In many ways, sex should be better than ever in your 40s. You’re finally at home in your own skin, feeling confident and more sure of what you want between the sheets. But there’s often just one little problem … something we like to call “the age of dryness.”
It boils down to the slow decline of estrogen production that happens as you age, which can sap moisture from your hair, face, nails and — you guessed it — from down there. A drop in estrogen can occur if you’ve recently given birth, are breastfeeding or are going through menopause. Certain medications, including birth control pills and antidepressants, can also have the same effect. The result? A dearth of vaginal lubrication that may make penetration uncomfortable or even incredibly painful, an encounter sometimes referred to as “sandpaper sex.”
Fortunately, there’s a game changer that can help and it’s one that’s easily accessible in the feminine-care aisle of your local drugstore — lubricant.
It’s true that depending on your mindset, lubricant might seem too icky, too racy, or too strange. “There’s a lot of controversy surrounding lube and women,” says Jenny Block, author of The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex. “[People think] it’s either for old ladies or bad girls.”
But a simple squeeze of lube can help make sex more fun by heightening pleasurable sensations, regardless of your age. Even if you don’t think you need it, you might find that you actually like it.
And yet not all lubes are created equal. Choosing the right one for you can be downright confusing. Here are a few things to consider.
Generally speaking, lubricants are either water-based, oil-based, or silicone-based. Many doctors — including Lauren Streicher, medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause in Chicago — discourage the use of oil-based lube because it can cause condoms to break, and may change your body’s pH level, leaving the door open to infections. “Vaseline petroleum products and oils (baby oil, coconut oil, olive oil) are not condom compatible,” she says.
Water-based lubes — which are typically easier to find at the store — are lighter, less irritating to sensitive skin and not hard to wash off, while silicone-based lubricant is thicker in consistency. But silicone-based lube does tend to last longer — meaning you don’t have to re-apply it as often — and is better if you’re having sex in water (say, in the shower).
Just like with any other product you apply to your skin, there may be a bit of trial and error involved. After all, the eye cream that you swear by might give your best friend a rash. If you haven’t found a lube that feels good, just keep browsing. Hit up your local sex store, see how different products feel between your fingers, and take home a few samples. (Several lube companies sell sample packs online — check Amazon.) And if you’re really not sure where to start, you may want to check out our list of body-friendly brands (below) that Streicher recommends. All of them have a low osmolality and are preservative-free.
“If you use a water-based lubricant, it is important to choose one with low osmolality,” says Streicher, who’s also author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health and Your Best Sex Ever. “Lubricants with high osmolality not only dry out tissue (the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish!) but [may] also increase the chance of irritation and infection.”
The bottom line: make sure that whatever lube you choose, it contains high-quality ingredients. With that in mind, here are a few other points to keep in mind.
Parabens: There’s some concern that these chemicals could act as endocrine-disruptors, interfering with hormone levels and potentially even raising your risk for breast cancer. Still, Streicher says there’s no real evidence they causes cancer. More problematic, she notes, is that parabens can be irritating to the vaginal tissue and may cause dehydration.
Petroleum-based chemicals: Sometimes found in “warming” lubricants, they can cause irritation or a burning sensation. Stretcher also notes that warming lubes may throw off the osmolality of the vagina (basically, the concentration of dissolved molecules in a fluid).
Microbicides or antibacterials: Sometimes spermicides can contain chemicals that also kill bacteria in the vagina — the bad kind and the good kind. If that happens, it could set you up for infections like bacterial vaginosis.
If you’re in a pinch. Streicher says it’s probably okay to turn to whatever you have on hand. “It’s better than the alternative, which could be painful sex,” she says. As always, discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor before trying something new.
Good Clean Love
Replens Silky Smooth
JO Premium Personal Lubricant
PINK Silicone Lubricant
SLIQUID Organics silk
PJUR Eros Woman Bodyglide
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
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