Vaginal dryness is something that isn’t talked about in a positive manner, that’s for sure. Being “wet” is sexualized, glamourized, and idealized everything from rap songs to popular media making it seem like a prerequisite for intercourse. Yes, of course, on one hand, vaginal lubrication makes anything being inserted more pleasurable than not; but what happens when “being wet” just isn’t part of your m.o.? Plenty of people with vaginas don’t just “get wet.” Whether that is a lack of foreplay or just simply something that doesn’t happen for you, you’re not alone.
Experiencing vaginal dryness is a common complaint from women both during and after menopause, with up to a third of postmenopausal women reporting problems with vaginal dryness, soreness, itching, irritation, or pain that can affect their day-to-day activities, feelings, and relationships. Actually, the most commonly reported vaginal symptom among all postmenopausal women is dryness (76.4%). It’s most associated with a drop in the hormone estrogen around menopause and after giving birth/while breastfeeding. During these particular stages, many individuals’ glands inside the vagina begin to produce fewer natural secretions.
Though dryness is most common among these groups of women, vaginal dryness and associated symptoms may occur in women of any age or circumstance.
The most common cause of vaginal dryness is decreased estrogen levels, which leads to thinning and drying of the vaginal wall. However, there are several other factors such as medical conditions and psychological conditions including stress, depression, and anxiety which may also contribute to vaginal dryness.
The vagina can be easily disrupted. Certain soaps, swimming pool chemicals, washing powders, and physiological changes can all dry out mucous membranes and lead to vaginal dryness. It can also occur in response to douching, pelvic radiation, prolonged use of tampons, advanced endometriosis, diabetes, and as a side effect of a variety of medications, including aromatase inhibitors used to treat breast cancer, such as Tamoxifen. Excessive exercise, persistent emotional stress or past traumatic sexual experiences, diuretics such as alcohol and caffeine, cigarette smoking, certain allergy medications, and antihistamines can also exacerbate an existing condition.
Dryness & The Individual
Most women (80%) considered vaginal discomfort to negatively impact their lives, particularly with regard to sexual intimacy (75%), ability to have a loving relationship (33%), and overall quality of life (25%); women also felt that it made them feel old (36%) and affected their self-esteem (26%).
Although 78% of those with vaginal discomfort used some form of treatment, this consisted mainly of lubricating gels and creams (65%). The problem is, these “treatments” aren’t always helpful. The North American Menopause Society recommends long-acting non-hormonal vaginal creams as first-line therapy.
Vaginal cream? Moisturizer? Lube?
What the heck’s the difference?
A vaginal moisturizer is a great option for women who are experiencing ongoing discomfort due to vaginal dryness or are experiencing painful intercourse and looking for the ability to be more spontaneous without the associated pain or discomfort. Unlike a vaginal lubricant, a vaginal moisturizer can be applied regularly and should be applied at least 2 hours prior to sex, rather than right before as you would with a lubricant. A vaginal moisturizer aims to replenish vaginal moisture and relieve ongoing discomfort experienced with vaginal dryness.
How do you know if a moisturizer or cream is right for you? You’ve most likely had ongoing:
But it get’s worse. Unlike with dry penetration, in which symptoms will heal anywhere from a couple hours to a day after, ongoing vaginal dryness can actually lead to:
If any of the above signs or lasting issues sound familiar, it makes sense that it would affect your sex life. There are serval reasons you may be shy when it comes to talking about this issue. Two of the major problems are the lack of acknowledgment from medical professionals and attention from the pharmaceutical industry which can lead to generally ignoring the problem.
Step one is recognizing the problem and addressing the discomfort or pain.
Step two is asking the right questions:
- Are you experiencing vaginal dryness causing discomfort and negative symptoms?
- Do you want to change it?
You can then move forward and make lasting changes to help soothe your symptoms and take control of your dryness. There are options when it comes to treatment. Hormone replacement therapy is the most common for women who are going through or have gone through menopause. But there are risks with this, and it’s not recommended for everyone. The National Institute of Health recommends using hormone-free options, like a vaginal moisturizer. Think of it as the lotion of you use on other parts of your body- but specially formulated for your more delicate area. But more than just adding moisture, a vaginal moisturizer actually bonds to the vagina’s epithelial cells in order to repair, heal, and restore the natural moisture cycle.
Lubricant doesn’t leave lasting results like a moisturizer which will last for up to three days. A lubricant is designed to help with foreplay and/or penetration and should be reapplied as needed throughout your sexual activities.
All lubricants are not equal
Condoms/Dental Dams & Diaphragms
If you are using a product such as a condom, dental dam, or diaphragm, use water-based lubricant, not a silicone lube as it can break down the latex and protective materials. Additionally, water-based lubricant as it’s easy to clean up and wash out of clothing, sheets, and other materials. Water-based lubricants are often more gentle, cause less irritation, and are soothing to your skin.
Silicone sex toys should not be used with silicone other silicone-based products as they can break it down, just like a latex condom. Toys made of glass, steel, or other materials can use water based, silicone based, and hybrid lubes without an issue.
Unlike the vagina, the anus and rectum are not self-lubricating so you will need to keep reapplying throughout the engagement and as frequently as needed! Make sure to apply lubricant on your anus, on the penis or toy, on the crack and anywhere else that there will be contact (more is better!).
A silicone lube is best for anal sex: it includes Dimethicone, Dimethiconol, Cyclomethicone and sometimes a spermicide. This will maintain the extra stickiness for a long time and don’t have any harmful side effects. rather than using a water-based lube which will disappear quickly.
Most people prefer silicone lube because it is hypoallergenic, for those who have sensitive skin or allergies. The silky feeling will last longer, doesn’t need to be applied as frequently and is tube/shower/pool (whatever) safe.
But wait, there’s more
There are also hybrid lubes (silicone + water) which have the added benefits of both. Oil lubes which are great for massaging but not good for silicone toys or condoms and a bit harder to clean up as they can stain. Always be careful with using food products in place of a store bought lube, but we won’t tell you how to live your life.
There are additives like flavor, and heating or cooling that are common in lubricants, use them sparingly and watch for reactions. PSA, a warming or cooling lube can be too warming or cooling, and ingesting large amounts of a flavored substance (no matter the base) probably isn’t good for your digestive track nor the sexiest.
Try adding a squeeze or two straight on your hand and then applying it elsewhere to control how much comes out. With practice, you’ll know exactly how much you need and don’t forget- you can always apply more!
We’ve got recommendations!
This Lelo lube comes an easy to use, water-based lube that’s fragrance-free and super moisturizing. PH balanced and fortified with aloe vera, this one’s safe for use with silicone toys and latex condoms, and hey—bonus!—it’s glycerin and paraben-free, too.
Uberlube is a long-lasting, body-safe lubricant that has no scent or taste and feels invisible, making sex way more fun and comfortable. It’s vegan and infused with Vitamin E, and as an added bonus, it works wonders on flyaway hairs and split ends! While not to be used with silicone toys, it’s perfect for condoms, and toys made of stainless steel, glass or aluminum.
Vmagic is pretty unreal. We met them at a sex tech event in NYC and fell in love with the multi-purpose, all-natural balm that soothes, protects and moisturizes. The all organic, not tested on animals, free of hormones, synthetic dyes, fragrances, chemicals, preservatives, parabens, sulfates, soy, fillers, binders and petroleum comes highly recommends from us and gynecologists, hospitals, pharmacies, & women’s health clinics nationwide recommended. (p.s I carry a sample in my purse as chapstick for my face lips)
If you have any doubts or questions – ask your doctor or gyno! They will be able to help! Also, as always, we’re here if you need us!