Dilator therapy is one of the most effective treatments for relieving vaginismus, vaginal dryness, pain during sex, pelvic pain, and tight pelvic floor muscles.
Although it might seem daunting to insert anything into the vagina when it's in a delicate condition, applying lubricant to your dilators is the key to healing. In this article, we discuss why lubricant is important and which lube is the best for dilators.
What Is a Vaginal Dilator?
Vaginal dilators are tube-shaped medical devices that have been used for decades to gently stretch narrowed vaginas and relax tight pelvic muscles. They are currently made from plastic or medical-grade silicone, the latter resoundingly more popular for its smooth finish and comfort within the vagina.
Often recommended to prevent scar tissue or stenosis after pelvic surgery, dilator therapy is also effective in relieving vaginal dryness due to a lack of estrogen during menopause. Dyspareunia (pain during sex), endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, lichen sclerosis, vaginitis, vaginismus, and vulvodynia are other conditions that can be treated with vaginal dilators.
Dilators are also helpful for teenagers with a fear or pain with penetration (tampons, speculum during medical examination, or intercourse), women who have experienced difficult childbirth, and those who suffer psychological vaginal spasming due to previous sexual abuse.
What Is Lube?
Lube, also known as a personal lubricant, is a liquid or gel-based skin-moistening product. Lubes are typically used to ease penetration, enhance sexual pleasure, moisten a dry vagina, and reduce friction during intercourse.
Why are Lubes Important for Dilators?
Women who benefit from vaginal dilator therapy are typically experiencing painful penetration, vaginal muscle spasms, and/or uncomfortable chaffing during sex due to a chronic pelvic condition or vaginal dryness.
Although vaginal dilator therapy can provide relief for this type of pain, the initial thought of inserting something into the vagina can be nerve-wracking for women with these symptoms. But when dilators are used with personal lubricants, the process becomes far more comfortable.
By applying a generous amount of lube to dilators, they slide more easily into the vagina and provide a moisturized film over delicate vaginal skin to prevent any irritation while the dilator remains in place. On the other hand, trying to insert a dilator without lube into an already dry, tight, or narrowed vagina will cause added discomfort and more anxiety surrounding the act of penetration and intercourse.
Dilator therapy is a slow and gradual process to gently relax vaginal tissues and release tightness in the pelvic floor. Even though some initial discomfort or tightness can be experienced when starting with each new dilator in a set, personal lubrication should always be used to encourage easier penetration and deeper healing.
What Is the Best Lube for Dilators?
Based on the collective recommendations from pelvic health experts, those that manufacture vaginal dilators, as well as client feedback, water-based lubricants are the best lubes for dilators.
For starters, the most effective and body-safe dilators on the market are currently made from FDA-approved, medical-grade silicone. And while silicone-based lubes will damage these dilators, water-based lubes won’t.
Water-based lubes, specifically those made with plant-based glycerine, are safer and gentler on sensitive and dry vaginal skin. They are also easier to wash off your hands, dilators, towels, and bedsheets after use. Given that dilator therapy is practiced regularly, making the clean-up process simpler makes the experience of dilator therapy easier for you.
Lastly, even though water-based lubes are known to absorb more quickly into the skin than other lubes, reapplication is rarely necessary with dilator therapy since it typically only lasts for 5-15 minutes.
If you’re looking for a body-safe water-based lube made with plant-based glycerine that will not irritate already sensitive skin, our top recommendation is Velvet Rose Water-Based Personal Lubricant from female health experts, Intimate Rose. It’s FDA-approved, just like their medical-grade silicone dilators, and a little drop suffices for comfortable dilator insertion.
Are there Different Types of Lubes?
There are various types of personal lubricants, however, they are generally categorized into three main types: oil-based, silicone-based, and water-based.
Oil-based lubes like household olive oil were used for centuries to experience more pleasurable sex, and KY Jelly was one of the first manufactured oil-based lubes of the 20th century. It has more recently come to light, however, that oil-based lubes irritate sensitive vaginal skin and are not safe to be used with latex condoms. For these reasons, oil-based lubes are rarely recommended to women these days.
When it comes to practicality, oil-based lubes also cause hard-to-remove stains on clothes and bedsheets.
Silicone-based lubricants are known as the most long-lasting lube, are safe to be used with latex condoms, and are well-suited to relieving vaginal dryness. That said, some women find them too slippery and they can be difficult to wash from the hands, genitals, or bedsheets. The main drawback of silicone-based lubes is that they damage the outer layer of vaginal dilators made from silicone.
Water-based lubricant is safe for the body, toxin-free, non-greasy, and known as an all-purpose lube. It is also the most natural lube of the three, particularly when made with plant-based glycerine as opposed to animal-based glycerine. Water-based lube is easy to wash off, it does not irritate the skin, it won’t damage silicone products, nor does it permanently stain sheets.
Perhaps the only drawback of water-based lube is that it absorbs into the skin quicker than silicone-based lubes and sometimes requires re-application during longer sexual encounters.
Can You Use Vaginal Moisturizer as a Lube for Dilators?
No. Vaginal moisturizers are great to keep genital skin moist enough to reduce irritation or itching associated with vaginal dryness, but because they absorb into the skin very quickly, they are not suitable as a lube for dilators.
Vaginal dilator therapy is a slow and gradual process to relax tight pelvic floor muscles, stretch narrowed vaginas, and relieve pain during sex. Because the process works best when the vagina is lubricated and relaxed, a safe, toxin-free, non-irritating lube should be applied during every dilation session.
If pain during sex, pelvic pain, or vaginal tightness is affecting your quality of life, think about scheduling a consultation with a pelvic physical therapist or gynecologist to see if vaginal dilator therapy is something that can help you.
Verywell Health – What is Lube? - https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-lube-5084999
Web MD – Vaginismus - https://www.webmd.com/women/vaginismus-causes-symptoms-treatments
Medical News Today – What to Know About Vaginal Lubrication - https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326450
Mayo Clinic – Painful Intercourse (Dyspareunia) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/painful-intercourse/symptoms-causes/syc-20375967
Women’s Health – What Is the Difference Between Silicone And Water-Based Lubes? https://www.womens-health.com/silicone-water-based-lube-differences
Self – 10 Reasons Why You Should Use Lube During Sex - https://www.self.com/story/10-reasons-you-should-absolutely-use-lube-during-sex
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.