Which sexual lubricant to use is a very common question. Some women think they shouldn’t use any at all, feeling it’s “not womanly.” Some think it’s messy and prefer not to use it. These women can suffer with painful intercourse because of the friction in a dry vagina. Menopause, total hysterectomy or chemotherapy can cause vaginal atrophy and consequently, cause severe pain with intercourse. Not having regular intercourse or arousal from self pleasure can also cause the vagina to atrophy a bit. When becoming sexual again, remember that intercourse should never be painful and with a little preparation, doesn’t need to be. (See more on resuming sex after a period of abstinence.)
One tip to enhance sexual intercourse is for the woman to always have one orgasm before intercourse, either digitally or with oral sex. This can help the woman self-lubricate if able. If still in need of lubrication, a good over the counter lube should remove any pain. There are two types of lubrication: One type is used daily to keep the skin of the vulva and vagina comfortably moist. These may be inserted every night, to moisturize the vaginal skin. Some of these products contain estrogen, so talk with your health care provider about whether there is any reason for you to avoid this additional estrogen. (See our article on considerations for hormone replacement.)
The other type is a “sealing” lubricant that stays on the surface of the skin and doesn’t soak in. This type keeps the skin slippery and comfortable during skin-to-skin activities. You use this one when needed for sexual activity. There are many commercial products especially designed for intercourse. You can try a few of them to see which ones feel right for you. Coconut oil, a natural product, can also be used. Get the type of coconut oil you would use for cooking.
I do not recommend the use of KY Jelly. We use KY jelly in the health profession to insert suppositories or lubricate a tube going into the body, so it’s designed for brief, once in and out – not repeated penetration. KY Jelly dries too quickly and either needs to be reapplied or water added frequently. Neither of these actions is very spontaneous or erotic. Also avoid glycerin or mineral oil. For women becoming sexual again after a spell without, it’s best to start simple and stay away from heated, minty or other complex products. Once you have become fully comfortable being sexual again, you might want to try a more adventurous version. I’d suggest you try a heating or cooling lube on the outer skin of the vulva first.