Throw on your bathing suits, folks, because we’re going down the slip-n-slide to find the best anal lube for you. Going into anal sex without a lubricant is like going through your day without coffee: painful and almost always unsuccessful. On a more serious note, “using lube for anal play is crucial,” Jenn Mason, founder and owner of WinkWink, a Washington-based, women-owned sex shop, tells SELF. We spoke with experts to understand what to look for when shopping for anal lubes and why it’s beneficial for anal sex.
Why should you use anal lube?
“Unlike vaginas, [which provide natural lubrication], anuses do not self-lubricate,” board-certified ob-gyn Jacques Moritz, MD, previously told SELF. Anal penetration without adequate lubrication can cause the tissue in your anus to tear, SELF previously reported, which is both painful and dangerous. These tears in the anus area can make you more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections (or STIs), like gonorrhea and HIV, according to Dr. Moritz.
What kinds of lube are safe for anal sex?
According to sex educators, there are three main types of lube: silicone-, water-, and oil-based. Each is safe for anal play. However, they all come with callouts to be aware of before you dive in. Silicone-based lubricants are often recommended for anal sex because they last the longest and have a thicker, cushiony consistency. “Silicone lubes never dry up and feel velvety on the skin, making them perfect for anal play,” says Mason. “Just remember not to use silicone lubes with silicone sex toys or it can ruin the material.” Water-based lubricants are the most common; they’re the ones you’d typically find at your local drugstore. They’re thin, slippery, and quite easy to wash off after sex, making them a solid, affordable option. Water-based lubes are also easier to clean up. But because of its texture, you might need to reapply during anal play. “Some people notice that thinner water-based lubes can basically get ‘squeegeed’ off the penis, fingers, or toys during anal, because the anus can be so tight,” Carol Queen, PhD, staff expert at Good Vibrations, tells SELF.
Oil-based lubricants are slippery and long-lasting, which is why sex experts like them. Coconut oil-based lubes especially have become popular in recent years. However, “oil-based lubes cannot be used with polyisoprene or latex condoms, as the lube can cause them to weaken and break,” says Mason. We do recommend using condoms for any kind of sex, so ensure that you find a compatible option (like lambskin, nitrile, or polyurethane condoms) should you opt for an oil-based lube.
What to look for when shopping for anal lube
Beyond the base of the lubricant, there are other things to keep in mind when looking for a go-to option. Mason recommends a high-viscosity, long-lasting lube for extra comfort. Jojoba oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, or sweet almond oil are also good ingredients to look for, per the Cleveland Clinic. A fragrance-free lube is ideal for everyone, but if you have sensitive skin or you’ve been sensitive to lube in the past, it’s even more important to find an option that’s hypoallergenic and made without fragrances. “Use a high-quality lube, be patient, and take the time to really enjoy yourself and set time aside to get fully aroused for sex,” Gigi Engle, ACS, a certified sex educator and host of Internet Sex Therapy, tells SELF. “The more lube the better. I always say you shouldn’t be thinking there can be “too much” lube. You should want to be on a water slide. It just makes everything better. This applies for all kinds of sex—but is especially important during anal—because the anal doesn’t self-lubricate like a vagina.”
What you should avoid in an anal lube
All of the experts we spoke to discouraged the use of flavored or scented personal lubricants for anal, vaginal, and oral sex. What’s more, avoid glycerin in your lubes, as it contains sugar, and that can alter vaginal pH, SELF previously reported. Water-based lube is also the best lube for sensitive skin. According to Engle and Dr. Queen, you should also avoid petroleum-based lubricants, and anything with parabens or preservatives. Oh, and please don’t put Vaseline down there. If you use a lube with numbing agents that gives you “tingly” or desensitizing sensations for vaginal sex, Dr. Queen says to skip it for anal play. “Anal sex can be painful when it’s not done right, but you want to listen to those messages and respond accordingly,” she says. “Slow down, add lube, take a break, ask your partner to be more gentle, etc. You don’t want to ignore your body’s signals. If you’re numb, you won’t receive those signals clearly, which can put you at risk.”
Most importantly, avoid any ingredients you’re sensitive to. While that might feel obvious, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by your choices and pick up the first lube you find, regardless of ingredients. “If you’ve used a lube for anal or vaginal play and experienced itching, redness, swelling, burning, or other discomforts—don’t use that lube again,” says Dr. Queen. “And take a minute to research what was in the lube that might have given you trouble so you can figure out what to avoid in the future.”
The best anal lubes
Now that you have the 411 on all things lube, let’s get down to business. Ahead, we’ve used the above criteria and asked our experts to share their top picks for the best anal lube for butt stuff—and everything else. You’ll find silicone-, water-, and oil-based lubes on this list, but just remember the guidelines above. Whether you’re a beginner getting ready for your first time, or you’ve dabbled in butt play for years, it’s never a bad idea to find new sexual health products that could take your next session up a notch.