’re planning to have protected sex using a condom, water-based lubes are for you. However, for women who complain of vaginal dryness, Dr. Thompson advises them to stay away from water-based lube as a moisturizer that you would wear all day. The water in the lubricant evaporates quickly, which could lead to further drying of the vaginal wall with prolonged use outside of penetrative sex. If you have sensitive skin, water-based is a good pick for you because they tend to have less of a disruption to the vaginal microbiome.
Dr. Thompson’s pick: Good Clean Love. This company makes a variety of lubricants formulated for specific needs, such as sensitive skin. Some women are sensitive to the lactic acid ingredient, so if you feel any irritation, just discontinue use and try another lubricant. You can use the above link for 5% off.
Bonus pick: Slippery Stuff. It’s the least expensive option of the ones listed here and only contains 3 ingredients. It’s a safe pick for women who have sensitive skin, are pregnant, or postpartum and have sensitivities with the vaginal microbiome. The only downside is you may need to continuously apply more during penetrative intercourse since it does dry up quickly.
Duds: Popular water-based brands such as Astroglide and KY Jelly are not formulated for vaginal pH levels and contain ingredients that disrupt the microbiome, which can cause infection. These brands have highly basic pH levels while the vagina needs to remain at a lower, acidic pH level to fight off microbes and viruses.
3 - Silicone-based lubricant
Some couples will like how the silicone “slips and slides like a playground” during sex,
Dr. Thompson said. Just don’t mix with silicone toys or pelvic tools. This lube is also not ideal for pregnant women, who are more susceptible to urinary tract infections and vaginal microbiome disruption.
Dr. Thompson’s pick: Uberlube. Many users appreciate that it’s made of clean ingredients.
4 - What lube is best for pregnant women?
While some women don’t need lube because the pregnant body naturally produces more discharge, women who experience pain or pressure in the pelvic floor should reach for lube. Dr. Thompson suggests Chiavaye or a similar brand that contains clean ingredients, has the right pH balance, and is free of perfumes, fragrances, parabens, and phthalates. Good Clean Love, with its pH Rating of 3.9-4.3 and unscented formula, is another great option for pregnant women.
When looking at pH for lubricants, look for the pH to be acidic, meaning below 7, so that it does not disrupt the vaginal microbiome.
Always choose lubricants with clean, non-toxic ingredients. And skip the smells and fragrances as that means there are synthetic ingredients used as additives that are likely endocrine disruptors, which you want to avoid near your vagina.
“Choose your lube like you would your skincare products,” Dr. Thompson said.
5 - What lube is best for postpartum women?
The suppression of estrogen in the immediate postpartum period can lead to vaginal dryness. Breastfeeding often intensifies this sensation of irritation or dryness.
Dr. Thompson recommends a combination of Intimate Rose Organic Feminine Balm as a daily moisturizer and Chiavaye during penetrative sex for those that do not have issues or concerns with coconut oil. This combination can make moms feel more comfortable during the postpartum transition and breastfeeding phase.
6 - What if sex is still painful even with lube?
Find a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist in your area who can provide internal pelvic floor treatment and find the root cause of your pain, like Dr. Thompson. Sex does not have to hurt. You can book an appointment with her here.
Too many women experience pain and dissatisfaction in their sex lives, and some are embarrassed to ask for help. Using the right lubricant is just one solution. To make these solutions more accessible, we have to normalize the topic of sex, and especially sex for pleasure, so that women and men feel empowered to talk about it. Remember: The word “intercourse” refers to a sexual relationship but also the “exchange of thoughts and feelings.” I wish every reader healthy, fulfilling, and enjoyable intercourse, in every meaning of the word.
*Disclaimer: some of the above links are affiliate links, and by shopping through these links, we make a small commission. You have no obligation to use these links.
This article was guest edited by Jae Bratton. Jae Bratton is an educator and writer in North Carolina, where she lives with her beautifully multiracial family. She is the Editorial Director for Mother Wit Maternity.