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What are some common factors that trigger vaginal dryness in women?
Biologically speaking, the vagina is coated with a thin wall that contains secretory cells that release a natural lubricant. The lubricant has many functions. First, it provides an alkaline environment for sperm to pass through the female reproductive tract. It also reduces friction during sexual intercourse and keeps pathogens away.
As a woman ages, the wall becomes progressively thinner. This causes it to lose secretory cells, and hence moisture. There are several reasons why this happens. One of the most important factors is hormonal changes. As one ages, levels of estrogen begin to decrease. A drop in estrogen makes the lining of the vaginal wall dry up and become pale.
Lowered estrogen levels are also accompanied by the decline of menstruation and entry into perimenopause. Hence, vaginal dryness is commonly experienced during the perimenopausal and menopausal stages of a woman’s life. Apart from menopause, women in the postpartum period also experience vaginal dryness because of changes in estrogen and progesterone from baseline.
Other factors that can trigger hormonal change, and ultimately vaginal dryness include certain medications like contraceptive pills or antidepressants, treatments like chemotherapy for cancer management, or hysterectomy involving the removal of the womb.
You may also experience dryness if you use scented soaps or douches while cleaning the vulvovaginal region, are not aroused by sex, and/or have an underlying condition like diabetes.
Fortunately, many vaginal lubricants and moisturizers can be used to tackle the issue of vaginal dryness.
This is because lubricants are formulated with a unique blend of ingredients that offer soothing, calming relief from any irritation or discomfort. As one example, Glow’s Intimate Hydrator contains collagen, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and aloe vera that support the body’s natural lubrication process, promote the development of healthy tissue and alleviate burning/itching sensations associated with vaginal dryness.
What's the difference between vaginal lubricants and moisturizers?
Although both vaginal lubricants and moisturizers have topical application on the vagina, they have very different purposes. The primary purpose of a lubricant is to reduce friction during sexual activity. Hence, lubricants help reduce pain and/or discomfort during sex. They can also be used to increase arousal levels.
On the other hand, a vaginal moisturizer is not so relevant to sex. It can be applied anytime and is primarily used for vaginal dryness. It also helps the vagina remain moist all day long. On the other hand, lubricants are short-lasting. They are applied to moisten your vagina short-term for sexual activity or self-pleasure.
How do I choose the right lubricant?
There are three main types of lubricants available in the market. These include water-based, oil-based, and silicone-based lubricants. Let us understand each of these lubricant types and the one that works best for you :
- Water-based lubricants: These are the safest choice to start with. They are extremely versatile as they can be used for all types of sexual acts: penetrative sex, masturbation, and self-pleasure using sex toys. They also work particularly well for women with sensitive skin or vaginal rashes. Apart from versatility, they also do not stain sheets or clothes very heavily and can be easily removed. At the same time, they have a few limitations. They do not work very well during shower sex as they can be washed off readily. Finally, they also occasionally get sticky and require frequent re-application. Hence, if you plan to engage in shower and/or marathon sex, water-based lubricants may not be a practical choice.
- Silicone-based lubricants: These types of lubricants are slippery and long-lasting which makes them a good choice for prolonged sex. They can also be used while masturbating or having sex in the shower as they do not get washed off very easily. However, at the same time, you need to be cautious when using such lubes around water. According to Dr Alyssa Dweck, MD , the slippery nature of silicone-based lubricants makes them dangerous to use around water. They are also excellent for vaginal health. This is because, unlike water-based lubricants, silicone-based lubricants do not contain preservatives. According to Gunvor Ekman Ordeberg, MD, PhD, preservatives in lubricants can interfere with the activity of good bacteria in the vagina. Silicone-based lubricants are also pH neutral and hence do not affect the natural pH of the vagina. Furthermore, they also do not evaporate or dry out easily and are free of additives like glycerin or glycerol that can otherwise trigger undesirable bacterial infections. However, they have their fair set of limitations. It is more difficult to wash off these lubricants – you need to apply soap and water to clean up afterward. They also cannot be used with silicone-based sex toys as they can break down rubber over time. Hence, if you are concerned about your sheets and/or are a frequent user of silicone-based toys, these lubricants may not be an ideal choice.
- Oil-based lubricants: As the name suggests, the core ingredient of oil-based lubricants is oil. They provide a slippery feel, and hence, are extremely useful in penetrative sex (reduce friction). Overall, these lubricants are a good choice when it comes to masturbation, penetrative unprotected sex, and shower play. They are also used in genital massages and boost the release of natural lubrication from the vagina. However, similar to other lubricant types, oil-based lubricants also have limitations. As one example, they cannot be used with latex condoms. This is because the oil can dissolve the latex, making such condoms more likely to break. Similarly, latex-based sex toys are also not safe to use with these lubricants. Finally, they are also not easy to remove from bed sheets and clothes. If you plan to use latex-based condoms or sex toys, you should steer away from oil-based lubricants.
As can be seen, there is a widespread collection of lubricants you can choose from. The type of lubricant you choose depends on your personal goals and preferences. If you’re looking to enhance pleasure, try incorporating Glow’s Intimate Hydrator to your daily routine and experience a real boost in libido.
Are there specific ingredients to avoid in lubricants?
No matter which lubricant you choose, you should always steer clear of certain ingredients. Some lubricant ingredients to avoid include:
- Glycerin: Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a natural sugar alcohol that is clear, odorless, and usually viscous. It is commonly found in water-based lubricants, especially those that claim to be warm or flavored. Although found in many lubricants, some studies suggest that it can irritate or damage cells in the vagina and rectum. Additionally, glycerin has been linked to bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. Hence, you should always look for glycerin-free lubricants.
