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By Susan Brickell

Many women have the mistaken idea that personal lubricant is for post-menopausal women who no longer produce their own natural lube due to low hormone levels. Or it’s for people who indulge in the kind of action that makes artificial motion lotion a necessity to prevent tearing, like anal sex.

If you think this way, then you’re doing your sex life a huge disservice. Lube is one of the best bedroom enhancers around, making sex wetter, slicker, more enjoyable, and longer-lasting. Not only will it help you feel more comfortable and flexible, but lube comes in lots of flavors, sensations, and textures to make the action feel fun and experimental. Even if you don’t usually have issues getting wet on your own, it’s smart to keep lube on hand in case you go through a bout of dryness due to hormone changes related to pregnancy, breastfeeding, or stress.

Here are five crucial things you need to know about lube, what it can do for your sex life, and how to select the right one for your bedroom activities.

You can’t use too much lube

Good thing most lubes aren’t that expensive, because less is more is not the rule of thumb here. While you might be worried about using too much lube and turning your sheets into a sticky mess, experts encourage people to use lube liberally. “While too much friction causes burns and tears, friction is what stimulates nerves and allows us to feel pleasure,” Jill McDevitt, PhD, resident sexologist for sex toy emorium CalExotics, tells Health. “If there’s no friction, that’s going to not be too fun.”

Unless it is a type of lube known as a “warming lubricant,” lube does not create heat, but actually the opposite. “One of the main appeals of reducing the friction between two surfaces is reducing the heat that friction produces, which in the case of human skin is unpleasant,” says McDevitt. Think of it as being similar to, well, a rug burn on your vagina, which lots of lube helps you to avoid. Ouch!

Lube helps you have safer sex 

Not only does a personal lubricant intensify sensations, it can protect you from an infection and even an unplanned pregnancy. “Lube reduces the friction of condoms, making them less likely to break, and it reduces microscopic tears through which STI pathogens could enter the body,” says McDevitt. Oh, and something else to note: There is no naturally produced lube in your butt, so lube makes anal play possible and more enjoyable (instead of dry and painful).

It makes masturbation feel even more amazing

Whether your partner is away yet you need some sexual relief or you’re single and self-love is your preferred form of self-care, remember to bring lube to your masturbation party. It reduces the drag of your hand or sex toy against the sensitive skin of your vulva, clitoris, and vagina, so you can glide your fingers across these nerve-rich areas smoothly, says McDevitt. Translation: You experience deeper pleasure and more mindblowing orgasms.

Put lube on your body—and your partner’s

Fumbling around in the heat of the moment to squirt out some lube can be a buzzkill, especially if you’re not sure where to squirt it, exactly. “As a rule, put one dollop on surface A (penis, fingers, dildo, etc) and one dollop on surface B (anus, vagina, etc),” suggests McDevitt. Also helpful? She recommends spreading a little over your labia—because if your vaginal opening is lubed up but your outer labia are dry, they can act as a kind of cockblock, keeping you from getting things going and making the beginning of sex pretty uncomfortable.

As for when to use it, start with foreplay. Have your partner coat his or her fingers in a warming lube and rub them over your nipples, then down to your belly and to your vulva. If you want to make things for your partner feel extra amazing, you can even smooth lube on his penis before putting the condom in place. “There is a small increase in the chance of condom slippage, but it’s still something I recommend because it does feel a lot better,” says McDevitt. Plus, when it feels good, you’re more likely to use the condom in the first place, she adds.

Some types of lube are better than others

In a recent CalExotics survey, 64% of respondents said that they use personal lubricant that’s meant for sex, while 19% rely on household products like coconut oil, and 17% use spit. Saliva isn’t a great substitute because it can only take you so far before drying out. Coconut oil has earned a rep as a super slick natural lube, and some ob-gyns endorse it. But it should never be used with condoms, since the oil might break down latex and put you at risk for an STI or unplanned prengnacy.

As for personal lubricants you can buy in a store or online, water-based lubes are very sex-positive, but they tend to get absorbed by the body faster. On the other hand, silicone-based lubes are not absorbed as quickly, and therefore they help make sex last longer. So if you’re planning a marathon sex session, consider going with a silicone variety, advises McDevitt. Silicone lubes are also waterproof, making them the magical element for successful shower sex or vacation hot tub sex.