Picking the right lube can be confusing at the best of times: silicone or water-based? Flavored or plain? Extra bells and whistles (like warming), or original flavor? It can feel like trying to make a decision in the snack food aisle of the grocery store.
But the situation can get especially complicated if you’re dealing with vaginal issues like dryness, uncomfortable tightness, or pain. Though vaginal dryness is one of the most common symptoms associated with menopause, most of us haven’t received much education on how to treat it, in our daily lives or our sex lives. This can make picking the right lube in perimenopause and menopause perplexing, even if you’re an old pro at the lube game — and if you’ve never used lube before, selecting the best one for you can be downright intimidating.
“I have definitely noticed that the lubes of yore are less optimal [for me] now that I'm well into menopause—no one should be surprised that bodily changes include our pleasure parts!” says author, activist and Good Vibrations staff sexologist Dr. Carol Queen. But there’s no reason to be overwhelmed by lube selection (save those feelings for deciding between nacho cheese and cool ranch Doritos!).
Read on for Queen’s best tips for picking the right lube for you, right now.
Research your options
If you’re a lube newbie and unsure what to try, online research is a great place to begin.
“Many places that carry lubricants and other intimate products have an online review function that allows people to report on their experience with a lube,” says Queen, “and these can be helpful if you have no experience with them to begin with—at least as far as crowdsourced POV goes. (Companies like Good Vibrations and Babeland have trained staff in-store, too, if you are able to shop live and ask your questions of a human who is standing right there.) Most sites let you search for specific keywords, so you can check and see if anyone else has mentioned dryness or menopause in their review.
Stick to simple ingredients
Be aware — some people may have allergic reactions to certain ingredients in certain lubes, the same way they might have a reaction to certain ingredients in certain soaps or moisturizers. If you have sensitive skin, have never tried lube before, or just want to play it safe, Queen recommends “[trying] lubricants without too many chemical ingredients.”
Some ingredients to avoid: alcohol, citric acid, and mineral oil, which can dry and irritate skin (mineral oil should also not be used with latex condoms, since it can cause them to break). Queen also advises to avoid “parabens, propylene glycol, ingredients with the prefix ‘benzo-,’ chlorhexidine, and nonoxynol-9;” some folks have sensitivies to glycerin, as well. Check out brands that are designed specifically for those with skin sensitivities if you want to make sure to avoid all potentially irritating ingredients.
And while flavored lubes can be fun for oral sex, “lubes that are flavored or include numbing agents should not be used in the vagina,” says Queen, as the ingredients in these lubes (especially sugary flavored lubes) can irritate your vagina, and numbing agents can make it difficult to know if you’re experiencing pain or injury during sex.
Get ready to slip and slide
Though every person will have different lube preferences, if you’re dealing with vaginal dryness, you may want to look for lubes that have extra slippery qualities, which will lessen painful friction even more effectively than your average lube. “Many users appreciate superior slipperiness,” says Queen, nothing that “silicone lubes can be a good choice for this, as can [plant-based]-oil lubes if you can use them. A cushiony quality is another plus for some, meaning water-based gel offering might suit a user better than a thinner water-based product.”
Queen reports that some people in menopause “have good luck with lubes containing CBD or other cannabis derivatives, and report that it is relaxing and enhances their experience.” If you feel comfortable with CBD, it can be an avenue worth exploring, although most CBD lubes are oil-based and thus not compatible with latex condoms, so keep that in mind while making your selection.
Give it a solo spin
Sometimes, buying a bunch of new lubes and trying them out with a partner can be a fun way to figure out what you like (and avoid boredom during a long weekend!). But if the idea of trying out your brand-new lube during sex with a partner sounds stressful or just not all that exciting, you can always give it a test drive on your own beforehand, using toys or whatever you prefer. “If you find your lube isn't as helpful as you might wish when you're by yourself, it may be less disruptive than when you are navigating a new product and element of your sexual experience with a partner,” says Queen. On your own, you can see if you have any negative reactions to it (burning, irritation, etc) or simply don’t like it all that much.
Even if it takes a few tries to find a lube you love, the right match is out there. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t love the first one you get, keep trying new lubes, and you’ll be having friction-less fun in no time.