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Water-Based Lubricants

Differences Among Water Based Lubes

Most of the personal lubricants available are water-based. Water-based lubricants are typically recommended by doctors and health care workers, and they are the kind usually made available for free at sexual health clinics.

Water-based lubricants are considered safer and better than older oil-based lubricants because they don’t damage condoms and they flush out of, and off of, the body more easily than oils.

With hundreds of different brands and styles available, it can be hard to distinguish one water-based lube from another. In truth, there aren’t that many differences and most people find a lube that works for them and stick with it. If you haven’t found the right lubricant, or have never tried, there are three main differences to consider when buying a water-based lube.

Feel and Consistency

How thick or thin you like your lube is often a personal preference. But there are some pros and cons and today you can find water-based lubricants in a wide range of textures and consistencies.

Thicker lubricants are often said to be better for anal sex. They may create a kind of cushion effect in the rectum and they don’t slip off toys or body parts as easily, which is beneficial with the slower pace of anal sex play. For the same reason, they are easier to use with sex toys as they stay where you put them and don’t slide off the toy as quickly or easily. On the other hand, thicker lubricants are messier and more noticeable.

Some people find thinner lubricants to be cleaner and less noticeable, and some people say that thinner lubricants mimic natural vaginal lubrication (which may or may not be desired).

Natural vaginal lubrification

Examples of thin water-based lubricants include

  • #LubeLife

No oiliness, no grease, no silicones, no tacky feeling of lube; it never becomes rough or sticky, lasts a long time but washes off easily it is completely safe and is made in compliance with FDA regulations.

  • Astroglide

The exclusive, top-selling formula offers silky lubrication that increases sensitivity and pleasure. Non-latex lubricants can be rinsed off with water and non-messy tissues in a few minutes with regular handwashing.

  • KY Liquid

To make you feel more comfortable, the K-Y Brand, personal water-based lubricant does the trick.
This water-based, non-greasy lubricant was created to gently prepares you for intimacy and eases discomfort associated with vaginal dryness.

Examples of lubricants with a medium consistency include

  • ID Glide
  • Liquid Silk

Examples of thick water-based lubricants include

  • Astroglide Gel
  • Probe

One drawback to all but a few water-based lubricants is that when the water in the lubricant dries up during use, the skin is left feeling tacky. This is because the rest of the lube ingredients are still on the skin. It also means that if you simply add some water the lubricant reinvigorates and becomes slippery again.

Why are water-based lubricants so preferred?

It turns out that one of the most preferred lubricants are water-based. This is due to the ability to combine them with any contraceptive, as well as use them in combination with all types of sex toys. Most water-based lubricants have no odor or taste and are extremely easy to wash off. When applied to condoms, water-based lubes help penetration during intercourse.

Water-based lube during intercourse

Glycerin is usually present in most water-based lubes. The ingredient contributes to the long-lasting effect of the lubricant itself. Glycerin is not harmful to humans, but we still advise women who are prone to vaginal infections to avoid lubricants that also glycerin. If you still decide to experiment with such a product, then your best option is to immediately wash it off after intercourse.

Ingredients of Water-Based Lubricants

Conscious shoppers look for ingredients in lubricants to consider what might cause a reaction during use, and also to consider the environmental impact of chemicals used in the manufacturing of lubricants. There two types of ingredients people are most likely to react to.

Preservatives and antiseptics

These are the ingredients whose long names end with ‘parabens.’ People can and do react to these, and increased exposure to them increases the allergic reaction. Two examples of paraben-free water-based lubricants are Good Clean Love and Hathor Aphrodisia.


Many educated sex stores tell their customers who are prone to yeast infections to avoid lubricants with glycerin or sorbitol. While there’s no research specifically on whether glycerin in lubricants cause yeast infections, glycerin, is very sweet, and that sweetness could feed the yeast that is naturally occurring in a healthy vaginal canal. Two examples of glycerin-free water-based lubes are Maximus and Slippery Stuff.

Extras: warming, scented, flavored

Again, there’s no research to support this, but if you have sensitive skin or are prone to reacting to chemicals, you should probably avoid the warming and flavored lubricants and stick with the regular lubricants above.

Organic Water Based Lubricants

As the lubricant market has expanded, and companies respond to consumer concerns with both quality products and greenwashing, the organic lube market has exploded. Whether or not these organic lubricants are better for your body or the environment is a difficult question to answer.

However, companies such as Sliquid, Hathor, Good Clean Love, and others are developing lubricants with some or all ingredients being certified organic.

How Long Does a Lubricant Last?

Almost every company says that their lube lasts longer and doesn’t dry up as quickly as their competitors. Some companies claim that their lubricants contain less water, and therefore don’t dry up as quickly as other brands.

But after 20 years of talking to people about lubricants, I have found that different people report the same lube very differently. One person will say that lube X lasts much longer than lube Y, and another person will swear that lube Y lasted longer for them. It may be that lubes feel and last differently for different people because perception and individual bodily fluids are involved.

The bottom line is that the only way to find out which lubricant lasts longest for you is to try them out. Many online sex stores offer “lube samplers” (buy direct) which allows you to try a small amount of several brands to see which is best for you.

One important trick is that you can reinvigorate any water-based lubricant simply by adding more water, you don’t need to keep applying more lube. All water-based lubes do eventually dry up, and almost all of them get a bit tacky when they do. The only products that don’t dry up like this are silicone-based lubricants.

Water-based lubes can be used with almost all types of sex toys, such as rabbits, wands, top-rated bullet vibrators, anal, and other types of vibrators (including toys, made of silicone or cyber-skin).

Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

As a certified sex educator and sex toy reviewer, Amie has spent her career empowering individuals and couples to embrace their sexuality.

With a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and an ever-growing collection of over 200 vibrators, she's got the knowledge and experience to guide you on your pleasure-seeking journey.

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