What is meant by "lubricant?"

A "lubricant" (sometimes referred to as a "sex lube," or just "lube"), is usually a water-based, condom-friendly liquid or jelly used to enhance or replace a woman's natural lubrication. Some people regard lubricants as a must-have item in this age of safer sex and they are an essential ingrediant to successful anal intercourse. The use of a lubricant on the inside of a condom can make the sensations delivered to the penis much stronger.

Prior to the current, safer-sex era, many people used oil-based lubricants, using vaseline, vegetable oil, or mineral oil. None of these are particularly healthy.

-Oils coat the inside of the vagina and rectum, providing a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria.

-Petroleum-based oils destroy latex upon contact, making them useless for use with condoms for safer sex or contraception.

Even monogamous couples who don't have to worry about safer sex if they use certain forms of contraception: if an oil destroys the latex of condoms, it will also destroy the latex of diaphragms, cervical caps, and sponges, as well as the protective coatings around some IUDs.

So, what are sexual lubricants made of?

Most lubricants are made up of one or (more commonly) several of the following: glycerin, hydroxyethyl cellulose, or propelyene glycol. Some add aloe vera or vitamin E acetate. All add a pH balancing agent, and most have some sort of preservative, since the first three items are all essentially food additives, "thickening agents." Look at a container of Slime in a toy store -- the same three primary ingredients.

What brands are there?

Although the most common brand of sex lubricant is still "KY Jelly," you should be aware that KY is intended for single-use medical environments; the insertion of a thermometer or catheter, for example, and is deliberately forumlated to break down quickly. This is not good for situations where the lubricant is expected to last a long time, such as during intercourse.

The names of other common brands are: Wet, ForPlay, ID, Slip, Probe, Pride, Aqualube, Astroglide, and Elbow Grease. Both Wet and Elbow Grease also make oil-based lubricants "for masturbation purposes only," so read the label carefully before you buy. These are just a few of many lubricants on the market.

Which is best?

"Best lubricant" is a non-sequitor, since lubricant choice is as personal to taste as food. Some people like it thick, others runny, others need it to be slick enough to grease their engines and others need it to last long enough to go for hours. Small sampler bottles (1 oz.) are available for a dollar a piece -- buy one of each and try them out. Figure out which one you like best.

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