Heads up, our website will be briefly unavailable on Thanksgiving Day for some upgrades
Pelvic + Sexual Health

What is the best lubricant for women's sexual pleasure and pain management?

May 18, 2020Dr. Anna McMaster, PT, DPT5 mins
Woman's Legs

At Origin, we’re big fans of lube. It can be incredibly helpful to so many women and is not used enough! The use of lubricant has been associated with higher ratings of female sexual pleasure during masturbation and vaginal penetrative sex.

There are so many different kinds and brands of lube, it can be hard to know which one to pick. Well, worry not, this post will tell you everything you need to know to pick the right lube for you.

Why use lubricant during sex or masturbation?

Some of our patients have shared feeling embarrassed to “have to use lube” because of vaginal dryness – but there is nothing embarrassing about using lube. Many women experience vaginal dryness, and not just women who have gone through menopause. A multinational study found that between 5-19.7% of women between the ages of 18-65 years old reported vaginal dryness. According to the Mayo Clinic, vaginal dryness can be caused by breastfeeding, childbirth, cancer treatment to the female reproductive system, immune disorders, use of medications that affect your estrogen level (i.e., birth control!), menopause, perimenopause, and even use of allergy medications. So, it's common to feel a little dry down there, and definitely nothing to be embarrassed about.

Even if you don’t have vaginal dryness, using lube can help things move a little smoother. Especially if you're having sex for the first time postpartum when your vagina is usually more sensitive, using a lubricant can improve comfort and decrease anxiety in the moment. Even if you've never needed it before, we think it's good to have one on hand! Maybe there wasn’t as much foreplay as you usually like, or maybe you are using lube to help you with vaginal dilators, wands, or weights. In any case, when lube is the question, yes (!) is almost certainly the answer.

Why does it matter which lube I use?

Some are typically broken up into three categories: water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based. Each type is best used for certain situations.

Water-based lube

Water-based lube is typically a good place to start for most people given that it can be used in a variety of situations. Water-based lube is generally the most common and affordable and compatible with all birth control/safe sex barrier methods.

Water-based lube is especially good for:

  • Penetrative sex with or without a condom
  • Use with silicone sex toys
  • Use with silicone dilators and vaginal weights
  • People who have sensitive vulvas and / or vaginas and experience irritation often

The Cons:

  • Might get sticky
  • You will most likely have to reapply multiple times
  • Most likely to contain preservatives and other irritants

Silicone-based lube

Silicone-based lube is great because it lasts a long time. No worrying about having to reapply! But, silicone-based lube cannot be used with anything made out of silicone, and many sex toys, dilators, and vaginal weights are made with silicone nowadays. Unfortunately, it will damage the rubber over time.

Silicone-based lube is great for:

  • Penetrative sex with or without a condom
  • Non-silicone sex toy usage (i.e., plastic, glass)
  • Non-silicone dilator or vaginal weight usage (i.e., plastic, glass)
  • Shower or bath situations

The Cons:

  • Cannot be used with silicone items
  • Can stain sheets, clothes
  • Requires some effort to clean up afterwards, but can be done with soap and water

Oil-based lube

Oil-based (sometimes called plant oil based) lubes are similar to silicone-based lubes because they also last a little longer. However, oil-based lubes can damage condoms and cause them to break, so make sure you are using either water or silicone-based lubes if you are using condoms. Lastly, water based lubes can have a hydrating effect on tissues over time.

Oil-based lubes are good for:

  • Unprotected penetrative sex (no condoms!)
  • Non-latex sex toy usage (i.e., glass)
  • Non-latex dilator or vaginal weight usage  (i.e., glass)
  • People who have sensitive vulvas or vaginas and don’t like water-based lubes
  • People looking for an 100% organic option

The Cons:

  • Cannot be used with condoms or any other latex item
  • May be difficult to wash out of sheets
  • May be difficult to clean up afterwards

What else should I look for in my lube?


Vaginal pH is generally a bit acidic, with pH between 3.5-4.5. However, pH changes throughout the menstrual cycle, and with decreased estrogen levels will become less acidic (up to pH of 6-7). Therefore if you are lactating or in menopause and use a more acidic lubricant (lower number), it can cause burning/stinging.


That's a mouthful, but basically it means the concentration of water vs. other ingredients. A lubricant with high osmolality can cause dehydration and irritation of sensitive vaginal tissues by drawing out moisture.


Avoid products with glycerin, as it can cause yeast overgrowth and has a high osmolality (potential for irritation).

Avoiding additives that can cause irritation

In general, we typically recommend using lubes that are free of additives, including:

  • Parabens
  • Glycerin
  • Heavy scents
  • Warming agents
  • Flavors

These additives can be potentially irritating to the vulva and vagina, so check the ingredients before you buy!

What to do when lube's not enough

If we haven't convinced you already lube is wonderful. But sometimes there can be more specific issues that even lube can't solve. Our team at Origin is here to help you get to the root of the issue whether it's vaginal dryness, painful sex, or even returning to sex postpartum. Schedule an in-person or virtual visit with our team today.

Experiencing painful sex? We're here to help.
Get Started
Anna McMaster Headshot
Dr. Anna McMaster, PT, DPT

Anna McMaster, PT, DPT, PRPC is a doctor of physical therapy specializing in women's health at Origin. She is also a certified yoga instructor.

There’s More To Share!

See All Articles
Ready to bring your body into focus?

Get exclusive access to real talks and tips to feel good in your body, informed by our clinical team.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.