Science of Sex: Lube

April 11th, 2017

Welcome to the second installment in a new feature on Of Sex and Love: Science of Sex. In this feature, I plan to discuss the science of sexuality in an easy-to-digest format that’s accessible to the casual reader. I will also follow up with some extended reading material for people who want to know more about the subject of each post.


science of sex lube

I am not the first person to write about lube, and I doubt I’ll be the most effective. But lube is so interesting from a scientific viewpoint, and I believe we can never talk about it enough.

Lube should make sex better, but it doesn’t always. For example, lubes that contain the spermicide nonoxynol are quite abrasive to sensitive tissues, resulting in micro-tears that actually facilitate the transfer of infections. Multiple studies have shown that Nonoxynol-9 contributes to HIV transmission.


Depending upon its osmolality, the measurement of particles per KG in a solution, lube may be doing unseen damage to your vagina or anus that increases the likelihood of an infection, too. Many lubes have a much higher osmolality (greater than 1,000 mOsm/Kg) than the vagina (~275 mOsm/Kg) or anus meaning there are more particles in the lube than the tissue it comes in contact with.

Osmolality is also important when it comes to sperm, which have a different measurement than vaginas, anuses, saliva and many lubes. By default, nearly all lube proves to be an inhibitor to sperm, so you’ll want to look for sperm-friendly lube when it comes to TTC.

Lube pH

If your lube has a pH that differs from your body’s natural pH (between 4.5 and 7 for most vaginas; pH varies during your cycle and life), you might find yourself dealing with a yeast infection while your body seeks balance.

Other Problematic Ingredients

And personal lubes that contain L-arginine, which is typically used to encourage sensitivity and arousal, can cause a herpes breakout. Sensation lubes (warming or cooling) typically rely on menthol or capsaicin to produce the desired effect, and every body responds to these chemicals differently.

Numbing agents such as lidocaine or benzocaine are sometimes found in anal lubricants. However, experts recommend against numbing the area because it both reduces pleasure and makes it harder to tell if you’re being too rough, which could lead to damage.

Lube and Your Toys

Even if lube is good for your body, it may not be compatible with your toys, which is the case with low-quality silicone lube and silicone toys. Using them together can cause an interaction that increases the porosity of your silicone toys, so they’re not as body-safe as they once were.

Further Reading

Did you enjoy the second installment of Science of Sex? Do you have further questions or suggestions for next month’s subject? Leave me a comment!


Wet Naturals Beautifully Bare

May 26th, 2012

You’ve probably tried Wet Naturals. I say this with confidence because sex toy retailers like PinkCherry frequently send sample packets with your order. In fact, I have a few random flavored straggles in my nightstand. In fact, it was a packet of the silicone-based version that ruined my Spur. Third world problems.

I’m not overly fond of the packets. They’re not super easy to use and I can never get the right amount of product, so I was glad to try a full-sized bottle when the opportunity to work with Wet arose.

Let me preface this by saying I enjoyed the Beautifully Bare lube when I first used it. It was an interesting experience. My toys felt lubricated but I couldn’t necessarily feel the lubrication. It was the most natural feeling lube I’d used. However, I just didn’t love it as much the second time around. I think it’s because it’s a thinner lube and it winds up running down my toys and hands, making a mess. I’ve definitely come to like slightly thicker lubes better for play with toys. When you consider that all my play involves toys these days, you can see how this would affect how I feel about this lube.

Although thin, it feels pretty slick at first. Unfortunately, it dries up right quick with a little friction. I don’t need a necessarily super long-lasting lube, but this will be a break it factor for some consumers. There are longer lasting water-based lubes and, of course, silicone-based lubes will last much longer. The company does make a silicone-based variant in the Wet Naturals line, which has just five ingredients.

On the other hand, if you like a light lube, this one might do the trick. It’s compatible with all types of play and toy materials. It has no odors or colors and the push-top bottle is easy to use, with a little indentation on the side that makes it easier to hold. The embossed “Wet” logo adds to that, even if your hand is fully of the runny lube.

The ingredients list doesn’t include any sugars or parabens, but Wet Naturals does have a lot of natural extracts, including grape seed extract and aloe vera. Wet Naturals is also slightly cheaper from most retailers than other organic or sensitive lubes, so this might be a good alternative if you’re into that.

Compared to some of the other natural or organic lubes I’ve used, I like this a bit better. This is mostly because it’s truly tasteless and odorless and has no funky color. It’ll more than do in a pinch, but it’s not my favorite lube either.



September 2nd, 2011



Maximus parent company Bodywise, which also makes Liquid Silk, has a limited US presence due to FDA regulations. You can purchase Maximus from Bodywise as well as a few other retailers, but it’s no longer readily available.

