Lube is a glorious invention that makes just about any sex act more pleasurable, from masturbation to erotic massage to good ol’ peen-in-vag sex. But there’s arguably no sexual activity that benefits more from adding lube than anal sex — or really, any kind of butt stuff.
It makes the act feel better on the whole (so to speak), but it’s also non-negotiable for health reasons. Your butt doesn’t self-lubricate like a vagina can, so you have to lube it up yourself, or deal with the potentially harrowing consequences. “Lube is totally required for anal play,” says sex educator Cassandra Corrado. “The anus is both very strong and very sensitive, and it’s really easy to get both surface-level tears and deeper muscular tears that can cause lifelong problems.”
In other words: Assuming you want your butt to be a pleasure zone and not a danger zone, you’re gonna need some lube.
What Makes a Lube Well-Suited for Anal?
1) Texture. Lubes marketed specifically for anal are usually thick and cushiony. Corrado says this type of lube creates a “buffer” between your skin and your partner’s skin — or between skin and the condom or dental dam you might be using — which can be more comfortable for many beginners, as it reduces friction significantly.
Water-based lubes, as well as hybrids — that is to say, lubes that contain a little bit of silicone but are mostly water-based — tend to have the best “cushion factor” in this way. That said, your favorite anal lube might turn out to be one that’s not even labeled as an anal lube. “Everybody’s asshole is different, and will prefer different things,” Corrado says. “I recommend that folks look past the marketing a little bit, try different things and play around with different samples.”
Dev Ramsawakh, a writer and educator specializing in sex and disability, adds that a lube that feels overly sticky or greasy can make cleanup harder (Ramsawakh uses both “he” and “they” pronouns). “It’s not just during — you also have to consider how it’s going to feel on the way out,” they said, “especially with something like anal, where you’re using a lot of it.” They favor water-based lubes for anal too, because those lubes are easy to wash away in the shower or bath after sex, or even with a bidet if you’re fancy.
2) Staying Power. Water-based lubes tend to dry down to a film over time as the water absorbs into your skin. Depending on the formula, this can take less than a minute or up to several minutes, but it always happens eventually — so you may need to reapply it once or a few times during sex, depending on how long you go for.
Silicone- and oil-based lubes, on the other hand, usually stay slippery for a long time without needing to be reapplied. That said, sometimes they stick around a little too long, and it becomes an issue. “They’re a big mess to clean up afterwards,” Ramsawakh says, “and they can give you a constipated weird nasty feeling.” Silicones and oils are also more prone to staining sheets, so if you want to keep your bed pristine, go with water-based.
3) Ease of Application. This factor isn’t as crucial for some other types of sex, where lube partially drying up mid-bang might go unnoticed. But because your butthole is so sensitive and delicate, it’s important to be proactive about lubing things up — including reapplying if you start to feel any uncomfortable friction.
Ramsawakh recommends against lubes that you’d struggle to pour one-handed because of their bottle design. “They’re so hard to use if you’re already mid-act and reapplying, because you’re already kinda slippery,” they say. Lubes with a pump-top tend to work best when you need to re-lube in a hurry, and are also easier to aim where you need them.
If you really want to upgrade your lube application game, you could put an automatic soap dispenser on your nightstand and fill it with a thin water-based lube (lubes that are thick and silicone-based can’t flow out of the pump as easily). How cool would it be to reach over during the deed and grab a no-muss-no-fuss handful of lube without needing to stop what you’re doing?
4) Butt-Safe Ingredients. In terms of lube formulation, “try to keep it simple,” Ramsawakh suggests. “You want something you can slather on a ton of.” This means you should avoid lubes that use cinnamon oil, menthol oil or similar to give you a warming or tingling sensation. Those can be fun on some body parts, but unless you’re a masochist, you probably don’t want ‘em in your ass.
Some lubes marketed for anal play contain a numbing agent, like lidocaine or benzocaine, to make insertion easier. But if you value your butt, and its continued ability to do all the things that butts do, you should stay far, far away from desensitizing lubes. Anal sex should never hurt, and if it does, that’s a sign that you need to slow down, use more lube and/or give your ass a break. “Pain is a helpful signal that our bodies give us,” Corrado says. “Engaging in anal sex should basically be meditation, with how much you’re paying attention to yourself [and your own body]. Numbing lubricants get in the way of that.”
5) Compatibility with Toys and Condoms. One of the reasons Corrado recommends water-based lubes over other types for anal is that a lot of people like to use silicone butt plugs or dildos, and silicone-based lubes can break down the material of these. Likewise, oil-based lubes can break down condoms or dental dams made of latex or polyisoprene. So if condoms and/or sex toys are a significant part of your play, you’ll probably want to stick with water-based — or just try spot-testing a bit of the silicone lube on the base of your toy to check whether its texture changes after a few minutes. If you really want to use a silicone toy with silicone lube because you like the resilient slip it provides, you can put a non-lubricated condom over the toy first.
