Water-based Vs. Silicone Lube

Water-Based Vs. Silicone Lube

Sarah Riccio

Lube is the special ingredient that makes our most intimate moments feel (and sometimes taste!) even better. But which type of lube should you choose? How does silicone-based lube compare to water-based? And what about hybrid lube, which is a mix of both? 

Read on! This article answers all of your lube-related questions, including which type of lubricant is safest, which is most affordable, and which is right for you. 

What Is Water-Based Lube?

Water-based lube is formulated with water as the main ingredient. It's also water soluble, meaning it dissolves in water. This lubricant is typically lighter in density, easy to clean up (it doesn't stain sheets!), and often more affordable than other types of lube.

To make it feel smoother and more slippery, water-based lube may include additional ingredients like seaweed extract, aloe, and cellulose. 

Why choose water-based lube over other types? To help you decide, let's take a look at some of the primary pros of water-based lubricants. 

Should I Use Water-Based Lube? 

Water-based lubes have several advantages that make them the most popular type of lube on the market. Some key benefits include: 

Safety. Water-based lubes can typically be used with any kind of barrier method or sex toy material without damaging it. You can slather water-based lube on everything from a latex condom to a silicone vibrator to a stainless steel butt plug and not worry about harming the material. 

Variety. Water-based lubes come in a wide range of options, including warming lubes, lubes made specifically for anal sex, and lubes that help balance your pH levels. Water-based lubes even come in seasonal flavors like salted caramel and green apple!  

Sensitivity. Water-based formulas are typically gentle on the skin and less disruptive to vaginal pH than other lubes, making them a great choice if you're extra sensitive.

But remember, any lube has the potential to cause irritation! To be on the safe side, check the full list of ingredients regardless of the lube you choose, and do a small skin test before getting down to business. 

Clean-up. Of all the types of lubricants, water-based formulas are the least likely to stain sheets or clothing. Silicone-based lubes can leave dark stains that are resistant to scrubbing, while droplets of water-based lubes rinse right out. 

Feel. Many water-based lubes have a consistency similar to natural lubrication, and can be indistinguishable from the real thing during play. Some water-based lubes are formulated for a gel-like texture, which can offer more of a cushiony glide but still have that nice, natural slip.   

Price. Water-based lubes can be particularly budget-friendly. But you may need to reapply them more often, which could make them just as expensive as other lubes in the long run.  

Water-Based Lube Cons

Water-based lubes are popular, versatile, and safe for use with all sex toys. So, what's not to love about them?

They may dry faster. Water-based lubricants tend to dry out quicker than other types of lube. This means you may have to reapply them more frequently, and might run out faster. If you're gearing up for an all-nighter that includes water-based lube, keep plenty on hand.

They can feel sticky. Although water-based lubes tend to feel the most realistic, some may feel sticky as they become drier. This can make water-based lubes a better choice for shorter play sessions.

They may include extra ingredients. Some water-based lubricants include ingredients to help them stay slippery and last longer. Be sure to check the list of ingredients before committing to a water-based option. If you have sensitive skin, check out hypoallergenic blends, and be wary of potential irritants like glycerin, glycols, and fragrances. 

Now that we've taken a closer look at water-based lube, let's talk about silicone-based formulas! 

What Is Silicone-Based Lube?

Silicone is a synthetic polymer made from silicon from quartz, oxygen, and other elements like hydrogen and carbon. Silicone-based lubes are known for being ultra slippery, long lasting, and perfect for all night play sessions.

If you’re looking for lube that will last as long as you need it to, silicone lube could be the right fit for you. Unlike water-based formulas, silicone lubes don’t evaporate or get absorbed by the body, giving them extra staying power.

Silicone-based lubes can also be preferable for people with sensitive skin, as they typically include fewer preservatives and potentially irritating extracts. 

Should I Use Silicone-Based Lube?

Silicone lube is a staple in bedside drawers the world over. Here are a few of the reasons why:

Long-lasting. Silicone lasts a long time. Why? It doesn't dry out like water-based lubes can and stays on the surface of the skin. If you're looking for a lube that rarely needs reapplication, silicone-based lubricants are a great way to go. 

Simple formula. Silicone-based formulas tend to contain fewer ingredients. If you're looking for a simple lube without fillers, fragrances, or extras, take a look at silicone-based options. 

Silky texture. Silicone lubes are known for having a smooth, extra-slick texture that works perfectly for all types of play. That silky texture lasts all night long and never gets sticky. 

Anal play. When it comes to butt stuff, the right lube is especially important. The anus doesn’t lubricate naturally, which means you'll need a cushiony, long-lasting lube for the job (cue the silicone lubricant!).

For more, check out How To Prepare For Anal Sex.  

Shower play. Silicone-based lubes don't wash away easily like water-based lubes do. If you want to enjoy some solo shower play or partnered bath-time fun, silicone lube is a must have.  

Silicone Lube Cons

Now that we've talked about the good stuff, let's explore some potential drawbacks of silicone-based lubes.

They're synthetic. While silicone lubes do tend to have simpler formulas, they're still synthetic. If you're looking for all-natural or organic lube formulas, try a water-based or oil-based lube.

They're harder to clean up. We love that silicone lubes are long-lasting, but on the other side of that coin is tougher clean-up! Unlike with water-based lubes, you really need to scrub your sex toys to fully remove every last drop of silicone lube.

