The Best Lube: Bases and Textures

In my previous post, The Best Lube: Research and What to Avoid, I highlighted the research behind the ingredients, pH, and osmolality of lubes. If any of these terms are unfamiliar – or if you want to learn more – I recommend checking out the post.

While many lubes available in drugstores can be irritating or unsafe, there are safe lubes with different bases and textures. Lubes can be water-based, silicone-based, hybrid, or oil-based. In addition, there are lubes that have a more runny, liquid texture, and ones that are gel texture. Depending on how you are using lube, you might want to choose a particular base and texture.

What are you using lube for?

Vaginal sex? Anal sex? Oral sex? Masturbation?

Different uses have different considerations. Considerations for vaginal use include pH (3.8 – 4.5), osmolality, and potentially irritating or harmful ingredients.

Lube is particularly important for anal sex. It is possible to comfortably masturbate or have vaginal sex without lube, but anal is a different story. Anal sex without lube can result in anal tearing or increased risk of condom breakage[1]. Considerations for anal use include pH (5.5 – 7), osmolality, and potentially irritating or harmful ingredients.

Lubricants for oral sex may have different considerations than those for vaginal or anal sex, as flavored lubricants may be used either for fun or to change the taste of fluids. In this case, taste matters, and it’s difficult to recommend any particular flavor. When used vaginally, sugars and sugar derivatives in flavored lubes can be harmful to vaginal health, causing irritation or even yeast infections[2]. Some brands (like Sliquid’s Swirl) use non-sugar sweeteners.

For masturbation, the lube you choose may depend on whether you have a vagina or a penis. If you have a vagina, you should still follow the guidelines for vaginal sex.

If you are masturbating and have a penis, you might want something slick and thicker-textured. For this reason, silicone lubes and oil-based lubes may be your best choice.

Bases

Water-based Lubes

Water-based lubes are usually thinner than silicone-based, hybrid, or oil-based lubes. There are, however, thicker water-based lubes that can be used comfortably for anal use. Water-based lubes can be used safely with any toy material, including silicone.

Silicone-based Lubes

Silicone-based lubes are slicker and often thicker than ordinary water-based lubes. Silicone lubes avoid most of the potentially harmful or irritating ingredients that many water-based lubes include. On the other hand, silicone lubes are often not safe for use with silicone toys (in some cases toy manufacturers do suggest it is acceptable). Silicone lubes are excellent for anal sex due to their slickness and staying power. If you are not using a silicone toy, silicone-based lubes are also a good choice for masturbation.

Hybrid Lubes

Hybrid lubes are a mix of silicone and water. The addition of silicone enables these lubes to be thicker and longer-lasting than their water-based counterparts. However, unlike many silicone lubes, hybrid lubes can often be used with silicone toys without damaging the material. This varies by lube formulation and by individual toy, however, so spot-testing is still recommended. If you use hybrid lubes, you can check with the toy manufacturer, but a spot check can easily be performed by testing a small amount on a base or corner of a toy.

Oil-based Lubes

Oil-based lubes are free of the harmful additives present in many water-based lubes, but there are still caveats to using oil-based lubes. Oil-based lubes can raise vaginal pH, which is a potential concern for vaginal use[3]

While polyurethane condoms (e.g. FC2, Trojan Supra) can be safely used with oil-based lubes, both polyisoprene and latex condoms are sensitive to oil-based lubricants and should be avoided when oil-based lubricants are used. The World Health Organization lists a number of oil-based lubes that cannot be used with most condoms, including baby oil, vaseline, palm or coconut oil, cooking oil, mineral oil, and lotion[4].

Only certain oil-based lubes should be used, while others should be avoided. Many oil-based lubes designed for sexual use utilize plant-based oils including coconut, sunflower, argan, and almond oils.

Textures

Although water-based lubes are often thinner than silicone- or oil-based lubes, lubes are available in different textures. There are water-based lubes that are thicker than average or gel-textured, such as Sliquid Sassy or Good Clean Love, respectively.

