Vaginal dryness is a common problem that affects millions of women. Thankfully, lubricants are available to help provide relief from painful sex and irritation. To help you make an informed decision on which lubricant is right for you, it’s first important to learn why you’re experiencing vaginal dryness.
What Causes Vaginal Dryness?
The most common reason for vaginal dryness is perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Hormones, such as progesterone, estrogen, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) and testosterone begin to plummet with age and can result in dryness.
Several other causes include:
- Medications that have an overall dehydrating effect
- Minimal moisture due to inadequate foreplay
- Certain autoimmune diseases
- Stress and prolonged periods of anxiety
- Cancer treatments
- Ovarian surgery
- Beauty products such as soaps, bath products, scented hygiene products and douches
- Foods that contain hormones
What Other Conditions Can Accompany Vaginal Dryness?
Lack of vaginal lubrication can affect you in many different ways, resulting in:
- Pain: When genitals lack sufficient moisture, penetration and other everyday activities can become unbearable.
- Weakened vaginal elasticity and tissue lining: As vital hormones deplete, skin and tissue thin, sag and lose their ability to stretch. This is why we become reliant on oils, creams, moisturizers, hormonal therapy and lubricants.
- Psychological issues: Vaginal dryness and the many conditions that cause or accompany it can lead to depression, anxiety and even relationship deterioration.
- Skin and internal problems: Without vital lubrication, irritation, itching, foul odor, urinary tract infections, and many other pelvic problems can occur. You can even suffer from prolapse, bladder deficiencies, leakage, pressure, chronic pain (vulvodynia) and inflammation (vestibulitis).
Choosing the Right Lubricant for You
Now let’s look at how to select the correct lubricant. There are many types and they range from pleasure-enhancing, non-staining, odorless, perfumed, and even flavored options. And many contain a myriad of unpronounceable ingredients so choosing the right one can be a challenge. Before deciding on the best one for you, you should consider the following:
- Safety: You want something that’s natural and safe as certain ingredients contained in over-the-counter lubricants can be unnecessary or harmful. As such, you’ll want to avoid the following:
- Chlorhexidine gluconate
- Propylene glycol
- Multi-purpose usage: Consider buying a lubricant that addresses additional problems such as thinning, skin sensitivity, urine leakage, etc.
- Compatibility: Will you be using the product in combination with adult pleasure items or condoms?
- Sensory enhancers: Are taste, smell and texture important? You may prefer something more neutral. Today’s lubricants may also contain menthol or capsaicin, a compound of chili peppers, which tout additional stimulation. While they might enhance your sexual experience, they can also cause uncomfortable stinging or burning to more sensitive skin and tissue.
- Can any of the ingredients clash with medications you are presently using or any disorder you might currently have?
- Do you plan to use the lubricant on a daily basis for general dryness, or only when considering intercourse?
Once you have established all safety factors and your personal needs, deciding if you actually need a lubricant, moisturizer, or more aggressive therapies is your next step. Knowing their function and the results they provide will enable you to make the right selection.
What is a Lubricant and What Does it Do?
Most lubricants are designed for mild to moderate dryness and immediate use. They alleviate uncomfortable friction during intercourse and provide short-term relief.
They come in gel or liquid form and the following types are available:
- Water-based lubricants: These are topical and are not absorbed by the skin. They can be used safely for self-gratification, foreplay stimulation and intercourse. Easy to wash off, they pose no damaging danger to condoms. If you are currently suffering from a yeast infection, make sure your product does not contain glycerin, as it may further aggravate the situation. Water-based lubricants are applied immediately before sex. They do not provide long-term relief for dryness, require no prescription, and are available over the counter.
- Oil-based lubricants: These may contain petroleum jelly and other harmful additives, so read the labels carefully. Vaginal tissue is highly absorbent, and these lubricants can disrupt your already delicate hormonal balance. Their greasy texture makes them difficult to wash off, exposing you to infectious bacteria and skin disorders. Oil-based lubricants can disintegrate latex condoms that protect you from pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Polyurethane condoms are recommended. Oil-based lubricants are not intended for long-term relief and available over the counter.
- Silicone-based lubricants: Silicone lubricants consist of safe, non-toxic ingredients and fall somewhere between the oil- and water- based lubricants. They cannot be absorbed through skin, can be used in water, and pose no danger to latex condoms. Their downside is their disagreeable taste and difficulty to rinse off. Residue can invite bacteria. They should never be used with silicone adult toys because they can stick and cause discomfort. Not everyone feels comfortable with their unusual slipperiness. They are available over the counter and are usually hypoallergenic.
- Moisturizers: Vaginal moisturizers have been found to be beneficial for women’s menopausal dryness issues. They don’t only soothe friction discomfort, but can be used regularly to minimize daily dryness. Moisturizers continue to work up to four days by adhering to the vaginal walls in the same manner as your natural secretions do. They often come with an applicator for internal use. You may still have to rely on a lubricant for additional help. Moisturizers can be bought without a prescription.
- Natural, homemade lubricants: Many women make chemical-free lubricants from home ingredients with their own preferred scent and flavor. Some safe ingredients include organic coconut oil, sea buckthorn oil, ghee (purified butter), olive oil or aloe vera. Herbal extracts and essential oils may also be added. Always research if these can be used in tandem with your partner’s condom type to avoid breakage.
Symptoms That May Not be Helped by Lubricants
Store-bought lubricants or other dryness aids may not help some of your symptoms. In that case, you may need to talk to your gynecologist about trying something more effective, such as:
- Estrogen therapy: Low-dose estrogen therapy requires a prescription. It comes in cream form, tablets with applicators to insert them, or as vaginal rings that must be replaced every three months. The cream should never be used immediately before sex, as hormonal transference is possible. Vaginal estrogen therapy is never recommended for women with breast cancer.
- Androgen therapy: If you are also experiencing low libido, prolapse, vaginal thinning, or incontinence issues, androgen therapy may be right for you. Available over the counter, this topical vulvar cream contains the hormones testosterone and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). This combination has proven to work wonders for dryness, vaginal irritation, sexual disinterest, urinary leakage, incontinence, thinning and failure to achieve orgasm.
We’re Here to Help You
Dr. Litrel addresses menopause in this informative video as he explains the effects of hormones in various areas of a woman’s life. If you have any questions about vaginal lubricants, moisturizers, or related therapies, our experts at Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists are here to help you. Their skill and training in the most up-to-date technology enable them to diagnose and treat all of your unique feminine issues.
To book an appointment, call 770.720.7733.