Vaginal lubricants are readily available over the counter without a prescription and they are meant to provide relief of vaginal dryness, painful intercourse (dyspareunia) and even vulvovaginal atrophy caused by loss of estrogen as women transition to menopause. However, there is a myriad of different types of products available and with so many choices to make, we thought we would share some helpful insights so you can make the right decision for you.
First off, these vaginal products come in two forms: vaginal lubricants and vaginal moisturizers. Moisturizers are absorbed through the skin and work similarly to the way natural vaginal secretions do. They are meant to be used regularly, and not just before intercourse. The results can last 3-5 days. They are inserted into the vagina using an applicator. They can be a bit messy and can stain clothes, so it is recommended to wear sanitary pads and be mindful of hygiene while using such products. Examples of over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers are Replens, Vagisil Moisturizer, Feminease, Moist Again, and K-Y Liquibeads.
Vaginal lubricants, on the other hand, are meant to be used on an “as needed” basis just prior to intercourse. Lubricants are not absorbed through the skin and work by decreasing friction and thus reducing pain and discomfort during sex. They wash off easily and less likely to stain. Lubricants are usually oil-based, water-based, or silicone-based.
Water-based lubricants such as KY Jelly, Sylk, Astroglide, Probe, and Aqualube are ideal for use as they are less messy and safe to use with condoms. Most water-based lubricants include glycerin which is a sugar alcohol that is believed to contribute to yeast infections. However studies are conflicting and in fact, some research shows that glycerin can be protective against overgrowth of certain vaginal bacteria and yeast. Overall, we still recommend that you use caution when using any lubricant with sugar alcohols in it such as Sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and maltitol.
Silicone-based lubricants are more slippery, last longer, and require a smaller amount for use. They can also be used in water. Examples include Pjur, ID Millennium. Beware that silicone-based lubricants are not safe to use with sex toys as they tend to bond with the silicone material and potentially cause harmful reactions.
Oil-based lubricants are products such as mineral oil, baby oil, and petroleum jelly. They should never be used with latex condoms as they cause the latex to disintegrate and thereby increase the risk of unwanted pregnancy and/or STD. They can also be messy and more difficult to wash off.
When it comes to choosing a vaginal lubricant or moisturizer, we recommend doing some research and choosing the best product for your body and preferences. Always remember to check the ingredients in the back and look out for potential carcinogens, preservatives, and irritants such as parabens, propylene glycol, and acetate.
And remember, always consult with your primary care doctor or Ob/Gyn with any and all questions related to sexual and feminine health.