How To Use Lube: Solo Or With A Partner During Sex

It doesn’t take long to get the hang of how to apply lube during sex – even if you’re a complete beginner – regardless of which type you’re using.
Aerial Photograph Of Personal Lubricant On Fingertip With Boxes And Bottles Of Lube In Background
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The great thing about learning how to use personal lubricant is that it doesn’t involve many steps beyond opening the bottle and applying the product where you need it.

Most of the time, it really is that simple.

If you’ve never used personal lubricants before you wouldn’t be the first.

But because it’s easy to do – once you try it – you’ll likely never want to have sex without lube.

Lube can be used for:

  • Vaginal sex to make it safer and more pleasurable
  • Anal sex because the anus does NOT produce its own lubrication
  • Oral sex to add flavor and variety
  • External masturbation to reduce friction, increase pleasure, and in many cases, enhance the performance of sex toys
  • Sex toys, provided their materials are compatible with your lube of choice
  • Condoms, applied to reduce friction and lower the risk of condom breakage during sexual activity – just make sure your lube choice is compatible
  • Balancing vaginal pH if a lubricant is water-based and pH-balanced
  • Supporting sperm motility if you’re trying to conceive (lubes with hydroxyethylcellulose only)


Consider this a crash course in how to use lube in any situation, the benefits it offers, and which types of lubricants are best for a variety of sexual activities.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about using a personal lubricant, including:

How To Apply Lube

Photograph Of Hand Applying Aloe Cadabra To Fingertip, Demonstrating Its Safety For Sensitive Skin

While the instructions for how to apply lube aren’t exactly the same for all products, the major steps involved tend to be very common and straightforward regardless of gender:

Simply apply the desired amount onto the intended area or item.

Nearly all personal lubricants have easy-to-follow instructions printed right on the product label so you’ll be able to lube up like a pro in no time — even if you’ve never done it before.

There’s no shame in using lube, either.

About 49.9 million Americans use personal lubricants of all types to reduce friction, minimize discomfort, and enhance pleasure.

Think of it this way: Vehicles use oils for proper lubrication; when everything’s all lubed up, they’re good to go and things run smoothly.

The same can also be said for using personal lube during sexual activity — whether solo or with a partner.

It simply makes things better — even if your body produces “enough” of its own lubrication.

Here’s what you need to know about using lube:

  • Depending on the type of personal lube you’re using and its formula, you might only need a few drops — while others may call for a generous amount
  • If what you’ve applied doesn’t feel like enough, add a little bit more
  • Reapplication is common, especially with water-based lubes — so don’t be surprised if you need to be generous in your usage
  • When using an anal lube, you should apply more than you think you need to reduce discomfort and friction for a more comfortable experience
  • If you’re playing with a clitoral vibrator, however, you might only need a drop or two on your vulva or the toy itself

The best rule of thumb to follow is: Go with the amount that feels good.

How Should Women Apply Lube?

Lubricants designed for women can be applied directly to the vulva or vagina using your fingers, which will warm the lube to a more comfortable temperature before application.

Some specialized lubricants, particularly those that function as vaginal moisturizers for daily use, may include plastic applicators that are meant to be filled with the product and inserted vaginally to apply.

Most lubricants do not need applicators, however, it’s worth noting that some include them.

  • What Does Lube Do For A Woman?

Women equally benefit from lubricant because it can make penetration much more comfortable while increasing the sensations they feel during vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and even masturbation too.

The best lubricants for women are those made from safe, non-irritating ingredients using formulas that maintain vaginal pH balance.

How Should Men Apply Lube?

Personal lubricants for men can be applied directly to the penis straight from the bottle or by hand.

You may find that pouring a few drops of lubricant onto your fingers and letting it warm to your body temperature before applying it to your penis is preferable unless you’re not bothered by the sudden cold sensation.

  • What Does Lube Do For A Man?

For men, a personal lubricant can enhance the sensations they experience during penetration, manual masturbation, and even oral sex.

How Do You Use Anal Lube?

Anal lubricants are specialty products that tend to have a long-lasting, thicker consistency that reduces friction — lowering the risk of anal injury while increasing comfort and pleasure.

