Good question! Women who experience vaginal dryness often ask for information about choosing lubricants. What many people don’t realize is that, in addition to or instead of lubricants, vaginal moisturizers may be of help.
What’s the Difference?
Vaginal moisturizers tend to be recommended for use anywhere from once a week to a few times a week. Vaginal moisturizers may or may not contain estrogen. Some are available by prescription from a healthcare provider. Other vaginal moisturizers are available over the counter – without a prescription – at drug stores, grocery stores, and on the Internet. Vaginal moisturizers are often inserted into the vagina using an applicator – similar to a tampon applicator. Package inserts sometimes suggest inserting the moisturizer at night, before going to sleep, so that the moisturizer absorbs well into the vagina and doesn’t leak out. Vaginal moisturizers are most commonly used by women who have vaginal dryness due to menopause, breastfeeding, or certain health conditions that may cause low levels of estrogen.
Lubricants, on the other hand, are used specifically when people masturbate or have sex. While moisturizers are used to produce long-lasting wetness, lubricants are used to make sex more comfortable or pleasurable in the moment. The most common kinds of lubricants are water-based lubricants and silicone-based lubricants. Silicone-based lubricants tend to last longer because they don’t absorb easily into the skin, as water-based lubricants do.
If you experience vaginal dryness, a moisturizer might be sufficient for you to restore vaginal wetness over a few weeks or a few months. If you still feel like you can benefit from additional lubricant during masturbation or partnered sex, you might also use a lubricant.
To learn more about lubricants, vaginal moisturizers, and comfortable, pleasurable sex, check out Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva or The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health.