As we begin a new year, it may be time for a good closet, nightstand, and medicine cabinet clean out. Now, if you catch yourself holding onto an old bottle of lube from many years ago whose advertising swore that you’d be feeling fire and ice, smelling like the queen’s rose garden, or experiencing the lovely tastes of tropical fruits, and you’re contemplating keeping it… This is your sign. Throw it out! Simple and clean is the new sexy.
2023: The year that we treat our vaginas with some TLC! Let’s breakdown lubrication:
When a woman becomes aroused, the body naturally produces lubricant through gland secretions. The amount of this natural lubricant can vary for many different reasons: time in menstrual cycle (increased during ovulation due to higher estrogen), menopause (decreased due to lower estrogen), stress, hormonal imbalances, and other treatments that dry fluid secretions in the body (chemotherapy, radiation, or medications). Regardless, adding additional lubrication can truly level up the pleasure and arousal playing fields. Without *proper lubrication, dryness, friction, and tissue irritation can contribute to pain with sexual activity, known as dyspareunia.
Did you catch that asterisk there? Yes, *proper. Because believe it or not, not all lubricants may be giving your vagina the same amount of love. There are three main types of lubricants – oil, silicone, and water based. So, who should we striking out? Let’s talk strategy.
- For all: respect the rules, aka the pH. The vagina is self-cleaning powerhouse. It has it’s own team of good bacteria (who love estrogen, by the way) to help maintain optimal pH level and combat infection. Opponents, such as fragrance, perfumes, flavoring, parabens, spermicides, and sugars (glycerin, glycol, glycerol) can leave your vagina’s microbiome team in a frenzy. This can set us up for tissue irritation, dryness, or even infection. Check your labels – KY and astroglide are culprits of containing glycol.
- Oil-based: Pro: Known for it’s convenience – for example, coconut oil from the kitchen. Long lasting. Con: Oil can break down latex in condoms, which can result in decreased effectiveness. Also can be more messy and can stain sheets or clothes. Some research shows that oil-based lubricants are associated with higher rates of Candida infection, which can be responsible for yeast infections (Brown et al, 2013).
- Water-based. Pro: Helpful for play with silicone based toys, vibrators, and wands. Less messy than oil, washes off easily with water, and doesn’t stain. Safe to use with condoms. Con: since it contains water, additives or preservatives might be included so it doesn’t dry out, which can irritate the vulvo-vaginal tissues. Slippery stuff and Good Clean Love are two excellent, clean choices.
- Silicone-based. Pro: Long lasting as it does not contain water, so it will not evaporate or dry out with time. Can be used in the shower. Con: Cannot be used with other silicone products (many toys, vibrators, dilators, and wands) as it will degrade the coating, which may give bacteria a place to grow, posing an infection risk. Uberlube is a great recommendation.
So, in short – it depends. But, be particular about what’s going on your tissues! Let’s head into this new year with a new attitude for treating our vaginas, vulvas, and sex life with the elevation it deserves. I hope this helps with your decision.
If you have any questions or having been experiencing pelvic pain, pain with intercourse, vaginal dryness, or pelvic floor dysfunction, we offer a free 15-minute phone consult to see if our physical therapy services may be appropriate for you!
— Julia Foster, PT, DPT, CLT
Brown, Joelle M. PhD, MPH; Hess, Kristen L. PhD, MPH; Brown, Stephen MD; Murphy, Colleen PGDip; Waldman, Ava Lena MPH; Hezareh, Marjan PhD. Intravaginal Practices and Risk of Bacterial Vaginosis and Candidiasis Infection Among a Cohort of Women in the United States. Obstetrics & Gynecology 121(4):p 773-780, April 2013. | DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31828786f8