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What is a Gel Lubricant?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 21, 2024
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Gel lubricant is a water-based gel that is commonly used during sexual intercourse or during vaginal exams. On occasion it may be used for other medical procedures, such as rectal examinations. It is generally clear and odorless with a consistency slightly thicker than water to provide maximum comfort.

In the medical field, gel lubricant is commonly used during vaginal exams and trans-vaginal ultrasounds. It is added directly to the speculum or ultrasound device in order to make penetration more comfortable and to allow freer movement while examining the area. Using lubricant may also avoid irritation from the equipment rubbing against the walls of the vagina. Rectal examinations may also require lubricant to ensure comfort and to prevent rectal tearing.

Women can also purchase gel lubricant over the counter for use during sexual intercourse or to help alleviate symptoms of vaginal dryness. One common brand of lubricant is K-Y Jelly®. Various other varieties of lubricant can also be purchased, including those with various flavors, colors, and warming ingredients.

Before using any gel lubricant, it is important to check all labels carefully. Water-based lubricants are the most common, but there may also be oil-based varieties available. When using a latex condom, it is very important to only use water-based products, as oil can wear away the latex and cause tears. It is also important to ensure that lubricant being purchased is specifically designed for the purpose for which it is going to be used. For example, there are various massage lubricants on the market that are not intended for vaginal use.

If at any time during use of a lubricant irritation or redness occurs, the product should not longer be used. Irritation, burning, redness, swelling, or itching that persists for longer than a day should be examined by a doctor. This could signal an allergic reaction. Signs of a severe, but rare, allergic response include shortness of breath, dizziness, and heart palpitations. These should be reported to a doctor immediately.

When using gel lubricant, it is generally a good idea to insert the gel directly onto the hand before applying to the vaginal area. Hands should be thoroughly washed before doing so. This allows the gel to be warmed slightly on the hands and fingers before application. Gel should not be warmed in the microwave or stovetop to prevent burns or serious injury.

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Discussion Comments

By literally45 — On Jul 06, 2012

@anon154351-- As long as you use a jelly lubricant that has been made for use in intercourse, it will not be harmful to you. But beware of gel lubricants made for general use because they are not suitable for use on the private parts.

Some people use petroleum jelly for example, and that is not safe. It's not water based, it's made of petrolatum. Not only will it be messy, but since it doesn't wash off easily, it can cause a vaginal infection for you. Not to mention that it will make holes in the condom if you use one.

I agree with the article that the best option is water-based lubricants made specifically for use in intercourse. I use these due to chronic vaginal dryness. It has eliminated the pain I used to experience during sex.

By ysmina — On Jul 06, 2012

@anon154351-- That's best answered by your doctor. But I think if you just follow the directions on the tube which should specify how much and how often to use, it will be fine.

There is some controversy right now about the long-term use of gel lubricants because most contain many chemicals in them which get absorbed into the skin. Some argue that they are dangerous to health and should be replaced with organic, all-natural lubricants instead.

Aloe vera gel and coconut oil are two natural lubricants that I've heard mentioned as an alternative. Especially coconut oil is reported to work really well. It's not suitable for latex condoms though because the oil could damage the condom.

By burcidi — On Jul 05, 2012

I went for a routine vaginal exam last week and surprisingly my doctor did not use any lubricant gel during the examination. I didn't realize this until after the examination was over. I didn't say anything but when I got home, I realized that my vaginal area was very sore and painful.

There wasn't any bleeding or discharge thankfully. If there was, I would have been concerned about a possible tear. But the soreness lasted for a couple of days.

During my next visit, I'll be sure to ask my doctor to apply the lubricant before the examination. The lubricant definitely prevents the pain and soreness that usually follows a vaginal exam.

By anon154351 — On Feb 20, 2011

i was wondering if my hubby applies lubricant gel during intercourse, will it be harmful to me? It is advisable to use the gel frequently?

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