Like all other lubricants, anal lubes are easy to apply:

  • Take note of your lube’s formulation and make sure it is compatible with any condoms or sex toys that will be used (oil-based lubes are not compatible with latex condoms for example)
  • Apply a generous amount directly to the anus and also to the penis (over the condom if one is being worn), fingers, or sex toy that will be penetrating it
  • Go slowly and stop if you feel any pain
  • Reapply as necessary

As we mentioned earlier, it’s best to use more anal lube than you think you’ll need to ensure adequate lubrication and optimal comfort for all involved.

  • What Does Anal Lube Do?

The anus doesn’t self-lubricate and as such, anal lube reduces friction to lower the risk of irritation or injury to the anus while making penetration easier and much more comfortable.

It is entirely unsafe to have anal sex without lubricant.

If you intend to have anal sex, always do so with a proper anal lubricant or body-safe anal lube alternative.

What Are The Different Types Of Lube And How Do You Use Them?

All three lubricant types — water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based — are effective, however, each provides specific benefits based on the type of sex you intend to have and the way you plan to use them.

Check out this quick breakdown to see which lube could be the right one for you:

Lube Type:
Oral Sex Yes Yes Not usually
Vaginal Sex ONLY if pH/Osmolality suitable Yes Yes
Anal Sex ONLY if pH/Osmolality suitable Yes Yes
Condom Types All All Polyurethane, nitrile and lambskin only
Sex Toy Types All All but silicone All but latex
Bath/Shower Use No Yes Yes
Does It Stain? No Yes Yes
Lube Type:
Oral Sex
Vaginal Sex
Anal Sex
Condom Types
Sex Toy Types
Bath/Shower Use
Does It Stain?

How To Use Water-Based Lube

Water-based lubricants are best suited for oral and vaginal sex.

They can be used for anal sex but a generous amount will likely be required, as they tend to be lightweight with a thinner texture.

One important thing to note is that most water-based lubricants have a pH that is balanced for vaginal use (3.8 – 4.5 to match normal vaginal pH) — not anal use.

The pH of the anus is much higher than the vagina — between 7 and 8.

Lubricants with a pH that is too low (balanced for vaginal use) can lead to irritation or infection when used as anal lube.

Additionally, any water-based lubricant’s osmolality should be below 1200 mOsm/kg (and ideally below 380) to lower the risk of irritation or subsequent infection.

Compatible for use with all STI and pregnancy barriers (condoms, diaphragms, and dental dams) and all sex toy materials, this type of lube is not very effective in the shower, tub, or pool, as it will rinse away easily.

How To Use Water-Based Lubricants

  • Apply a small amount directly to the desired area (vagina, penis, anus) or the condom once it’s on
  • Apply a small amount to your fingertips and rub the lubricant onto the desired area
  • Apply a small amount to your sex toy of choice before use
  • If you’re using a flavored edible formula, follow any of the instructions above and add some tongue play

How To Use Silicone-Based Lube

Silicone-based personal lubricant is best suited for vaginal and anal sex.

It is safe to swallow during oral sex but the oily texture may not be enjoyable.

Compatible with all condoms and silicone-free diaphragms, silicone lubricants should not be used with silicone sex toys, as they will degrade their materials.

Silicone lubes are waterproof for play in the shower, tub, or pool since they are not water soluble and won’t easily rinse away, but they are likely to stain fabrics.

How To Use Silicone-Based Lubricants

  • Apply a small amount directly to the desired area (vagina, penis, anus) or the condom once it’s on
  • Apply a small amount to your fingertips and rub the lubricant onto the desired area
  • Apply a small amount to your sex toy of choice before use — just make sure not to use silicone lubricants with sex toys made from silicone, as the lube will degrade the material
  • Many silicone-based lubes do double duty as massage oil so you can also apply a generous amount onto your palms to give your partner a sensual rub down

How To Use Oil-Based Lube

Note: If you have nut or plant-based allergies, always read the label thoroughly to ensure your lubricant doesn’t contain ingredients you are allergic to or sensitive to.

Oil-based lubricants are best suited for vaginal and anal sex.

Most oil-based lubes should not be used during oral sex because they are thick and can pose a choking hazard.

Lubricants made using oils are NOT compatible with latex or polyisoprene STI or pregnancy barriers and will degrade sex toys made from latex, rubber, or jelly rubber.

Barring those considerations, oil-based lubricant is effective in the shower, tub, or pool and is an ideal choice for sensual massage, although it’s important to note that most will stain fabrics, such as clothing or bedding.