Maximus is a water-based lube that has long been touted by fans of anal sex because it’s thick and more or less stays where you put it. Although I can’t even remember the last time when I ventured into anal territory, I enjoy thick lubes that stay where I put them because I’m a toy fiend. There’s nothing worse than lubing up a toy, only to have it drip all over your hands, or erotica book, or partner or floor or bed (see my point?) on its way to your target destination. So I like my lubes a little thicker.

Yet, in the past, I’ve used lubes that were so thick that they not only stayed exactly where I put them but they felt solid and thus lacked in any lubricating goodness whatsoever. This is not the case with Maximus which is a thin, gel-like lube. It’s definitely not a liquid but it does move, eventually. If you hold a toy upright, the lube will slow obey the forces of gravity. But not so much that I wind up covered in it, which I enjoy. It’s actually thinner than I would expect and the opening in the bottle is a little thicker so it came out faster than I was ready for. I’ve got it down now.

Texture-wise, Maximus is pretty silky and it just keeps going and going. I generally test between my fingers when I write a review so I can give you an idea how long it takes for a lube to dry up and whether it gets stick as it does. My fingers are starting to become sore from rubbing together and they’re still silky, although not as slick, and not sticky at all.

Because this is a water-based lube, it’ll wash right away with water. This is bad in showers but good when it comes to washing off your body or toys after playtime. I didn’t taste it but it has no recognizable smell. It’s completely safe for internal play and with your silicone toys as well.

In summary: Maximus might be the best water-based lube I’ve ever use. Kthnxbai.

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Battle of the BabeLubes

April 21st, 2011

BabeLube Natural / BabeLube

BabeLube Natural / BabeLube
$12 (Natural), $8 (Regular) from Babeland

I think we all know that I am not exactly a lube connoisseur. Generally, as long as a lube doesn’t irritate me or have some characteristic that I cannot stand (such as being silicone-based), it will go in my nightstand and whichever I happen to reach for is fine. I don’t usually do comparison reviews but I figured it would be a good format for writing my review for BabeLube Natural, Babeland’s natural and “organic” version of its water-based lubricant.

There’s a major difference between ingredients. BabeLube actually has a shorter list but it includes chemicals like polyoxyethylene, sodium carbomer, Phenoxyethanol, and ethylexyglycerin. Glycerin, as you probably realize, is one of those ingredients that can cause irritation in some folks. On the other hand, BabeLube Natural’s slightly longer lists consists of purified water, plant cellulose, aloe babadensis, vitamin E, carrageenan, extracts of hibiscus, flax, green tea and sunflower seed, citric acid, and potassium sorbate. The list definitely sounds more natural and I know both aloe and vitamin E are common in products that are touted as natural and a few lubes that I’ve heard of also include carrageenan.

In use, I found the BabeLube Natural to be slightly thinner but it still has a gel-like consistency and won’t drip all over when you’re applying it to yourself or a toy. Regular BabeLube is a bit thicker and I actually find it difficult to apply. Both lubes come in a squeezable bottle with a press-top cap and BabeLube doesn’t like to move. I have to take the cap off and stick a finger in or bang it around for a few minutes so it becomes mobile.

I did a quick rub test for both of these and the result was that, while BabeLube felt fairly slick, BabeLube Naturals felt even slicker and was longer lasting in terms of lubrication. As BabeLube dried, it became a little tacky but, once completely dry, I could no longer feel the tackiness and didn’t need to wash it off. BabeLube Naturals, however, was tackier and remained tackier for a while. Eventually, you won’t notice but you may want to wash it off at first.

Because of its thickness and slickness, I’d opt for BabeLube Natural but I’d probably enjoy regular Babelube a little better for clitoral stimulation as I am quite bothered by tackiness around my vulva. Both are compatible with all sorts of materials and activities but neither is going to do you a lick of good in wet situations because they’re water-soluble. For those activities, you’ll want a silicone-based lube. I recommend Uberlube (read my review).



October 12th, 2010

Frolic is a water-based lube from the same company that makes Pink and Gun Oil. I decided to give it a shot because it’s attractive and water-based. The former isn’t a requirement but I definitely prefer water-based lubes over those that contain silicone.

The Frolic bottle is very similar to the bottles that Pink lube comes in. It’s a semi-opaque, white bottle with magenta text but the label uses a different font for the product name. Frolic states that is is a toy lubricant, especially for women and it is also glycerin-free. Glycerin-free lubes, lotions and potions are becoming increasingly common and, while I do not have any adverse reactions to the chemical, I know some people will appreciate that.

