Vaginal Lubricants: Types, Benefits, How to Use

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Vaginal dryness is very common and has an easy solution. Using a vaginal lubricant can ease discomfort, promote vaginal health, and, for some people, improve confidence.

Choosing a vaginal lubricant, though, can be time consuming because so many different options exist. Learn more about the different types of vaginal lubricants so you can make informed choices.

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Vaginal Lubricants Benefits 

All vaginal lubricants are intended to relieve vaginal dryness. Vaginal lubricants can:

  • Minimize friction during sexual activity

  • Decrease discomfort

  • Increase pleasure

  • Prevent tearing of the vaginal tissue 

Many vaginal lubricants can also be used for genital massage and anal play.

Types of Vaginal Lubricants 

There are a few major types of vaginal lubricants:

  • Water-soluble. Water-soluble lubricants do not stain and you can easily remove the lubricant with soap and water. These lubricants work well for most types of sexual activity; however, they can dry up quickly and become sticky. (If that occurs, you can apply additional lubricant or water or saliva, which can restore the slippery sensation.) You can use water-based lubricants with latex condoms, latex or rubber dental dams, and sex toys.
  • Water-soluble with glycerin. Some water-soluble vaginal lubricants contain glycerin, a moisturizer that has a slightly sweet taste and breaks down into simple sugars. Glycerin-containing water-soluble lubricants are highly effective, but women who are prone to vaginal yeast infections should avoid lubricants containing glycerin. (Yeast uses sugar for energy, so use of glycerin-containing vaginal lubricants can lead to overgrowth of yeast and yeast infections.)
  • Silicone-based. Silicone-based lubricants stay slippery for a long time and do not change the pH of the vagina or increase the risk of yeast infections or urinary tract infections. However, do not use these lubricants with silicone sex toys or condoms because they can damage silicone toys and condoms. Soap and water can wash away silicone-based lubricants.
  • Oil-based. Oil-based lubricants also remain slippery for a long time. Do not use them with condoms or sex toys, as the oil can damage condoms and sex toys. Oil-based lubricants can stain clothing and sheets. Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is a synthetic oil-based lubricant. Synthetic oil-based lubricants are not ideal for vaginal use because they can change the pH (acid level) in your vagina, which may increase the risk of    infection. Oil-based lubricants that contain natural oils (such as coconut oil) can be safely used inside the vagina.
  • Vaginal moisturizers. Most vaginal lubricants provide short-term lubrication. People use aginal moisturizers for persistent vaginal dryness. Vaginal moisturizers come in cream, gel, oil, and suppository form. You apply or insert them 2 to 3 times per week. People who use a vaginal moisturizer on a regular basis can also use water-, silicone-, or oil-based lubricant during sexual activity, if desired. 
  • Prescription medication. Low estrogen levels are a common cause of vaginal dryness. Prescription estrogen creams, capsules and vaginal rings (which gradually secrete estrogen) can increase vaginal moisture and lubrication. If you are interested in exploring prescription options, talk with your healthcare professional. 

Natural Vaginal Lubricants 

You probably already have some natural vaginal lubricants at home. Options include olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil, and mineral oil. However, do not use natural oils with latex condoms or diaphragms because the oil can damage the latex, increasing the risk of pregnancy and infection.

Vitamin E oil

You can also use vitamin E oil as a natural vaginal lubricant. Stores often sell vitamin E in capsules. Poke a tiny hole in a capsule, squeeze out the oil inside, and use the oil as a lubricant. Do not use vitamin E oil with condoms.

Many people use a variety of vaginal lubricants. You may find that you prefer a water-based lubricant for some activities and an oil- or silicone-based lubricant for others. Your needs and preferences may change as your body changes over time. Experimentation can help you find the right products for you.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Dec 12
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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