How To Use Oil-Based Lubricants

  • Apply a small amount directly to the desired area (vagina, penis, anus) or the condom once it’s on
  • Apply a small amount to your fingertips and rub the lubricant onto the desired area
  • Apply a small amount to your sex toy of choice before use — just make sure not to use oil-based lubricants with sex toys made from latex, rubber, or jelly rubber, as the lube will degrade the material
  • Most oil-based lubricants can double as massage oils; if using one in this way, apply a generous amount onto your palms, rubbing them together to warm the oil before applying it to the skin

Creative Ways To Use Lube And Tips For Applying It

Aerial Photograph Of Personal Lubricant Being Poured Onto Finger

Practice makes perfect and even if you’re new to the idea of how to use sex lubes, the following tips will make everything feel like second nature in no time:

  • Keep your lube handy — even before sex begins — so it’s within reach the moment you need it.
  • One of the fastest ways to enjoy using lube is to pour it onto your fingertips or the palm of your hand to warm it up for a few seconds before applying it to the desired area — this keeps the chill away when things start getting hot!
  • Try applying lube to “unexpected” areas including the nipples, perineum, and anywhere a little extra slippage might feel nice.
  • If you’re using sex toys, the more lube the better. This may not always be true of clit sucking vibrators, however. Although lubricant will help them to “latch” more easily, too much lube may actually make it more difficult for them to perform well. With clit suckers, it’s best to start with a drop or two and add more only as necessary.
  • Try experimenting with flavored edible lubes during oral sex to add a new dimension of fun to the experience.
  • Explore sex in the water — such as in the bath or shower — using a waterproof silicone or oil-based lubricant. You might not think you need lube during water play, but wetter can be better — you’ll see.
  • Silicone and oil-based lubricants are great for full-body massage — even if sex isn’t on the menu.
  • Keep hand towels within easy reach when using lubes that can stain — like silicone and oil-based formulas — or when you’ve applied a little too much lube and need to remove some of it quickly.
  • Always read the label before use. This decreases any unpleasant surprises like incompatibility with condoms or sex toys, or ingredients you may be allergic to or sensitive to. When in doubt, do a skin patch test ahead of time to prevent the possibility of an allergic reaction.
  • Don’t be tempted to add lube to the inside of a condom. It might increase sensations for the person wearing it, but it can also make it much easier for the condom to slip off, putting you and your partner at risk for STI transmission or unintended pregnancy.

Is Personal Lubricant Safe?

Yes, in the absence of allergies or sensitivities and provided your personal lubricant is compatible with any STI or pregnancy barriers and sex toys you intend to use, lube is safe when made from the right ingredients and used as directed, even during pregnancy.

Many personal lubricants include ingredients that can cause irritation or infection (such as glycerin) or possible endocrine disruption (like parabens), which is why it is important to read a product’s label before purchasing.

The best personal lubricants are those formulated with safe, quality ingredients you can trust.

Click here to learn more about safe (and unsafe) lube ingredients.

Lube Alternatives To Consider

If you’re unable to get your hands on a formulated lubricant or you’d rather use something that’s within reach right now, there are a few safe lube alternatives to choose from, including:

These lube alternatives are considered safe but they are not equally compatible with all people or sexual situations.

Oil-based lube alternatives cannot be used with latex or polyisoprene condoms, diaphragms, or dental dams, because the oil will degrade their material, putting you and your partners at risk for STI transmission or unintended pregnancy.

Additionally, many oils are derived from sources including nuts, seeds, or flowering plants that are potential allergens for some.

If you’re at all unsure, patch test your lube alternative on an area of non-genital skin (such as your inner elbow) to watch for signs of a reaction before using it as a personal lubricant.

In Conclusion

It doesn’t take long to get the hang of using lube during sex — even if you’re a complete beginner.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and try all three lube types (water, silicone, and oil) to see which ones really work well for you and your partners — you might just be pleasantly surprised.

While the wide product selection can be daunting at first, it’s actually the perfect way to experiment and have fun at the same time.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Everything Lube hub, an in-depth and evolving resource that comprehensively explores all aspects of personal lubricants from the different types and how to use them, to ingredients and safety — created to help you achieve the sexual pleasure you deserve.

All Things Lube