The ingredient list is fairly free of issues (as far as I know) and if you’re curious, includes:

  • water
  • hydroxyethylcellulose
  • sodium benzoate
  • patassium sorbate
  • propylene glycol
  • PEG-8
  • grapefruit seed extract
  • polyethylene polymer

I was curious how this lube differs from Pink Water so I looked up that ingredient list, too:

  • Water
  • HECPEG 45
  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Polyquaternium 5
  • Tetrasodium
  • Germall II
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Aspartame
  • Polysorbate 20
  • Aloe Vera Extract
  • Ginseng Extract
  • Guarana Extract
  • Avena Sativa Extract
  • Sodium Hydroxide
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Citric Acid

As you can see, Frolic does not contain parabens like Pink Water. Pink Water also has many more extracts. The two still share the same pump style bottle, complete with a little cap to prevent accidental spills. I like the cap but it’s not super tight so it comes off easily and every time I take it off myself, my cats decide it’s a perfect plaything. I will probably never see mine again.

The pump is incredibly easy to use and makes using lube much less messy than other bottle styles. Frolic really isn’t a messy lube to begin with, though. It’s one of the thicker lubes I’ve used–not quite a gel but significantly thicker than ToyFluid or Hydra. Frolic stays where you put it and I love that in a lube. Eventually, gravity will put it down but you don’t have to worry about lubing up your toy and having it all drip down on your hand before you can put the cap back on the bottle.

Furthermore, Frolic feels pretty damned silky on the fingers. It’s surprisingly silky for a water-based lube. It perhaps feels a bit more synthetic than some other water-based lubes I’ve used but it dries without being surprisingly sticky.

It’s hard for me to say how long Frolic lasts as I’ve only used it with toys despite the claim that this is more concentrated than other lubes. I do love that I can use it with any toy, even my silicone ones (as that collection is growing). My toy sessions never last as long as sex did and I don’t thrust as much as I find the right spots and press but one pump of Frolic has been sufficient for every session thus far.

The Pink website says that the grapefruit seed extract has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. I don’t know if I buy it but if that’s true, awesome! A lube that does double duty is a-okay in my book.

My verdict? Frolic really lives up to its name. I’ve been using a lot of thinner lubes with sex toys and they just don’t cut it. Frolic does and I can see myself reaching for it frequently.

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Wet Together Couples Lube

December 3rd, 2009

His and hers lubes are so of all the rage these days. KY did a fair job applying attractive colours to their Yours+Mine lube and, then, advertising the shit out of them. A little more recently, Wet introduced their take on his and her lubes: Wet Together Couples Lube. Packaged in pink and blue bottles, Wet Together pairs water with silicone based and tingling with warming properties to further stimulate sexual arousal and satisfaction. Besides the colours, which really are quite striking, these 2fl. oz bottles are nearly identical.

They both say “Wet Together” on a shiny, silver label with the ‘o’ being fashioned into the respective gender symbol and, on the back, you can peel away the label for additional information. The are press-top style which is easy to use and generally easy to control the amount you squeeze out.

The colour coding of this product makes it easy to tell “how” (or who to use it on) to use it but it also makes it clear that this product is intended for a very specific and heterosexual market. I guess because these types of products tend to be marketed toward the tamer sides of sex and sold in drug stores, I see the point but I’m not totally down with promoting the idea of gender-specific colours, either (is there a better term for this?) and it leaves other couplings out in the cold. Of course, you can certainly ignore the implied suggestions and use each lube separately or put the warming on her and the tingling on him. If you’re a rule breaker like that. 😉 We didn’t, at least not on the first try because I wanted to try the product how it was intended.

For Her is a silicone based lubricant meant to tingle (cool). The clear lube is thin and slick with a medium strong minty scent. When applied internally, I definitely noticed a cooling sensation. It comes with a short ingredient list which is chock full of silicone so use with silicone toys is not advised:

  • Dimethicone
  • Cyclopentasiloxne
  • Dimenthiconol
  • Phenyl Trimethicone
  • Tocopheryl Acetate
  • Peppermint Extract

Cold was definitely something I felt when For Her was applied on me. It reminded me a bit of Intimate Organic’s Discover Gel but I’m not entirely sure if I found the sensation to be pleasant this time. What I can say with absolute certainty is that there was an increase in sensation from pairing the lubes during sex and that the motion of sex (stroking/thrusting) increased it until a “maximum” point. I’ll be honest and say that the first time we used Wet Together, the sensation became so much that it was distracting and I just wanted it to be over and done with so I could rinse off the lube. It could be that we simply used too much so I would advise starting slow, with just a tiny dab.

On the other hand, For Him is a water based lube whose only ingredient is listed (on the bottle) as glycerin. I’m not sure on that one. The box also lists Tocopheryl Acetate but I cannot help but find it strange that “aqua” isn’t even in the ingredients list. Of course, as glycerin is sometimes a culprit when it comes to irritation, proceed with caution. In fact, that’s not a bad idea with any sensation giving product (as you will see, I did learn). For Him is also thin and clear with a sweet taste and not much of a discernible scent. At least, it’s hard to tell after smelling For Her. It is meant to warm and I could easily feel it doing so before I was done applying it to my husband and he seemed to generally enjoy it.