Now that we’re up to speed on what makes for a great anal lube, let’s talk about some of the smoothest, slipperiest, sexiest ones out there.
Water-Based Anal Lubes
Sliquid Sassy. Corrado recommends this one for beginners, because its thick water-based formula gives your butt some comfortable cushioning, whether you’re being penetrated by fingers, toys or a penis. Like all Sliquid products, it’s made to be as hypoallergenic as possible, so it’s unlikely to cause you any irritation or bad reactions.
Being water-based, this lube is fine to use with any type of sex toy, condom or other safer-sex barrier. It lasts longer than many other water-based lubes because of how thick it is, but it’ll eventually dry up, so keep the bottle nearby in case you need to reapply.
Slippery Stuff Personal Lubricant Gel. This one is a favorite of Ramsawakh’s. They love that it’s “super, super slippery,” doesn’t get sticky when it dries down and can be washed off easily afterward. It’s compatible with toys and condoms, and has decent staying power, too. One of the best things about this lube, though, is the pump-top bottle. “It really does improve the experience,” Ramsawakh says. It’s fairly affordable too, especially if you spring for a large amount — which you should probably do anyway, since you’ll go through lube much more quickly doing anal than most other kinds of sex.
Hybrid Anal Lubes
Fuck Water Water-Based Lube. I first noticed this lube when customers kept coming into the sex shop where I used to work and asking me where the Fuck Water was. When a product has a name as punchy as this one, it stays with you — and the lube itself stays with you for a while too, because of the silicone in its formula.
Yes, confusingly, despite the words “water-based lube” appearing on the label, this lube actually contains some silicone, making it a hybrid. The amount is small enough that it should be fine with your silicone toys, but if you want to make sure, put some on the base of the toy and wait a few minutes before checking for any changes in texture. It’s condom-compatible too, so you could always apply it over a condom if you’re worried about ruining your toy.
Sliquid Silk. Corrado sees hybrids as “Goldilocks” lubes, and this is her favorite to recommend. “The extra little bit of cushion you get from it being water-based, combined with it being extremely hypoallergenic from the silicone, makes for a really happy combo for a lot of people’s bodies,” she says. Incidentally, one of the reasons some people like hybrid lubes is that they have a creamy appearance that kinda looks like cum. So if that visual turns you on, then this could be your ideal lube in more ways than one.
Silicone-Based Anal Lubes
Uberlube. Uberlube is pretty much the gold standard of silicone-based lubes, and it’s Corrado’s go-to recommendation in this category. It contains nothing but liquid silicone and vitamin E, so it lasts a long, long time without needing to be reapplied and leaves your skin feeling soft and moisturized. Yep, even your butt skin.
It has a pump top as well, so you can reapply one-handed and quickly if you need to. The consistency isn’t the thickest, though, so if you want something that feels really cushiony, go with one of the hybrid lubes above. It’s also not compatible with silicone sex toys, but all types of condoms work with it just fine.
Pjur Back Door Relaxing Silicone Anal Glide. This super-slippery silicone lube contains jojoba extract, an anti-inflammatory ingredient with great moisturizing properties — hence jojoba showing up so frequently in skincare products. Some reviewers have noted that it seems to help their butt muscles relax so that penetration is easier, although this lube doesn’t contain any numbing ingredients.
The cap screws off, rather than being a pump-top, and the bottle can be hard to hold onto with lubey hands. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend it if you plan on reapplying a lot during sex, unless you’re okay with your session turning into a slapstick comedy sketch. But it lasts a long enough time that you likely won’t need to reapply anyway.
Wet Uranus Anal Lube. “The nice thing about silicone lubes is that they’re all pretty similar in formula, so you could grab a drugstore one and it’s still going to be decently high-quality,” Corrado says. This one is by a brand sold in many drugstores.
If you can get past the cheesy space pun in its name, this is a solid silicone-based option at a reasonable price. It’s thicker than silicone lubes usually are, giving you more cushioning and a longer-lasting glide. It’s not compatible with silicone toys, but you can use it with any type of condom and it’ll even stick around if you have sex in the shower or bathtub. Aquatic anal, anyone?
Oil-Based Anal Lubes
Organic Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil. Oils are a popular choice for anal play, but Corrado and Ramsawakh both recommend against them because they’re not condom-compatible and can feel gross inside you once sex is done. However, if you don’t plan on using condoms (or are using polyurethane ones), it’s hard to go wrong with coconut oil.
Allergies to coconut are very rare, so you’re unlikely to encounter irritation or other issues when using it. It moisturizes your skin, stays oily for a long time and has a mild coconut scent that evokes sex on the beach. You might need to warm it up in your hands before you use it, because it solidifies at room temperature, but massaging oil into someone’s skin until it melts is just part of the fun.