Lubricants – usually just called Lubes – are used primarily to make sex easier and more enjoyable.  Lubrication makes it possible for anal sex to take place without tender skin or rectal tissue getting torn, by reducing the friction that would otherwise result from anal penetration.  Less commonly, lube is also used for much the same purpose when masturbating.

There are numerous brands of lube, but the majority of them fall into the following categories:

Water-based Lubes
The most widely available and also the most popular kind of lubricant on the market, water-based lubes have many advantages, such as the fact that they do not react with the materials that most sex toys are made from.  They are also often cheaper than other kinds of lubricants, although this will vary according to the brand.

Disadvantages of the water-based lubricant include it being useless in water (such as hot tubs or swimming pools), since it dissolves into the water.  Lubes that are water-based also do not last as long as other lubes when in use, as they tend to evaporate, get absorbed by the skin, or both.  In addtion, some water-based lubes have chemicals that leave a residue (admittedly, one that is easily washed off) on the skin, while others simply do not smell good.

Silicone-based Lubes
Although far and way the most long-lasting of all lubricants (because it will not absorb into the skin), silicone-based lubes are potentially risky, unless you know the exact composition of both the lube and any sex toys you plan to use with it.  The chemical make up of silicone based lubes is such that they cannot be used with silicone based sex toys – the two different silicones will react, causing the toys to wear out faster.  This may also be a problem with condoms, especially those condoms which are self-lubricating – always check to make sure that your self-lubricating condom does not use a silicone-based lubricant.

Oil-based Lubes
Oil-based lubricants fall into a middle ground between water-based and silicone-based lubricants.  While they do not evaporate or absorb anywhere near as fast as water-based lubes, they do haave both these issues.  And while they are not as reactive with various plastics as silicone-based lubes, they can have their issues.  At the moment, there are few enough different kinds of oil-based lubes on the market that it is difficult to generalise about them – each is different.  If you plan to buy or use an oil-based lubricant, it's a good idea to do a little research on the lubes that available beforehand.

Organic Lubes
Even less common than oil-based lubes, and correspondingly even harder to generalise about, organic lubes are becoming more popular, as more and more people try to make their sex play green.  So far, regulatory agencies are being very cautious about okaying organic lubes for sale or use, and there aren't many options out there – but this is bound to change as time passes.
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