 

Lubes on Dildo

From left to right: Sliquid Sassy, Sliquid Silk, Good Clean Love Almost Naked, and Wicked Simply Hybrid Jelle after 10 minutes

The picture above was taken after ten minutes to illustrate the differences between different bases and textures.

  • Sliquid Sassy and Good Clean Love are both water-based lubes, but Sliquid Sassy is more watery in comparison
  • Sliquid Sassy is thicker than the average water-based lube, but Good Clean Love Almost Naked has a true gel texture
  • Sliquid Silk and Wicked Simply Hybrid Jelle are both hybrid lubes, but Sliquid Silk – not being a gel – still slides down the surface
  • Wicked Simply Hybrid Jelle is a very thick lube, thicker than any non oil-based lube I have tried
  • After ten minutes, the gel textured lubes have hardly moved or evaporated
  • After ten minutes, Sliquid Silk has run down the dildo, but has not evaporated or run all the way down as Sliquid Sassy has
Wicked Simply Hybrid Jelle

Wicked Simply Hybrid Jelle

Wicked Simply Hybrid Jelle is very thick, as illustrated in the image above. Most gel textured lubes that I have tried are more comparable to Good Clean Love Almost Naked.

Current Recommendations

Water-based lubes

Thin texture:

Sliquids H20

Sliquids H20 is my favorite thinner water-based lube. It is pH-balanced (between 4.0 and 4.4) and free of many common ingredients that can be harmful or irritating. Sliquid lubes that are water-based contain citric acid. While citric acid is the last ingredient on the ingredient list, it can be irritating to some.

Ingredients: “Purified Water, Plant Cellulose (from Cotton), Cyamopsis (Guar Conditioners), Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid (available on the Sliquids website)

Thick texture:

Sliquids Sassy

Sliquids Sassy is my favorite water-based lube. It is pH balanced (with a pH between 4.1 and 4.4) and a little thicker than average. For the most part, its ingredients list is free of irritating or harmful ingredients. Citric acid, the last ingredient on the list, can still be irritating to some.

Ingredients: Purified Water, Plant Cellulose (from Cotton), Cyamopsis (Guar Conditioners), Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid (available on the the Sliquids website)

Gel Texture:

Good Clean Love Almost Naked

Good Clean Love’s Almost Naked is water-based, thickened with agar (derived from seaweed), and lightly flavored with lemon and vanilla. It lasts longer than many water-based lubes due to its thick texture. Good Clean Love’s Almost Naked is pH balanced (with a pH between 4.2 and 4.7) and is iso-osmolar (osmolality between 250 – 400 mOsmol/kg), making it a great choice for vaginal use. Personally, I am not a fan of the smell or flavor, but that is a matter of preference. Regardless of the smell and flavor, the formulation of Good Clean Love Almost Naked is among the best, and its osmolality is both known and appropriate for vaginal or anal sex.

Ingredients: Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Xanthan Gum, Agar, Lactic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Natural Flavor (available on the Good Clean Love website)

Hybrid lubes

Sliquid Silk

Sliquid Silk is a silky-smooth silicone lube that is pH-balanced (a pH between 4.1 and 4.4) and free of most harmful and irritating ingredients. Like most other Sliquid lubes, it does contain citric acid, which can be irritating for some people.

Ingredients: Purified Water, Plant Cellulose, Isopropyl Palmitate, Polysorbate 20, Dimethicone, Emollient Ester, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid (available on the Sliquids website)

[1] Anne Philpott, Wendy Knerr, and Vicky Boydell, “Pleasure and Prevention: When Good Sex Is Safer Sex,” Reproductive Health Matters 14, no. 28 (January 1, 2006): 23–31, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0968-8080(06)28254-5.

[2] Mantock, “Lube Can Alter Vaginal PH. Here’s What to Look for on the Label.”

[3] Mantock.

[4] World Health Organization, “Use and Procurement of Additional Lubricants for Male and Female Condoms: WHO/UNFPA/FHI360: Advisory Note.”

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