- Parabens and Preservatives: The purpose of preservatives is to prevent or delay decay in foods and products. Parabens are an example of a man-made preservative commonly used in food, drinks, medications, and cosmetics. Although they are in widespread use, they can interfere with hormone signaling, and fertility, and even trigger birth complications. They can also result in irritating rashes or dermatitis in women with sensitive skin.
- Synthetic fragrances: Although synthetic fragrances are added to make sex more enjoyable and pleasurable, they are not good for vaginal health. This is because they are mostly made from synthetic chemicals, including alcohol and allergens, that can trigger vaginal irritation and dryness. Frequent use of scented lubricants is associated with urinary tract infections, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and other inflammatory reactions. If you want to create an aromatic environment while masturbating or having sex with your partner, you should opt for lubricants that contain coconut oil or extracts like rose water or Damascena. These natural lubricants are more hypoallergenic and provide natural ways to avoid dryness.
- Spermicides: Some lubricants contain spermicides. Spermicides are chemicals that prevent unwanted pregnancy by either killing sperm or blocking their transport to the egg for fertilization. Although they offer contraceptive protection, spermicidal lubricants should not be used too frequently. This is because they contain nonoxynol-9 that can destroy good bacteria in the vagina. By clearing the vaginal environment of these bacteria, spermicides can make it easier for harmful bacteria or other pathogenic agents to come in, increasing your risk for bacterial vaginosis and sexually transmitted diseases.
Which lubricant types are safe for use with condoms and sex toys?
As previously discussed, not every lubricant works well with condoms and sex toys. When it comes to sex toys, water-based lubricants are your best bet. This is because they can be used with virtually any sex toy. Silicone-based lubricants can also be used with toys, but the options are more limited. With silicone-based lubricants, you can use hard-material plastic, ceramic, wood, and glass toys. However, you want to avoid toys made of the same material – silicone, as the lubricant can solidify on these toys and destroy them. Finally, oil-based lubricants should not be used at all with sex toys. This is because they can coat your toys and be difficult to wash off. When you try to wash them, you may use heavy detergents or soaps that can potentially come in contact with your vagina and kill good bacteria. Concerning condoms, you can use water-based or silicone-based lubricants. However, you should avoid oil-based lubricants, especially when working with latex condoms as oils can damage the latex and cause the condom to break.
What is a fertility-friendly lubricant, and why is it important?
When you are trying to conceive, you have to engage in sex more often. By making it a routine practice, it can become less spontaneous and bring down the usual mood. With less sexual arousal, you are likely to experience vaginal dryness. Additionally, you may also be taking fertility medications that add to this dryness.
To avoid dryness, lubricants, hence, become a particularly attractive choice for women trying to conceive. However, many lubricants contain spermicides and other additives that are not very sperm friendly. They function as a double-edged sword – making routine sex more pleasurable, but also jeopardizing your chances for a successful conception.
This is where fertility-friendly lubricants come into the picture. These are a niche of lubricants that contain ingredients that are “fertility-safe” or “sperm-safe.” In other words, they contain ingredients that provide a protective environment for sperm to travel through the female reproductive tract and fertilize the egg. They are typically pH neutral to avoid interfering with the pH of the vagina and semen. Finally, they also contain low levels of bacterial toxins that can otherwise destroy sperm or egg function.
Are there lubricants suitable for sensitive skin?
The skin in your vagina and vulva is extremely sensitive. While lubricants are supposed to add moisture and avoid dryness, using the wrong lubricant can trigger irritation and soreness. Hence, if you have sensitive skin, you should be mindful of your lubricant choice. Water-based lubricants are the most compatible of all three types for sensitive skin. This is because their primary ingredient is water which is much less likely to cause irritation or allergic reactions. In fact, Glow’s Intimate Hydrator is uniquely designed to mimic natural vaginal fluids – it is hormone and fragrance free, Ob-GYN recommended, and non-sticky leaving one feeling comfortable and satisfied.
While water-based lubricants are an attractive choice, you can also experiment with other types by performing a patch test. In simple terms, a patch test involves applying a small amount of the selected lubricant on an inconspicuous area of skin and waiting a few hours to see for any redness, itching, or other forms of irritation. You can try out the lubricant on the inside of your wrist or elbow, for example, and inspect your skin a few hours down the line. If you do not experience irritation, you can then try it in your vaginal area.
In conclusion, there is a wide sea of lubricants available for women in the market. Unlike moisturizers that can be applied anytime, lubricants are used just before sexual activity to make the experience less rigid and more pleasurable. There are three main types of lubricants – water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the best vaginal lubricant requires consideration of these factors as well as your personal preferences. Regardless of the lubricant type chosen, it is important to steer clear from those containing glycerin, parabens, and spermicides as they can compromise your vaginal health. Finally, for couples trying to conceive, lubricants that are ‘fertility friendly’ are a safe choice. This is because they are carefully curated to avoid damaging sperm so that they can reach the egg safely for fertilization.
Hormone University was created as an educational platform with the mission to improve hormone health through accessible knowledge and to advocate for social impact in our communities.
You’re not alone.
80% of the adult female population has experienced hormonal imbalance at one point in their life that affected not only their physical health but also their mental health. Coping with pain, infertility, anxiety, depression, body image issues, and, on top of this, judgment is the heavy load most of these women have to bear each day and an important problem we need to tackle as a society.