When using silicone lube, remember that it can stain sheets, clothes, fabric headboards, and towels. Stain remover and oxygen bleach can help (but not always). 

They can damage silicone toys. Silicone lubes are almost never safe for silicone sex toys. Silicone molecules can penetrate silicone material and cause damage or peeling of the toy's surface. Some hybrid lubes that combine silicone with water-based formulas can be safe (we'll get into that next), but for the most part, keep your silicone toys away from silicone lube

We've seen the ins and outs of water-based lube and silicone-based lube. Now let's talk about the lubricant that combines them both!

What Is Hybrid Lube?

Hybrid lubricants are made with a base of both silicone and water. They tend to be longer-lasting than water-based lubes, feature that signature silicone silky feel, and are often safe to use with silicone sex toys.  

Should I Use Hybrid Lube? 

What makes hybrid lube stand out? Here are a few advantages of the water/silicone formula:

Best of both worlds. Hybrid lubes combine the best traits of water-based and silicone-based formulas, making them a perfect pick for all types of play. They're usually safe for latex condoms, long-lasting, and offer a substantial amount of glide. 

Easy to clean. Silicone-based lubes stain more easily and can be tougher to clean completely. Hybrid lubes allow you to enjoy the slippery feel of silicone without the messy cleanup, though they can still potentially cause staining. 

Won’t dry out. Make no mistake: silicone lubes still win when it comes to staying power. But the silicone added in hybrid lube does make it last much longer than a purely water-based lubricant.  

Safe for silicone toys. One of the best things about hybrid lube is that most formulas can be used on silicone sex toys! This is a perfect solution for those who love the feel of silicone lube but want to make sure their sex toys are protected. 

Hybrid lube sounds too good to be true, right? Well, let's look at some potential drawbacks of the hybrid formula. 

Hybrid Lube Cons

What to watch for when it comes to hybrid lubricants?

They're middle of the road. Yes, hybrid lube combines some of the best features of silicone and water, but it's not fully either one. If you're dead-set on the texture of either pure water-based or silicone lube, a hybrid might not cut it for you. 

They can get sticky. Certain hybrid lubes can get sticky once they dry out a bit. You might not encounter this with a quick play session, but if you're going all night, be ready to reapply more than you would with pure silicone. 

Best Water-Based, Silicone, and Hybrid Lubes

With so many lubes to choose from, it can be difficult to know which is best for you. Here are some of the best lubes in each category, for all types of play. 

Best Water-Based Lubes

Organic: We love Coconu Organic Water-Based Lube for its pH-balanced coconut water formula, and the fact that you can eat it. That’s right, this lube is not only free from alcohol, parabens, and petroleum products, it’s 100% edible. 

AnalPjur Backdoor Water-Based Anal Lube includes hyaluron, an ingredient that binds with water, to create a long-lasting, cushiony feel. A great anal lube that’s condom-safe isn’t easy to find, but Pjur Backdoor delivers. 

FlavoredSliquid Strawberry Pomegranate Lube is as tart and lickable as it sounds. It’s vegan, hypo-allergenic, and non-toxic, too. If ever there were a perfect lube for summer, this is it. 

Glycerin-freeGood Clean Love Almost Naked Lube is water-based and free of glycerin, which can change the vagina’s pH and cause yeast infections. What do they use instead to keep things slippery? Organic aloe leaf juice, which has a soothing effect on sensitive skin. This lube is lightly flavored with natural vanilla and lemon, making it a shoo-in for oral play. 

Best Silicone Lubes

WarmingWicked Ultra Heat Warming Lube combines silicone with cinnamon and clove oils for an arousing cocktail of warm and slick. This unscented, glycerin-free blend can be used for all types of play and is vegan to boot! 

Performance: Intimate Earth Mojo Performance Glide takes some great slippery stuff like aloe extract, silicone, and vitamin E and adds Peruvian ginseng to create an ultra-smooth performance enhancing lube. This vegan, paraben-free formula is made in the USA, too. 

AnalPjur Analyse Me! Anal Lube blends silicone with jojoba seed oil, a natural muscle relaxant that doesn’t cause numbness. The combination of cushiony glide and muscle relaxation makes for one of the best anal lubes we’ve tried. And this formula is safe for latex and polyisoprene condoms, a nice bonus. 

Pure siliconeSliquid Silver Studio Collection Lubricant is about as pure as it gets when you’re talking about silicone lubricant. This luxurious blend is made from three kinds of pharmaceutical grade silicone and nothing else. It’s also ultra-concentrated, which means a little goes a very long way, no matter how you’re using it.   

Best Hybrid Lubes

Natural textureNaked Silk Hybrid Lube feels a lot like natural lubrication, making it one of our favorite hybrid lubes. A combination of water, silicone, and a gelling agent made from cellulose give Naked Silk a unique, real-thing smoothness.

UnscentedSensuva Unscented Hybrid Lube is light, easy to spread, and truly unscented. This pH-balanced lube is juiced up with aloe vera and safe for any and all toys and condoms. 

CoolingWicked Ultra Chill Cooling Hybrid Lube brings a chilly tingle to a smooth hybrid base. A little kick of menthol makes this lube great for clit or penis stimulation, though we love it for nipple play most of all. 

AnalSliquid Ride BodyWorx Silk Hybrid Lube gets around the potentially sticky factor with natural cellulose and emollients that mimic natural lubrication. This hypoallergenic hybrid is made without parabens and glycerin, making it a nice option for the sensitive among us.