Personal lubricant

Personal lubricant

Personal lubricants (colloquially termed lube) are specialized lubricants to reduce friction between body parts, or between body parts and other objects. They are used during sexual acts (such as intercourse and masturbation), to reduce friction with the penis, vagina, anus, or other body parts, and also for medical purposes such as introduction of a catheter.


Personal lubricant types


Various personal lubricants

Water-based personal lubricants are water-soluble and are the most-used such lubricants. The earliest water-based lubricants were cellulose ether or glycerin solutions. Lubricants containing glycerin may promote or exacerbate vaginal yeast infections in persons who are susceptible.[1] Subsequent products have added various agents for spreading, water retention, and resistance to contamination. The viscosity of these products can be adjusted by changing their water content and concentration of cellulose (or other gel-forming hydrophilic ingredient). They have a tendency to dry out during use, but reapplication of lubricant or application of water is often sufficient to reactivate them.

Because water-based personal lubricants absorb into the skin and evaporate, they eventually dry out, leaving the residue derived from the other ingredients in the formulation. In particular, sugar (or glycerin) and other chemicals and preservatives create a sticky residue and associated sensation, often associated with an unpleasant taste and smell, requiring reapplication, or removal of the residue with water. Newer water-based lubricants are formulated with natural skin moisturizers such as carrageenan, and do not leave a sticky residue after evaporation. Carrageenan in some formulations has been shown to be a potent inhibitor of human papillomavirus infection in vitro.[2]

A formulation of polyethylene glycol mixed with sugars and originally intended for veterinary use is popular for sexual activities involving large insertions.

Typical water-based lubricants are incompatible with many sex acts that occur in water (such as in a bathtub, pool, or hot tub) as they can be dissolved or dispersed in water.

Some water-based lubricants, particularly those containing polyquaternium-15, may actually facilitate HIV infection and increase its rate of replication, especially when used without a condom.[3]


Many women, especially perimenopausal women, menopausal women, and women with vulvodynia (inflammation of the vulvar nerves that can cause burning, stinging, rawness, itching, etc.), have experienced irritation with over-the-counter (OTC) lubricants.[citation needed]

Oil-based lubricants are most appropriate for women in relationships not requiring condom use who are experiencing anything from minor irritations to chronic disease states (such as vulvodynia and vestibulitis) that can be caused or flared by common additives and preservatives found in other lubricants, like propylene glycol, parabens, or glycerin.

Artificial petroleum-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly can increase the likelihood of breakage and slipping of latex condoms due to loss of elasticity caused by petroleum-derived lubricants.[4]

Fertility lubricants

Fertility lubricants, also known as sperm-friendly lubricants, are formulated to be safe for use by couples who are trying to conceive. Fertility lubricants are pH and electrolyte-balanced and have a specific osmolality range that is safe for sperm. In addition to having the correct pH and osmolality range, fertility lubricants should be free of chemicals that can harm sperm.[5][6] Fertility lubricants are non-spermicidal and do not harm viability or motility of human sperm.

A fertility lubricant that contains calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) ions and has an optimal pH and osmolality range better mimics the natural fertile cervical fluids to alleviate the problem of vaginal dryness and to assist couples trying to conceive a baby naturally. The ASRM has published data on at least one fertility lubricant containing calcium and magnesium as safe for use when trying to get pregnant.[7]

For couples trying to conceive, it is important to choose a lubricant carefully. Most personal lubricants, including saliva or water, can damage sperm and keep them from swimming normally, and should not be used if pregnancy is the objective.[8][9]


In the United States, the first certified organic personal lubricant labeled with the USDA organic seal was Nude Personal Lubricant,[10] which was created in 2004 by Applied Organics. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates lubricant as a medical device rather than as a cosmetic. Because of strict FDA guidelines for medical devices, Buddy Morel said his company was told its product could not carry a USDA seal for Nude Personal Lubricant, and that it should be very careful about using the term organic anywhere on its label.


Silicone-based lubricants are usually formulated with fewer than four ingredients and do not contain any water component. Silicone lubricants offer a different feeling to personal lubricants that contain water. Silicone-based lubricants are not absorbed by skin or mucus membranes, and consequently last longer than water-based lubricants. Many different silicone lubricants are commercially available with varying quality and performance. Not all silicone-based lubricants are certified latex-safe, but silicone-based lubricants may more effectively prevent HIV transmission during anal intercourse, as compared to water-based lubricants.[11]

Silicone-based lubricants are usually not recommended for use with sex toys or other products that are made from silicone because the formula will usually dissolve the surface making it sticky to the touch, and excess may cause disintegration of the item over time. In most cases a warning is listed on the product label. At least one manufacturer claims their silicone-based lubricant is safe for use with silicone products. Silicone-based lubricant is also used in the manufacture of pre-lubricated condoms, due to the long-lasting properties and superior latex compatibility.

Specialty lubricants

Warming lubricants cause a sensation of warmth. Breathing on these types of lubricants can increase the effect. Some lubricants are flavored to enhance oral contact.


