by Midori

Lube is your friend. Lube can make all sorts of sex and sensual play better. If you’re not using lube now, or if your current lube is just ho-hum, go out and try something new. It’s probably the cheapest and most sound investment you can make for your sex life.

Choosing lube, however, may not be the easiest thing. Most people just figure it out as they go but that’s not the smartest way. How to select the one that’s best for you is not something covered in K-12 sex ed, Consumer Reports or most personal care publications. So where do you go for solid information?

Perhaps you just stick to a brand that a lover turned you on to and you’re happy settling with that. If you’re blessed with friends with whom you can chat about the nitty-gritty of the bedroom, they may recommend their favorite brands.

But lube preference is so personal that one person’s miracle lotion may be another person’s irritant.

Your doctor’s suggestions? No. Sadly, most physicians and health practitioners, including gynecologists and urologists, are tragically under-informed and give poor lube advice, if any at all.

Online shopping yields pretty pictures of the bottles and labels, but no way to try the products, so that’s a crapshoot.

At some point, you’ll need to go hunting for lube at brick-&-mortar stores or their online outposts. Depending on where you shop, you may be faced with a paltry dust-covered selection shelved in some corner, or a looming wall of a thousand lubes with no information, or shelves full of potions, all promising ecstasy. If you’re lucky there might be a sales staff who actually gives a hoot, but that’s unlikely at grocery stores, pharmacies, and porn mega-shops. If at all possible, go to places where they have tester bottles available. If there are sex-positive boutiques in your area go there. Sex toy home party services (aka “fuckerware parties”) fill the gaps in places where there are no sex-positive shops. Be aware, however, that merchandise quality and level of staff knowledge varies wildly.

Now it’s time for the initial screening to find that lube that’s best suited for you. Here’s my seven-step process to do at the store to narrow down the choices and make the most intelligent selection.

Midori’s 7 Steps of Lube Selection:

What you’ll need: Go to the store’s lube tester section armed with moist towelettes or tissues.

*If there are no testers available at the store, ask them to make testers available. Smart stores interested in a profit will jump on this suggestion. Otherwise, see if they sell mini packs or trial sizes. Then buy a variety of lube in the smallest available size, take them home and follow the following seven steps. If the lube fails at any step with a

“no” vote from you or your lover, it’s out of the running immediately. Just move on to the next lube.

The Seven Steps are:

  1. Read the Label
  2. Initial Texture
  3. Slipperiness Endurance
  4. Bouquet
  5. Taste
  6. Allergy test:
  7. Shag Test

Step 1 — Read the Label:

Reading the label is your first important step in assessing the possible quality of the product.

Does it promise all sorts of sexual wonders like some latter-day snake oil? Toss it.

Does it show the manufacturer’s contact info and country of production? Both indicate some level of accountability.

The label should allow easy identification if it’s water-based, oil-based or silicone. Below is a chart which breaks down the features and benefits of each. While some people still go old-school and use oil products, its use is pretty limited to external touch, such as jacking or jilling off. I know some people who live on coconut oil for vaginal lube because it’s “natural” — If this works for you, great! However, if you go this route, pay attention to avoiding cross-contamination and rancidity as well as its tendency to break down latex.

Does it have an ingredients label? Don’t use a mystery potion manufactured by people who can’t even be bothered to list the contents of their product. Shady companies can pass off “love lotions” for “novelty use” without any accountability. Who knows what they put into the lube and under what conditions it was manufactured? If you’re concerned about what you put into your mouth and stomach, you should be equally concerned about what you put on or in your sexy bits.

The simpler and purer the ingredients list, the nicer it’s likely to be to your body. The more unnecessary junk that’s thrown in, the greater the possibility of your body having an adverse reaction. There’s a degree of variance, of course, depending on your desired activity, body parts involved, and individual sensitivity. Generally speaking, a wider range of products can be used for handjobs on the penis than in moist body cavities like the mouth, vulva, vagina, and anus. Every kind of goo — from hand lotion to soap, to cooking oil, to motor oil — has been used to wank the man meat. The vagina, on the other hand, has a delicate eco-system easily thrown out of balance, leading to yeast infection, urinary tract infection and other assorted minor to major medical issues.

If a vagina that’s especially prone to yeast infection is involved in the equation, avoid glycerin. Glycerin is essentially a form of sugar that can feed the yeast, leading to a big and unwelcome yeast party.

Water Based

  • Condom safe? Yes!
  • Vagina friendly? Yes
  • Hand jobs? Yes
  • Mouth friendly? Yes
  • Anal Play? Yes
  • Shortcomings: Can dry out quickly or be absorbed by the body. May need frequent reapplication. Some can be very tacky in texture.
  • Advantages: Body safe. Cheaper. Lots of texture and flavor variety
  • Ingredients Key Words: Water, Purified water, Deionized water.
  • Midori’s Verdict: Good Stuff!


  • Condom safe? Yes!
  • Vagina friendly? Yes
  • Hand jobs? Yes
  • Mouth friendly? Yes
  • Anal Play? Yes
  • Shortcomings: Don’t use with many of the lesser quality silicone toys as it can degrade and melt the surface of the toy. May stain some sheets. Really super hard to wash off hardwood and tile floors. If you use a lot and the condom doesn’t fit well, it has caused the condom to slip off mid-shag for a few of my friends.
  • Advantages: Stays slick for a long time. No flavor or scent.
  • Ingredients Key Words: Dimethicone, Dimethiconol, Cyclopentasiloxane.
  • Midori’s Verdict: Fantastic!