There was a definitely silky slickness to the lube because of its silicone contents and definitely lasted as long as we needed it do. Focusing on lubrication properties alone – and not sensation – I was fairly pleased. I’ve definitely tried worse and this may not be the best lube ever (TM) but it worked. It’s probably not as slick as silicone lube alone but there was a noticeable difference over water based lube. By itself, the silicone lube (Her) is pretty slick and doesn’t get sticky as is dries; it just leaves that sort of tangible “layer” on the skin which needs soap and water to come off. The water based (Him) has a nice texture that becomes a little tacky as it dries but not nearly as much as some water based lubed I have tried. The combination seems to reduce or perhaps just overshadow the less desirable qualities of the water based lubricant, feeling mostly like silicone.

I am not entirely sold on Wet Together Couples Lube as a set. Perhaps I am just a bad example of a “Her” when it comes to trying “his and hers” style lubricants but I didn’t find the tingling to be pleasurable, especially when combined with the warming lubricant to create a more intense sensation. I found myself thinking “is it over yer?” and that’s not how I like to enjoy my sex. However, I feel that the combination produces a solid lubricant which makes sex quite comfortable and, because my husband did enjoy the warming sensation of For Him, we may use it again when we want a warming lube.


Intimate Organics Hydra Water Based Lubricant

September 14th, 2009

No one could argue that Intimate Organics went wrong when naming their water-based formula. In fact, I can think of no product that is more aptly based than Hydra. Plus, it gets cool points for being a mythical monster. But Hydra’s name is not the only remarkable characteristic about it so, listen up!

Hydra is absolutely, without competition, and I mean no-other-water-based-lube-even-comes-close the slickest water based lubricant I have ever used. It is so very slick that even though I knew it was waterbased and I knew its name, I still checked the bottle after first use to make sure it wasn’t silicone based so I wouldn’t accidentally, you know, ruin my toys. Yep, you read that right: it’s water based and incredibly slick and silky. And it’s not just my opinion, either. My husband, who usually thinks “Lube is lube” really enjoys this one because of its texture. So if slick is your thing and maybe you usually prefer silicone lubes, you might give Hydra a try.

However, Hydra is rather thin and I do find myself always squirting out more from the push-top bottle than I intend to. Unless you prefer thinner lubes for anal sex, I’d skip Hydra for a thicker lube (like Maximus) for backdoor play.

Or if you like lubes that dry so completely that you don’t even feel the need to wash your hands, you might also give Hydra a try. After rubbing some my fingers dry of excess lube, I didn’t feel tacky or gummy whatsoever. There was literally no residual lube like their frequently is.

But wait, there’s more!

If you like your lubes animal-friendly, completely vegan and without harmful ingredients like parabens, glycerine or DEA, Hydra might just be perfect for you. Like other Intimate Organic products, the company has been careful to use naturally devised ingredients rather than so many chemical ones which makes Hydra a good solution for those folks who have lube sensitivities. I usually don’t and, if you recall, the only other hypoallergenic I lube caused sensitivity (ironic, isn’t it?). I had no issues with sensitivity with Hydra.

Is there a catch? I’m glad you asked. Unfortunately, there is. While I enjoyed the feeling of Hydra right out of the bottle and at the end, there was some less than desirable effects in the middle of play. Hydra tends to be sticky as istdries (but, obviously, that fades when it’s dry) which requires reapplication of lube or the addition of water more than other lubes. This wasn’t a problem for vaginal sex as I usually only need a little lube to get going, if my husband hasn’t gone down on me. Past the initial penetration, I pretty quickly produce my own lube.

However, I noticed the stickiness much more when it came to clit stimulation. The hard and fast movements were really impeded by the stickiness of Hydra. I’m certain that adding a bit more lube would’ve freshened it right up but, to be honest, I don’t like to do that. I’m a one-application of lube type of girl, I guess. Of course, I did apply the lube a few minutes before heading clit-side so it had time to dry. When I applied lube to a toy and used it right away, there was less sticky. All I can offer is a warning: If you want to avoid the stickiness of Hydra while it dries, be prepared to reapply fairly frequently or do have sex in an airless environment.

Not everyone minds reapplying lube, though, and if you’re one of those and the rest of Hydra’s properties sound appealing, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s very uncommon for my husband to like a lube as much as he liked this one and I’m fond of its slickness as well. I was really surprised that Hydra is as silky as it is, just your run-of-the-mill lube; it may be the inclusion of aloe that does it. I usually like my lube a little thicker (like ID Glide) but Hydra definitely feels great in the beginning and isn’t messy at the end. This has been my second positive experience with Intimate Organics products and, despite the fact that I don’t care a lot about organic products, the quality I’ve seen thus far really has me intrigued.