Many lubricants are safe for anal sex, but there are products that are specifically designed to enhance enjoyment of anal sex. Often, this is simply a thicker gel rather than a liquid. This thicker consistency is preferred because it helps the lubricant stay in place. Some lubricants contain benzocaine, an anesthetic. However, the use of any numbing agent for anal penetration is not recommended as a lack of sensation makes accidental injury more likely. In addition, benzocaine can cause an allergic reaction in those with an allergy to PABA (4-Aminobenzoic acid). In addition, some anal lubricants are not anesthetic but are conveniently packaged for ease of application. Many of these products such as Astroglide Shooters have been pulled from the market recently due to FDA Medical Device Requirements.[citation needed] Products containing benzocaine will numb all body parts with which they come in contact.[12]


Some lubricants are designed specifically for male masturbation. Many of these are lipid-based for durability and quality of sensation at the expense of latex compatibility. By applying them to the penis, these lubricants can increase the pleasure of masturbation.[citation needed]



In medicine, personal lubricants can be used for gynecological examinations, digital rectal examinations, the insertion of catheters, and the use of enema nozzles and rectal thermometers. The class of lubricants now known as personal derives from surgical lubricants; K-Y Jelly was introduced in 1904 for this purpose.[citation needed]

Sexual intercourse

A lubricant can be used to increase pleasure and reduce pain during sexual activity and may be used for lubricating the penis, dildo, vagina, or anus before or during activity. Personal lubricants are particularly useful for intercourse when a partner experiences dryness or excessive contraction of the anus or vagina. Anal sex generally requires more generous application of lubricant since the anus does not have natural lubrication sufficient for most sexual activity.

Nonoxynol-9, a spermicidal detergent contained in some lubricants, is an irritant and can cause micro-tears which may increase the rate of HIV transmission[13] and HPV infection.[14] Spermicidally lubricated condoms do not contain enough spermicide to increase contraceptive effectiveness,[15] but application of separate spermicide is thought to reduce pregnancy rates significantly.[16]


While males and females both produce various amounts of their own lubrication, it is often desirable to add extra lubrication. A circumcised male masturbating without lubrication can lead to friction burns, blisters, cuts, and calluses.[citation needed] For males there are specific masturbation lubricants that are not suitable for vaginal use or with condoms.[17] Lubricant that is safe for sexual intercourse is also safe for masturbation.


Other products that have been used as personal lubricants include vegetable shortening, which is durable and inexpensive but damaging to latex.[18] In a controversial scene in the movie Last Tango in Paris, the character Paul, played by Marlon Brando, uses butter during anal sex with the character Jeanne played by Maria Schneider.

Some personal lubricants


  1. ^ Silverberg, Cory (September 24, 2006). "Can I get a yeast infection from a personal lubricant?". Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  2. ^ Buck, Christopher B; Cynthia D Thompson, Jeffrey N Roberts, Martin Müller, Douglas R Lowy, John T Schiller (2006). "Carrageenan Is a Potent Inhibitor of Papillomavirus Infection". PLoS Pathogens 2 (7): e69. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.0020069.
  3. ^ "Study finds most lubricants damage rectal cells and some increase HIV activity". aidsmap. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  4. ^ The Latex Condom: Recent Advances, Future Directions (Chapter 3: User Behaviors and Characteristics Related to Condom Failure ed.). Family Health International. 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-29 
  5. ^ Vargas J, Crausaz M, Senn A, Germond M. Sperm toxicity of "nonspermicidal" lubricant and ultrasound gels used in reproducitve medicine. Fertil Steril 2011;95:835-6.
  6. ^ Practice Committee of the ASRM. Optimizing natural fertility. Fertil Steril 2008;90(suppl 3):S1-6.
  7. ^ Development of a Novel, Physiologically Important Ca2+ and Mg2+ ion Containing Non-Spermicidal Vaginal Lubricant, J. Kurtz1,2,3, E. Willmer1,2, B. Nikolic1,3, and V. Gupta1,41Aquatrove Biosciences, Inc., Miami FL; 2 Emmanuel College, Boston MA; 3 Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston MA; 4 Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami FL, Fertility and Sterility, Volume 92, Issue 3, Supplement 1, September 2009, Pages S212-S213
  8. ^ Agarwal A, Deepinder F, Cocuzza M, Short RA, Evenson DP. Effect of vaginal lubricants on sperm motility and chromatin integrity: a prospective comparative study. Fertil Sterl 2008;89:375-379.
  9. ^ Kutteh WH, Chao CH, Ritter JO,Byrd W. Vaginal lubricants for the infertile couple: effect on sperm activity. Int J Fertil 1996;42:400-404.
  10. ^ Nude Personal Lubricant, Certified Organic by CCOF, Santa Cruz, California.
  11. ^ "Study finds most lubricants damage rectal cells and some increase HIV activity". AIDSMap. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  12. ^ "Personal Lubricant Buying Guide". Health Services. Sinclair Institute. October 15, 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  13. ^ Bass, Emily (August 2002). "Learning from microbicides: A young field's experience working with high-risk women". AIDScience. IAVI. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  14. ^ Roberts P, Buck C, Thompson C, Kines R, Bernardo M, Choyke P, Lowy D, Schiller J (2007). "Genital Transmission of HPV in a Mouse Model is Potentiated by Nonoxynol-9 and Inhibited by Carrageenan". Nature Medicine 13 (7). 
  15. ^ "Birth Control - Nonoxynol-9 and Risk Reduction". Our Bodies Ourselves. Global Campaign for Microbicides. March 2005. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  16. ^ Kestelman P, Trussell J (1991). "Efficacy of the simultaneous use of condoms and spermicides.". Fam Plann Perspect 23 (5): 226–7, 232. doi:10.2307/2135759. JSTOR 2135759. PMID 1743276. 
  17. ^ Hauck, Tyler. "Lubricants for Sex: Oil-Based Lube". Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  18. ^ Graham, Mark (2004). "Sexual Things". GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10 (2): 211–313. 

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