Odds are, if you have sensitive skin, you know to pay close attention to the ingredients in your skincare. You probably carefully check the labels on cleansers, moisturizers, serums, and lotions to make sure they won’t cause problems. This is true of a whole lot of people! However, a lot of those very same people don’t think to apply that same caution to their personal lubricant.
It’s understandable, not many of us think of our facial moisturizer and our sexy time lube as having much in common but sensitive skin is not limited to the face, neck, and chest -- it can be literally ANYWHERE. If your skin is a bit fussy, you should know that lubes -- which can actually go IN your body, btw -- are no exception. That’s why it helps to be sensitive skin savvy when you are shopping for the slippery stuff that keeps your sex life running smoothly.
In my years as a sex educator, something I have encountered time and again is people with sensitive skin who, due to bad past experiences, think they can’t use sex lube or don’t know how to use lube. These people often say things like “no lube works for me. Even the totally basic [lube available at most drugstores] causes my skin to freak out!”. These people are working off a fundamental misunderstanding. They believe that the cheap, readily available thing must be the most “basic” thing available, and if that upsets their skin, then obviously more complex “fancy” lubes won’t work.
Today we’re going to talk about the best lube for sensitive skin. We’ll break down what might work, what probably won’t work, and why “inexpensive” and “uncomplicated” are not the same thing. We’ll talk about the ingredients that can trigger sensitive skin vs the ingredient that will keep the skin on your vulva or penis as happy as the skin on your face and we’ll even address what to do if you have actual allergies that make finding a lube challenging. So buckle up, we’re about to learn about the best lubes for sensitive skin!
Sensitive skin down there?
So, not only can any skin sensitivities you experience absolutely show up below the belt, but the skin of the vagina, vulva, and anus is actually MORE sensitive than the skin on the rest of your body. In addition to meaning you should treat that skin very kindly, it also means that anything you put on your delicate bits will absorb faster than it would on other body parts.
We all know that personal lubricant is supposed to add moisture, but if you apply something that does not get along with your skin, it can cause irritation and inflammation (definitely not what we want). What’s more, that irritation and inflammation can trigger a change to your body’s natural pH, which can, in turn, cause unpleasant stuff like bacterial vaginosis (aka BV) or yeast infections. If you notice tingling, itching, or redness after applying a lube, rinse it off immediately and stop using it.
How can you tell if a lube will irritate your skin?
So we know that if a lube causes irritation, it’s best to stop using it but is there any way to know in advance if it will upset your skin? The good news is, yes, there is! Much like you would with a new skincare product, you can do what’s called a “patch test,” where you apply a small amount to your skin and see if you have a reaction.
Additionally, once you know that a particular lubricant has irritated your skin, take note of its ingredients. This way, as you go on to experiment with other lubes, you can figure out what specific ingredients don’t get along with your skin.
When it comes to lube ingredients that cause irritation, there are some usual suspects and many of them are very popular among many of the readily-available lubricants in your local drugstore:
- Glycerin: while it doesn’t irritate everyone, so folks, especially those with sensitive skin, or who are prone to yeast infections should probably avoid it.
- Propylene glycol
- Petroleum jelly
- Microbicide nonoxynol-9 (spermicide)
This is why what I said earlier about folks believing the lubes they find in the drugstore are “basic” or “simple” is such a problem. They aren’t pure, uncomplicated formulas, they are simply inexpensive, mass-produced formulas, and that’s different.
Okay, so now that we know a bit about how sensitive skin and lube can interact, let’s talk about lube that folks with sensitive bits might want to check out!
Which lube is best for sensitive vaginas?
Wondering which types of lube are safe for you to use? If you have sensitive skin and are shopping for the best lube for vaginal sex or the best lube for anal, my number one piece of advice is to read the ingredients and look for things with as few ingredients as possible. We’ve done some of the legwork for you here.
Water based lube is incredibly popular and versatile. It is also widely-available (most, if not all of the lubes in your local store are water based) and in general affordable. It is also safe for you with all toys as well as condoms and is available in a variety of textures. That said, it is also the lube that is most likely to contain potentially irritating ingredients like glycerin and propylene glycol. If your skin is sensitive, you want to stick to water based lubes with as few ingredients as possible. The good news is, more and more companies are becoming aware of potentially irritating ingredients and taking steps to offer lubes that are free of them.
For folks with sensitive skin, silicone lube is a great choice. First off, it is hypoallergenic (more on that in a moment) and tends to be fairly uncomplicated when it comes to ingredients. Additionally, silicone lube works hard! Because it’s not water-based it doesn’t evaporate and dry out. Once applied, silicone lubricant is there until you wash it off. Finally, silicone lube is compatible with all condoms. One caveat: silicone lube and silicone sex toys are often incompatible with the lube degrading the surface of the sex toy, so be aware of that.
A hybrid lubricant is a water based lubricant that contains a small amount of silicone. This gives them the versatility of water based lubes and the longevity of silicone lubes. Now, a lube that is literally a combination of other lubes might not sound like a good idea for folks who are looking for products with short ingredients lists but hybrid lubes tend to have a smooth, creamy texture that can not just feel amazing but also actually be soothing for sensitive skin. The key is finding formulas that are designed with skin sensitivity in mind, and there are several available!
What happens if you are allergic to lube?
It’s all well and good to have lubricants that are skin-friendly but what happens if you are legitimately allergic to lube? The good news is that hypoallergenic lubes are a thing! In fact, several of the ones we’ve already mentioned fit the bill. A good rule of thumb here is that a hypoallergenic lube will work well for sensitive skin but a lube that is good for sensitive skin might not be hypoallergenic, so be sure to read those labels.
In general, when shopping for a water based lubricant as someone with allergies you want to be on the lookout for the term “hypoallergenic”. That will let you know that your water based lube is made specifically with allergies in mind. Wicked and Sliquid are two companies that specify when their lubes are hypoallergenic.
Hypoallergenic Silicone Based Lube
In general, silicone based lubes are hypoallergenic. The caveat here is that sometimes companies add extra ingredients to their silicone lube. This is another case where it’s smart to read labels and keep an eye out for the lubes with the fewest ingredients.
Know that while sensitive skin or allergies might mean you need to read your product labels carefully, there are still some awesome lube options available to you if you know where to shop. PinkCherry’s selection of adult sex toys and lube is ready to meet all your needs!