Dear Dr. Myrtle,
I am experiencing vaginal dryness. What is the best lubricant for me?
Your question is best answered if you think about when you experience vaginal dryness:
- Do you have dryness all of the time, or only during sexual activities like vaginal penetration? (If you have dryness all of the time, you may need both a moisturizer and a sealing lubricant to keep it working in place. If you find yourself dry only during vaginal penetration, a moisturizing lubricant may be enough for your comfort.)
- Do you produce vaginal lubricant yourself, or does it seem as though you don't make any/enough? (If it seems as though you don't produce enough, you'll need to think ahead, and start encorporating application of the lubricant as a daily activity--a bit like putting hand lotion on your hands if they get dry. This way, you'll prevent your genital skin from drying out, rather than just reacting to dryness when it happens.)
- Do you produce some lubrication, only to have it dry out too quickly? (This often happens during sexual activity, where the friction of the activity leads to drying out your own lubrication. Arousing yourself to a higher level before or during sex play can help by increasing blood flow to your genitals, but adding lubrication "on demand" helps to prevent dryness.)
- Are you irritated by sexual lubricant's you've tried? In what way? What happens? (Irritation can happen in many ways (chemical irritation or actual allergy) from many different causes (pH of the lubricant is too high or too low; chemical sensitivity to specific ingredients like propylene glycol or phenoxyethanol; vaginal microbiological imbalance caused by glycerin, sugars or oils Knowing exactly what happens is key to understanding what to do and what to avoid in the future).
- Is this something that has happened just recently, or have you had any events (pregnancy, cancer treatment), or been put on any medications recently (progesterone-based birth control pills, aromatase inhibitors, diuretics for high blood pressure). (The leading causes of vaginal dryness is some change in estrogen status, or dehydration. While you might not want (or can't) increase estrogen levels in the body, you can make sure you drink enough water during your day.)
Choosing a sexual lubricant can be tricky, because they are specialized fluids that have both physical and chemical properties. To make choosing easier (and to avoid having to get PhD's in physical chemistry), we start by considering a few basic features and narrow down the selection from there.
Basic features of sexual lubricants
There are four principles to consider when choosing a lubricant:
- Do you need moisturizing (adds water), sealing (seals moisture in place), or a Hybrid (both moisturizes and seals).
- What pH is right for you? (pH is a measure of the acid balance of the lubricant; vaginal pH is most comfortable when the pH is between 5 and 6 for most women.)
- What texture/thickness do you prefer?
- Do you have trouble with vaginal yeast infections or genital skin disorders?
- Do you have specific ingredients that your skin is sensitive to/irritated by?
There is a difference between a sexual lubricant and a sexual moisturizer. While all lubricants are designed to make surfaces slide more easily, few sexual lubricants actually add or seal in moisture as a way to combat vaginal dryness. This article will focus on sexual lubricants which have moisturizing (adding moisture) and/or sealing (seal moisture into skin) properties.
Your choice may depend on the reason for your dryness. Generally, for genital use, we do not recommend using any oil-based product, as they can actually cause skin problems in some women and may contribute to yeast infections. Instead, we suggest trying a lubricant that is specifically designed to be used during sex play.
For mild dryness and comfortable vaginal penetration, the whole world of lubricants is available for you to explore. Here are some points to consider:
- Steer clear of glycerin-based lubricants if you get yeast infections easily.
- If you are using a lubricant while also enjoying a silicone toy, then you’ll want to avoid silicone-based lubricants.
- Don’t use lubricant as a substitute for getting enough stimulation to be fully aroused before penetration. To enjoy good, comfortable penetrative sex you still want to be fully aroused, not just slippery.
- For general use, we suggest trying our lubricant sampler before buying a large bottle of anything. Just remember to hold onto the package of the one you like so you can remember the name!
If you are post-menopausal, experiencing dryness related to menopause, or have genital blood flow problems, we recommend trying Liquid Silk, an excellent moisturizing lubricant. The reason it is important to use a moisturizing lubricant after menopause is that the body no longer moves fluids in and out of the vaginal skin cells easily, so the vaginal skin becomes very fragile. Some women notice that it’s painful just to walk and sit. Liquid Silk can be used for daily skin moisturizing to increase your walking and sitting comfort. Just rub it gently into the vulva and inside the vagina as far as you can reach to improve the skin.
Pink Indulgence is a water-based lubricant with many of the same ingredients as Liquid Silk, but it is slightly less moisturizing. It tends to last longer than Liquid Silk, however, so may be a good choice for moisturizing lubrication during sex play.
If you prefer a more "natural" lubricant, try Sliquid Organics Silk, which is a natural-base formula with few ingredients. It is as moisturizing, and does not get as sticky as glycerin-based lubricants. However, the Sliquid Organics Silk is very "fast" and sinks into the skin more quickly than Liquid Silk, so you may want to consider using a silicone lubricant in addition (see next paragraph).
If you find these lubricants not long-lasting enough for penetrative sex, try a silicone-based lubricant like UberLube on top of any of the water-based lubricants mentioned above. Apply a layer of the water-based lubricant, then add a layer of silicone lubricant over it; the silicone lubricant will seal the surface of your skin and allow for a nice slippery time while the water-based lubricant adds moisture to your skin. Just remember that if the penetration is with a silicone dildo, you should avoid silicone lubricant or cover your toy with an unlubricated condom every time, to prevent damaging the toy's surface.
Remember, it’s your skin, so experiment and see what works best for you. You may find that you use one type of lubricant for sex, while you use another for daily moisturizing.