  • Condom safe? Are you using latex condoms? Then Not At All! No. Just no. Essentially melts the condom in tiny ways that make it useless.
  • Vagina friendly? Hmmm often not. Could lead to infections, itching, unhealthy vaginal odors and other discomforts for many vagina owners.
  • Hand jobs? Yes
  • Mouth friendly? Sometimes. Depends if you like the taste of that oil.
  • Anal Play? Not for safer anal sex if you are using latex condoms.
  • Shortcomings: Stains the sheets
  • Advantages: Evokes nostalgia of pre-HIV days. Emergency penis wank juice when there’s nothing else on hand.
  • Ingredients Key Words: Beeswax, Shea butter, oil, Cetearyl Olivate, coconut oil
  • Midori’s Verdict: Forget it.

Other ingredients to consider avoiding include:

· Paraben, a family of chemical preservatives commonly used in cosmetics, causes irritation and allergic reactions for many.

· Nonoxynol-9, which was used frequently in the long-ago past as a spermicide and microbicide, has been found to increase the likelihood of STI transmission because it often causes irritation of the skin and genital lesions. I think it’s better left in poison ivy ointment where it’s also commonly used.

Step 2 — Initial Texture:

If the lube in question passes Step 1, pour some of it on the palm of your hand. Rub your hand around. Do you like the initial feel of the fluid? Will you like the texture for the type of sex you’ve got on your mind? Some folks like thicker lube for their butt play but watery texture for masturbation, oral or vaginal sex. Others like a particular texture for toy fun than for non-toy playtime.

Pass or Fail? If pass, go to Step 3.

Step 3 — Slipperiness Endurance:

Keep rubbing your hands together with the lube that passed Step 2. Keep rubbing them for several minutes. Walk around the store gazing at the pretty vibrators to pass the time. Or, if you tend towards OCD or have a fetish for data collecting, use a timer and a spreadsheet.

How long does it stay slippery?

Does your skin suck it up like moisturizer, leaving nothing behind?

Does it get tacky and gluelike?

Does it get hotter?

After several minutes, would you like it for your intended sex play?

Pass or Fail? If pass, go to Step 4.

Step 4 — Bouquet:

Hold your palms up to your nose.

Do you like the smell? If you don’t like its fragrance, you’re never going to enjoy having your face in or near it. If you like your own or your lover’s skin and sex scent, go for unscented. If you’d like to embellish your or your lover’s fragrance, try a scented one. Keep in mind, however, that some people may have sensitivity to fragrance additives. For a sensitive pussy, perfumes, scents and non-essential ingredients should be avoided.

Pass or Fail? If pass, go to Step 5.

Step 5 — Taste:

I’m amazed as to how many people don’t bother to taste their lube when testing potential purchases. This isn’t hand lotion or cologne, folks — it’s likely to end up in your mouth one way or another.

Fearlessly lick your palm. Or if you prefer, lick your partner’s palm if they’ve been doing the rubbing and sniffing so far.

Do you like how it tastes? Do you like how it tastes with your skin or theirs? Like the fragrance, the decision for flavored or flavor free is up to you. If you want to taste sex and skin au naturale, make sure you find the totally flavorless one. Even if it’s labeled as “unscented” or “unflavored” you may still pick up a chemical taste displeasing to you.

If you want a tasty topping for your romp, make sure it agrees with everyone’s palette and body chemistry.

Since every manufacturer has a different formula for flavoring, don’t trust the label; one brand’s “raspberry” might not taste like another brand’s “raspberry.” I’ve tasted flavors that make cough syrup taste like ambrosia, as well as lubes that were so yummy I wanted to drink it up straight. I’ve had some passion fruit flavored lube is so good that it could be used as a base for a super fancy cocktail, not just for cock and tail!

Pass or Fail? If pass, go to Step 6.

Step 6 — Allergy test:

If you have sensitive skin or allergies to skin and cosmetic products, this is an important step. Pour another dollop of the lube in your palm. Using your finger, swab a generous amount on the inside of your lower lip. This is the substitute mucus membrane — because pulling down your pants in the store is just tacky. Rub some on the inside of your forearm as well.


Wait some more.

Do you feel any itchiness, bumps, irritation, swelling or any other telltale sign of allergic reactions?

Pass or Fail? If pass, go to Step 7.

Step 7 — Shag Test:

Now that you’ve narrowed down your selection to a few favorite lube candidates, it’s time to give it the classic bedroom (or wherever you prefer to have sex) test.

Buy the smallest size available in each of the winning lubes, take them home and go wild! If you prefer, role play sex researchers or doctor. Keep the victors and vote the losers off the bed.

New lubes are being introduced constantly and old ones often get a formula change without notice. Don’t just settle on a lube — be a gourmet sexualist and try new ones from time to time.

Some of my favorite lube sources… and their lube selection pages:

And there are more and more lovely responsible shops all over carrying great lube. Take a look at our Shopping Page for more stores I recommend. 


Original Article written in 2010 for Carnal Nation magazine, reposted on Midori’s Medium in 2017