When it comes to sex, most people would agree that wetter feels better, but sometimes you and your partner need a little slide in the right direction.
“A woman’s natural lubrication can come and go regardless of how turned on she is,” explains NYC-based sex coach Amy Levine. “Lube helps it feel more pleasurable as you slide in and out, and it keeps the wetness more consistent over time.”
But you may not be using it as often as you should: While nearly 70 percent of men and women have used the slick stuff during sex at some point, only a quarter have brought it into the bedroom in the last month, according to a recent study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Why should you slather more often? For starters, it almost always makes sex more comfortable, especially for women, Levine says.
And lube may actually up the pleasure of your sack session: Nearly 50 percent of men and women who have greased up say lube makes it easier to reach orgasm, according to a 2013 study from Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion.
The researchers found that guys who used a well-lubricated condom became just as aroused as men who got down with the holy grail of pleasure—no rubber at all.
And it’s not just for lovemaking: A little lube can help smooth out a solo session or add some glide to a bedroom toy.
But while lubricants make any sexual situation a little more fun, they aren’t one-size-oils-all. Here’s everything you need to know about how to pick the perfect lube.
Your drugstore shelves are stocked with three types of lube: water-, silicone-, and oil-based. Water-based is the most universally-friendly variety, but dries out the quickest—so don’t throw out the others just yet.
“Some women are more susceptible to infection with many of the brands on the market, particularly oil- and silicone-based,” Levine explains.
Plus, both men and women can react badly to certain chemicals, like glycerin and paraben, so opt for chemical-free or organic lubes to be safe. Levine’s go-to brands: Yes and Good Clean Love.
Pass on the sensation and flavored lubes, which can be a bit too surprising—verging on uncomfortable—for her. And while the two-in-one massage oil and lube varieties may seem like a great idea, these gels can make a mess, so skip them on a night to impress.
You may also think the more glide, the better, but be sure not to over-lube when you’re between the sheets.
You don’t want so much slip that the condom will slide off, Levine notes. A nickel-size squirt is plenty. Try this: Put the condom on and add a nickel-size squirt to your palm. Put your hand around your shaft and spread it all over your penis, Levine instructs.
You can also put some lube on your fingers and wipe it on the opening of the vagina, she adds. But which kind of lube to use? Check out these suggestions.
The best lube for: Condoms
No one wants to have sex with a dry condom—it just doesn’t feel good, Levine says. The majority of rubbers come lubricated, but the slick probably won’t last until the ninth inning.
“Never use oil-based lubricants with latex condoms,” Levine warns. The oil causes latex to deteriorate and can ultimately make the condom burst, she explains.
While you can use oil-based for non-latex condoms, keep it safe by sticking to water or silicone-based lubes, which are safe for all condom types. Try Good Clean Love’s Almost Naked Organic Personal Lubricant ($16, rodales.com).
The best lube for: No condom
If you’re skipping the protection—and you’re in a monogamous relationship and have confirmed you’re both STD-free—the lube world is your oyster.
Opt for something vagina-friendly and preferably organic, says Levine. Women can get infections easily from lubes with chemicals like glycerin. Try Yes Oil-Based Organic Lubricant, which Levine likes for being chemical-free. Plus, the oil base won’t dry out as fast as other varieties (from $7, yesyesyes.org).
The best lube for: Making babies
Countless studies have found that most lubes aren’t helpful if your swimmers are actually trying to, you know, swim.
However, researchers at the State University of New York Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse have come to the rescue of conceiving couples everywhere: They found that Pre-Seed was the only brand tested that didn’t impair sperms’ ability to move forward ($24, walgreens.com).
The best lube for: Toys
Smearing on the wrong stuff can shorten the life of your gadgets: Silicone-based lubes will cause silicone toys to break down and disintegrate, Levine says. Water-based is best for the rubber.
Plus, since it causes minimal irritation for her and can be used with condoms, a watery lube can allow for an easy transition between foreplay and sex. Try Yes Water-Based Organic Lubricant and Moisturizer (from $7, yesyesyes.org).
The best lube for: Masturbation
If it’s truly a solo session and you don’t have to worry about eroding condoms or chemical allergies, you can get adventurous: Levine recommends Boy Butter, which isn’t completely chemical-free but is made from coconut oil and an organic silicone.
Not only does it feel like you’re rubbing with, well, butter, but this lube will last for a long time and wash off skin and fabric easily with water (from $12, boybutterlubes.com).
Or get creative: Soap in the shower and good ol’ lotion can be just as helpful—and easier to get your hands on—as the store-bought stuff, Levine adds.